Category Archives: herbs

Framed, Vintage Pressed flower page

Make a copy of a page from an old horticultural dictionary.  Use a card stock parchment paper. Center the glass from the frame and cut around it with an craft knife.

Make a copy of a page from an old horticultural dictionary. Use card stock,  parchment paper. Center the glass from the frame and cut around it with a craft knife.

Place pressed lavender across the page. Position it so that it fits into the frame and also across the wording.

Place pressed lavender across the page. Position it so that it fits into the frame and across the wording.

Center the frame and adjust the pressed flower if necessary to fit the frame as well as the wording on the page. Glue the pressed flower in place.

Center the frame and adjust the pressed flower if necessary to fit the frame as well as the wording on the page. Glue the pressed flower in place.

Place glass and frame and secure the back of the frame into place.

Place glass and frame and secure the back of the frame into place.

100_8150Notes on pressed flowers. The flowers must be completely dried.

Make Time!

sugarsLovely thoughts flutter through your mind to hand craft  all of your gifts this year. Just imagine it, Christmas music playing in the background, an area set aside for all your crafting gear (and not having to clear the dining room table for a meal!) …yes, it is nice to dream. Then there is the calendar flipping its days so fast it could make your head spin.  Time is the rare commodity as holiday activities run away with it all. 

Here are a few links to DIY gifts that look like you worked on for days but will take only  a matter of hours from start to wrapping.

Give joy!


The Drunken Botanist

I have been watching the buzz on this book for a while and waiting for it to emerge into pages. I will honestly say that  I thought it sounded fun, but was not really  sure if it was a book I  would go out and buy.

The title evokes images of an old movie set. The dark stone walls of a  castle dungeon and distillery equipment steaming with fragrant concoctions…but I digress.
I am a fan of the author, Amy Stewart and have all of her previous books, so it might have been just a purchase as a fan and not necessarily of the subject matter.

webDrunken-Botanist-high-resBut of course, Amy you had me at the aperitif, as most good beginnings should.

This is not a tale of a curmudgeonly old botanist,who is more interested in pistils and stamens while imbibing too much.
The Drunken Botanist is much more fun. Who knew that walking into a liquor store would inspire a garden writer. Everything on the shelves is rooted in botanical history, from hops in beer to the nectar of Agave. The book is a historical exploration how plants return to us in another formulation.  Herbs, grains, veggies,  and exotic plants have for centuries given us medicine, remedies, food and flavorings this book gives you a look at the fermented side of plants.
Even if the  study of liqueur isn’t your thing,  the botanical journey is  definitely worth the read. Cheers!



Amy’s garden, colorful and edible…or should I say drink-able!  On right: peppers, celery, basil, strawberries, Calendula, cucumber, lemongrass….photo courtesy of Amy Stewart.

Go Local: If you are in Tacoma-check out  our very own craft cocktail lounge.

Local lecture from Amy: March 27th at Powell’s books in Portland, Oregon  and  March 28th at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Washington. More events listed at

Free Book : I have a copy of The Drunken Botanist from Amy and am giving it away. NAME THAT PLANT! What Pacific Northwest native fern would you steep in water to create a bitter cocktail syrup that hints at a licorice-flavor mixed with orange water. Post a comment here, on Facebook or stop by Urban Garden Company in downtown Tacoma to drop off your answer. One of the correct answers will be drawn randomly. Hurry and answer by March 31st, the winner will be drawn April 1st.

Steal inspiration!




Garden Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I really tend to think about how I can better something… in manageable chunks. Not a one liner that sets me up for discouragement.  

For all gardeners, hope springs eternal and thinking about what we want to do in the garden feeds that hope that continually filters through the seasons to come. As we begin the new year, think more  new inspirations rather than resolutions. Inspire to learn, do and create something new in the garden. Odds are it will be much more rewarding than dieting!

