Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Orchids to Combat Gray Skies

As we await for the snow to recede and our own indigenous plants to awaken from their winter slumber, greenhouses, conservatories, and flower shows can give us that needed glimpse into the coming seasons. A local historic park, Sonnenberg Gardens, is holding its annual orchid show this weekend, March 1 - 3. Each year I visit the show and see orchids of all types and colors to help give me that little "boost" to make it another month when our own wildflowers will begin to put on their show.

If you are in the area, be sure to visit the show - see the Sonnenberg's website for details. If not, enjoy a few sights from last year's show. (Click on the images to see a larger view.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Northeast Wildflowers and Wild Plants

As time allows, I will be creating and uploading videos featuring wildflowers and other plants of the woodlands of the Northeastern United States. These videos will feature identification tips, ethnobotanical information, and various bits of related trivia. I have created a playlist at YouTube for this series which you may find at YouTube or you may view it below. At the time of this writing, I have three videos available but visit often since there will be more!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Coming Season

Bloodroot - One of the heralds of spring
I often wonder if people who live in warm, green places all year long can appreciate what kind of gift that truly is. It has been months since my world was green and so it is about this point in the winter that I begin to long for the green of spring and become anxious for those few first blooms that are heralds of the coming season.

Don't get me wrong - I love winter. It is a quiet season, where like the Earth herself, I am able to turn inward to refresh and renew myself for the coming year. But winter is a season of browns, grays, white, and black and I miss the green of the growing and vibrant plant world - my green neighbors are all asleep. And so May is my favorite time of the year. May cloaks the world in a vivid bright green. That green of May is so vivid and so full of life that it is palpable. It takes on a magical quality that puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step. You feel like you are dancing on air and it is no wonder why our ancestors held various spring celebrations like May Day. They felt that energy and joy too.

So while I do not want to wish the season away, I do await those first few blooms of late winter and early spring with bated breath!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Hedgehog in Your Garden

While the botanical or scientific names of plants may only seem like Greek to you - and sometimes they truly are just that, there can be clever insights into the plant buried in those names.

The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a staple in many sunny ornamental flower and herb gardens. What is not to like about this beautiful and hardy native plant? It is a perennial with stunning and long-lived blooms, few if any pests, and it needs no special care or water once established. It is also a plant that has often been used medicinally as an immune system booster. Learn more about this and other echinaces here.

According to the Dictionary of Plant Names by Allen J. Coombes,
Echinacea. From Gk. [Greek] echinos (a hedgehog) referring to the prickly receptacle scales.
While you may see the hedgehog in central disks of the vibrant summer blooms as the picture above shows, I think it is with the winter snow-frosted seed heads where the name becomes even more evident - as the picture I snapped this morning (below) shows. I think all the picture needs is some beady little eyes and pointed nose to complete the hedgehog visual, don't you agree?

(Garden Tip: Next fall do not remove all the dead plant material like the old coneflower stalks from your garden beds. They provide for much winter interest in your sleeping garden.)

Purple Coneflower - The Hedgehog in
your garden?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Free Seed Giveaway

Balloon Flower - win seeds for this
beautiful medicinal herb
In combination with Classical Formulas, we will be giving away a free set of seeds to one lucky winner. The seeds included in this giveaway are:

Herbs (Culinary)
Chives, Mixed Sweet & Thai Basil, Sweet Basil

Herbs (Medicinal)
Plantain (P. Major), Marshmallow, Mountain Mint, Elecampane, Catnip, Purple Coneflower, Borage (Blue & White), Lemon Balm, Chicory, Yellow Dock, Feverfew, Bee Balm, Balloon Flower, Selfheal, Common Milkweed, Calendula

Broccoli, Lettuce, Sunflower, Squash, Radish, Carrot, Tomato (2 varieties), Turnip

To enter this free drawing, send your name, address, email, and phone number to by midnight February 28, 2013. Winner to be announced March 1, 2013. Please include in your email if you wish to be added to the Classical Formulas mailing list to receive occasional communications from Classical Formulas about upcoming herbal education classes and events.  (One entry per household and US recipients only.)

Good luck!
Update: We have drawn our winner - Stephanie L. of Rochester, NY. Thank you all who entered. May each and everyone of you have a wonderful and green growing season!