 Take a Class:  In the garden, learning never stops. Take a class on a garden subject that you have always wanted to learn. Resources are bountiful in the pacific northwest. Join me for some upcoming seminars at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show the last week in January, (  January 26th, 2012 at noon: Landscaping with Herbs, Many herbs are overlooked for their texture and beauty that create fragrant hedges, mixed borders, container gardens and more. All sizes and styles of gardens come into play. Just imagine a French Provençal style garden with the purple haze of lavender or a Mediterranean garden with fragrant rosemary. Herb varieties can bring classic style and take the center stage in many designs.  January 27th, 2012 at noon: Garden Design DIY, A beginners guide and creative approach to designing a garden. Practical tips to get the process going successfully. Don’t just create a landscape; plant a garden with texture, dimension and longevity. Make it yours. Easy ideas to incorporate the practical aspects to create the garden you have always dreamed of. Shortcuts to designing by using photographs and many more insider tips. January 28th at 3 pm: Garden Borders from Dull to DramaHow-to tips and ideas for editing existing mixed garden borders; easy ways to re-invent without having to completely re-do. Learn tricks of the trade and create fabulous mixed borders. Peel back the layers of plantings; discover what is missing and where to add puddles and pockets of color and texture and drama! Photos inspirations and step-by-step instruction to become your own designer.

Go Organic: Learn to tolerate a few weeds and nibbled leaves. Be good to the environment and use organic means of controlling pests and problems. Start with natural lawn care. It can be the biggest water hog and chemical demanding part of the garden. Learn how and practice management of an environmentally friendly yard. The experts are at Seattle Tilth! (

Take a Garden Tour: Visit gardens like Lakewold ( ) or the Chase Garden (  for inspiration of classic designs.  Join the Northwest Perennial Alliance ( and receive their open gardens book. This is an opportunity when local gardeners open their private spaces. Take notes and pictures, it is one of the best learning opportunities to see what grows well in this area and enjoy the peak season of gardens.

Plant Vegetables: Imagine tomatoes fresh off the vine and leaf lettuces from the garden. This season, find a sunny spot and plant some vegetables to enjoy what the garden can give back to you.  Hit the seed racks this spring for lots of variety. Here is a short list of some of my favorite “go-to” suppliers  Ed Hume Seeds ( , Renee’s Garden ( and Territorial Seeds (

Plant Natives: In garden designing, I see more and more homeowners looking to eliminate native areas…such a shame. Many natives are desirable plants that are beautiful in landscape design, either as a backdrop to more “cultured” plantings,  mingled in mixed beds and borders or creating a “finished edge” to the beginning of natural woodlands.  Take time to learn more about natives and plant them. Local nursery with lots of info: Woodbrook Nursery (

Keep a garden calendar or journal: It can be as simple as an ordinary calendar. Write down something every day about the garden, it can be regarding the weather, a new bird sighting, the day something bloomed and any tasks done. It will be a valuable tool for seasons to come. Indulge in a new journal with the beautiful artistry of Jill Bliss (

Compost: Compost, Compost…every garden should have a compost bin! Basic compost info from Creative Gardener FYI makeyourowncompost

Mulch more, Weed less: Put your garden on a good organic mulch diet,  the reward will be healthy garden soil. Mulch at least 3 to 4 inches to control weeds too. More from Creative Gardener FYI in defense of weeds2

Teach a child the Wonders of Gardening: whether your own, a grandchild, or volunteering at school, there is real joy in working with children in the garden. Seeing the simple act of planting through a child’s eyes will renew your viewpoint as well.

Visit the garden show: The perfect way to spend a February day is the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle.(  Nurseries have tickets on sale now…steal ideas from the gardens, shop the amazing booths and make your garden beautiful. Plan your weekend at the show and come and visit me Saturday February 11th on the DIY stage for one of my favorite subjects:  Herbs!! The top multi-purpose herbs to grow in your garden this year.

Think Design: “The plain hard work that goes into an unplanned and non-descript garden might just as well go into a planned one.” (Summer 1953, George Avery Jr. the Brooklyn Botanic Garden). The garden design studio is moving to Tacoma!  Join me for design sessions in my new space starting in February. Bring your photos and ideas and we will create! The new space will also include vintage garden books for sale from my amassed collection, herbs and favorite perennials,  plus garden findings. It’s “All About the Garden”. Stay tuned for more information.

Last Minute Gift Ideas: Herbal Scented Sugars

For the sweet tooth on your list, create a mini selection of herb-infused sugars.

Wrap up in a gift box and include a recipe book or cards sharing how to use them!

Use peppermint or spearmint leaves, rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium),  lavender buds,  rose petals, lemon verbena leaves, vanilla beans or ginger. All the following recipes become more flavorful as the fragrance infuses into the sugar. Use decorative glass jars that seal tight.

Herb leaf or flower petal sugar

Alternate a layer of sugar and the chosen herb until the jar is full. Allow to sit a few days before use to allow the flavor to infuse through the sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

3 cups sugar and 2 vanilla beans

Directions: Place sugar in a bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut vanilla beans in half,  lengthwise. Scrape seeds from the pod into the sugar. Mix vanilla seeds and sugar to evenly distribute the seeds throughout the sugar. Strain sugar mixture through a fine mesh or cheesecloth into an airtight container. Halve vanilla pods crosswise, and submerge them in sugar.

 Lemon Sugar

3 or 4 small lemons and 2 cups sugar

Directions: Use the zest (the skin) from the lemons. Scrape as much of the white, bitter pith off as possible. Add zest to a food processor and grind with 1 cup of sugar until thoroughly mixed.

Transfer the mix to a medium bowl. Add remaining cup sugar, and toss until evenly mixed. Allow to dry before placing in a glass jar, by spreading the sugar mix on a cookie sheet at room temperature for about an hour or until dry.

Ginger Sugar

In a food processor, whirl together one cup of sugar with a few chunks of candied/crystallized ginger.

Ideas for use:

-Rim the glass of a cocktail with lemon-infused sugar by running a fresh-cut lemon slice around the rim and dipping it in the sugar mix.

-Rose geranium sugar and other herbal sugars are perfect to sweeten tea or to sprinkle on the top of shortbread or scones.

-Use peppermint infused sugar in coffee, tea or hot toddy’s

-Sprinkle vanilla and ginger infused sugar on warm gingersnaps,  fresh from the oven (see my favorite gingersnap recipe)

Last minute gift Idea: Wrap up Tea Time

Wrap up Tea Time

Purchase pre-packaged or make your own blends if you have dried herbs harvested from the summer garden.

Create a unique card to hold tea bags. Try this easy one sheet (scrapbook paper 12 x 12) folded accordion card,

how-to’s are here:

Gift Package with a tea cup, shortbread cookies, a jar of honey, and a personal sentiment,  plus inspirations that slow the pace and relax with a cup of tea,  like a good book.





Create unique blends to give

Herbal Tea Recipe Blends:
Experiment with flavors you like, try not to add more than three ingredients at a time.
Sweet, Minty and Soothing
1 cup dried lavender buds
1 cup dried spearmint
½ cup dried German chamomile blossoms
A Tangy Touch Of Citrus
1 cup dried pineapple sage
1 cup rosehips, lightly crushed
½ cup dried lemon balm 
A Floral Blend
½ cup rose petals
½ cup lavender buds
1 cup lemon verbena

Herbs Mixed With Indian or China Teas:

Create flavorful blends from purchased bulk teas. Mix a single herb with bulk tea such as Darjeeling, green or Earl Gray to create unique blends.  The homegrown herb will enhance the tea with flavor and fragrance. Begin by mixing the tea 4 parts to 1 part of dried herb.

Combinations to try:

English lavender buds with Earl Gray

Spearmint with green tea

Bee balm with Darjeeling

Package hand-blended loose teas in small glassine bags.Seal and label with the flavor and instructions on how to brew.To use: 1 teaspoon of loose herbs per cup of hot water.

Copy this tea label or make your own. This beautiful frame was found at

Bringing in the Greens

Fresh cut greens brought in the home this time of year is a tradition dating back hundreds of years. It identifies with our need to bring the garden indoors when we are spending less time outside.  Traditional winter festivals included “hanging of the greens” or “bringing in the greens” when fresh-cut greenery and branches were brought in to celebrate the harvest and the winter solstice.  Not only for decoration, the plants were also used extensively for their heady, healing aromas. The heavy resinous oils in the needles and branches would freshen and purify enclosed living spaces. In ancient Egypt, aromatic spices and plant resins were items of great value for indoor fragrance and the extensive use of scent by Cleopatra is legendary. Ancient Romans made perfuming a ritual for everything from clothing to the sails of their ships,  leaving much legend and lore through history,  as to their uses.

Create your own seasonal traditions by bringing the bounty of evergreens and other natural materials inside. Take a walk through the winter garden and look for interesting seed heads, foliage and branches jeweled with berries. Search for materials with unblemished leaves, sturdy stems and heads that do not shatter when harvested.  Move beyond the traditional greenery of indoor decor and look for materials that incorporate a whole range of natural textures. This different way of looking through the garden can inspire and capture fragrance and colors for wreaths, garlands and arrangements, perfect for adorning the entry hall, fireplace mantles and the dining room. Enhance garden crafting with out of the garden details such as dried fruits, fragrant cinnamon sticks, pinecones and spices.  Follow these tips and ideas to bring it all together.

  • Take a bucket with clean water to immediately place, fresh cuttings in

    salal, pieris, variegated holly, hop vine, douglas fir

  • Use sharp,  clean pruners or scissors to take clippings
  • Remove the lower leaves off stems, so they do not sit underwater
  • Woody stems should be crushed on the ends, so they can take up water easier.
  • Place buckets of greenery in a cool place such as the garage and allow them to sit overnight to absorb the maximum amount of water.
  • When arranging  fresh stems and branches in a vase, re-cut the end of the stem to allow better water uptake. Flowers and greens that can absorb water and stay plumped up will have a longer vase life. Replace water every few day for cleanliness and keep water at the level it needs to be and top off as necessary.
  • Most woody, evergreen branches like cedar and salal will last through a holiday season without water.

Pruning Tips

Don’t cut shrubs or trees in a way that may alter their natural growing habit. For example,  avoid short cuts at the top of woody ornamental plants.  Find selective long branches that allow cuts closer to the base or around the outer edges of the plants. Look for branches that need to be pruned off.  Learn what plants bloom on new growth (like Beautyberry); they can usually be cut heavier. As a rule of thumb, never cut more than one-third of leafy evergreen plants. Conifers and needled branches are cut very selectively.  Avoid cutting where it will permanently re-shape the tree or shrub (unless you are making a topiary!).  Look for undamaged branches that have fallen in the wind or cut small branches where you will naturally want to thin or limb up.

fresh, hand-wrapped salal wreath

 Plants for winter cutting

 For a golden touch:

 Aucuba “Mr. Goldstrike”, Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’, variegated holly, Elaeagnus


Daphne, Viburnum x bodnantense, rosemary

Colorful stems:

Red and yellow twig dogwood, Coral Bark Maple


Camellia, Douglas fir, cedar, evergreen huckleberry, ferns, Pieris, rosemary, salal, Mahonia, boxwood


Barberry, beautyberry, holly, rose hips, snowberry, cranberry Viburnum, Skimmia

Interesting architectural branches:

Witch hazel, contorted filbert, curly willow

Seed and dried floral heads:

Alliums, ornamental grasses like Miscanthus, millet and pennisetum, Echinacea, Rudbeckia

Decorating Thoughts:

Dried Hydrangea, fresh-cut rosemary, salal, cedar,

Think lush and full, don’t skimp. Look for textures that contrast and set off each other. If you don’t make your own, use pre-made wreath bases and garland to add fresh berry branches and interesting stems. Alternate color and texture to complete the look.


Use caution on wood or fabric surfaces. Fresh branches, berries and moisture can stain. Make fresh decor for parties and special events. For arrangements used for longer periods of time, keep greenery fresh by avoiding drying heat sources. Remove fading materials and replace as needed to avoid shedding and fire hazard.


Decorate outdoor window boxes and containers, no need for them to remain bare over the winter. Begin by planting spring-flowering bulbs deep in containers. Top the container as if arranging a vase of cut flowers. Arrange fresh-cut holly branches, contorted filbert stems and fir branches in the top-level of soil of the container. Add weatherproof glass bulbs and pine cones for a decorative touch. As the soil warms in the spring, remove the branches as the bulbs emerge for fresh pops of spring.

Teeny, sweet bouquets!

 There are captured flowers in vases as the lavender dries upright beside the Moonshine yarrow and the hop vines. Memories of the summer garden on the buffet in the dining room.

But there is more  about this that makes me smile.  Tucked in front of the large vases of dried flowers are teeny, tiny glass bottles with sweet bouquets of  fresh flowers in them. A gift from my granddaughter last week. One of her favorite things to do is to pick flowers from the garden and leave them for me. She likes to help arrange fresh flowers in the big vases , but it isn’t always easy for her to do her own thing. As is typical for a 4-year-old, she wants to do them herself.

One day, I decided to let her use some small glass bottles as flower vases. I have a collection of old bottles that in the past, just sat on the shelf collecting dust , now they are perfect for my budding garden helper. Every time she visits I get fresh, teeny bouquets in my dining room.

Tread upon my Chamomile


Though the chamomile, the more it is trodden upon, the faster it grows; yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.’ Shakespeare, King Henry IV part 1

The romance of a large chamomile lawn releasing its fresh, green apple fragrance as it is walked on, is  part of my fantasy herb garden…then I think about all the upkeep keeping the weeds out of it and the wreck it would become as my dogs rip through it,  there it stays in the fantasy garden.    (Don’t we all have our garden bucket list?)

In reality, I planted chamomile in the stairs that lead to my upper garden. It has become more than just fragrant steps, it is gardening therapy. A few times a month in its growing season, I get out my sheep shears and have a bit of aromatherapy as I tidy up the steps. The fragrance is heavy in the air as it is snipped back down to a few inches. This is a garden chore where gloves simply won’t do, I love the scent and oily feel of the essential oil as it lingers on my hands.  It is said that chamomile grows faster the more it is stepped on, it also looks nicer when regularly trimmed like lawn grass. I do like the steps a bit shaggy  but the plants  really fill in much thicker when I keep it clipped.

More about this multipurpose herb

Botanical Name:

Chamaemelum nobile

Common Name: chamomile, ground apple

Culture: Zone 4.  Herbaceous perennial.  Full sun to part shade. Grows up to 12 inches tall and spreads by creeping rhizomes.  Best in well draining soil.

The plants will fill in better with regular watering and shearing.

Ornamental Value:

Chamomile has fern-like leaf shapes and small white daisy flowers. The most prized use in the landscape is as a substitute for lawn grasses. It spreads easily and fills in tightly when trimmed or lightly mowed on a regular basis. C. nobile ‘Treneague’ is a non-flowering variety best for use as green pathways and lawns.  The ornamental value of chamomile has been treasured for centuries as a verdant living carpet or garden bench that releases a tart green apple aroma when crushed.   Plant the double showy flowers of C. nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ as a groundcover under rose bushes. Chamomile is said to have a symbiotic relationship to promote healthy roses. Strong infusions of chamomile flowers and leaves used as compost tea are said to activate compost piles.

Traditional or historical herb use:

The botanical name is derived from Greek meaning “apples on the ground” describing its fragrance when walked upon. The precious oil extracted from the flowers is a bluish color, once distilled it contains azulene, an aromatic fatty substance that promotes rapid healing of skin. Its reputation has become very popular in modern-day for anti-aging and wrinkle treatments. Tea taken before bedtime will promote sleep and dispel nightmares.

(excerpt from- Herbs By Design, a guide to landscaping with herbs- coming soon)


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