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March Happenings

It’s safe to say that spring is in the air. Even though that air might feel damp and cold today and snow clouds are hovering overhead, most of us are sensing a certain optimism that we’ll soon be poking around in our gardens again. All we have to do is look for the early bulbs popping out of the soil in our sunny beds for evidence.

James Brewer, our February speaker, showed us what can be achieved in our landscapes this summer – if we are amazingly talented or if we have him design our gardens. Attendees enjoyed slides of his spectacular landscape design work, along with his descriptions of the projects and of his transition from novice English gardener to established New England landscape designer.

In addition to an interesting selection of very healthy houseplants and tempting homemade snacks, Linda S. provided servings of Green Goddess soup for members. She has shared the recipe for this delicious (and very green) soup – it can be found in the Recipe Box on the website. (Thanks to Patti S. & Ann H. for the photos.)

As a followup to his appearance at our meeting, James Brewer sent us this note:
‘Dear ladies / members of the Stratham & Exeter Garden Club’.

I wanted to send you all a huge thank you for making Bill and I feel so welcome and staying awake while I talked to you all today.
Thank you for the opportunity to share a snippet of my story and discuss some of my gardens both large and small.
I wish you well for the coming season and hope you all enjoy your gardens, have good health and bountiful blooms in 2022…

Cheers,
James & Mr. Billster…

Club News:
Our Budget Committee met on March 3rd to draw up a budget for next year. The membership will be voting on the budget at the May meeting. In the meantime, there are a few vacancies on the board for committee chairs for next year. If you are interested in getting to know more members or becoming more involved, please contact Linda S. to discuss the positions that are available. Current and former board members will tell you that being on the board is the “funnest” part of being a garden club member. And if you’re interested in helping out on the Nominating Committee, there is still time to sign up, by contacting Linda S.

Our club is very excited to announce that, in conjunction with the Exeter Library, we’ll be hosting horticulturalist and garden historian John Forti, on May 24th at 6PM in the library’s Meeting Room. He will be giving a talk on heirloom gardening. John has directed gardens for Plimoth Plantation Museum, Strawberry Banke Museum, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and Bedrock Gardens. He also serves as a regional Slow Food Governor and biodiversity specialist for Slow Food USA. Here is a synopsis of his presentation:

The Heirloom Gardener – Traditional Plants and Skills is John Forti’s newest presentation.  It draws from his new book of traditional plants and skills for the modern world.  Richly illustrated with period images and contemporary woodcuts, his PowerPoint shares inspiration from our long history of heirloom preservation, garden craft and homestead lifeways.  Artisanal gardening lifestyles that are helping us to rebuild vibrant local agricultural economies and celebrate sustainable cottage industries that are contributing to our new, homegrown American arts & crafts movement and backyard environmentalism.  At a time when we could all use a little good news, we hope you will join us for a refreshing look at how you can make a difference and build habitat in your own backyard and community. 

He also has a book. These days, we all need some good news and a way to participate in meaningful change. The Heirloom Gardener-Traditional Plants and Skills for the Modern World is a book for gardeners who want to deepen their knowledge and improve life for families, pollinators and wildlife in their own backyards.  It’s a love poem to the earth; a map to the art of living intentionally and a guidepost for environmental gardeners and artisans.  It unearths old-ways, storied plants and artisanal life-skills; like seed-saving, herbalism, foraging, distillation, ethnobotany and organics which contribute to a new 21st century arts and crafts movement. With woodcuts from Caldecott Medal VT artist Mary Azarian, The Heirloom Garden offers a dose of wild hope for a weary nation. It is available through this link.

“A Garden for Pollinators & Wildlife: Natural Landscaping for a Better Yard” is a program being offered at the Brentwood Library on Tuesday, March 15 from 7 to 8 pm. The talk will be presented by Vicki J. Brown, NH Natural Resources Steward, Pollinator Pathways NH Organizing Founder and Speaking for Wildlife volunteer. She will provide insights on ways to attract butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife to your yard. You can sign up by clicking here.

Did you realize that saffron, that pricey and difficult-to-access spice is now being grown in New England? Here’s an interesting article, provided by Linda S., that explains the how and the where of local saffron: Why the Most Expensive Spice in the World Is Now Growing in Hundreds of Small American Farms.

Wolfsbane – Keeping the Wolves at Bay

Aconitum napellus (Aconite), better known as Monkshood for the helmet-like sepal that covers the rest of the flower, has a long history as both a deadly weapon and an herbal remedy. It is a member of the buttercup family and is a hearty perrenial. The flowers come in a range of colors including blues, yellow, white and pinks. It’s other common name, Wolfsbane, is said to have come from the plant’s use in keeping wolves at bay. Villagers used the toxic sap to coat arrows that would kill the unwanted animal.

The ancient Roman naturalist Plinius, better known as Pliny the Elder, referred to it as “plant arsenic.” In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the evil sorceress Medea conspires to kill the hero Theseus by offering him a cup infused with the deadly poison. Fortunately for him, her plan was foiled. Had he drank from the cup, his death would have been painful, but relatively fast. Even a small amount of exposure to the roots can produce tingling and numbness, and large-scale exposure can induce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and death.

The European variety, although poisonous enough to be deadly, is not as toxic as the Asian variety, and yet even the Asian variety has been used in healing medicine for centuries as well as in the preparation of poisons. Aconite can trigger hallucinations. I has been used to slow the pulse and as a sedative for heart palpitations. The use of aconite in medicine is probably at the basis of its connection with werewolves, as is the legend that it was given its poisonous qualities from the slobber of Cerberus during Hercules’ fight with that ferocious dog of Hades.

By the way, the seed, wrapped in a lizard’s skin and carried allows you to become invisible at will. I gotta go catch me a lizard…. Anyway, if you are looking to do in a werewolf this Halloween, go for the silver bullet, as wolfsbane merely slows ’em down. Ditto for vampires.

The Wolfman

 

Even a man who is pure in heart

and says his prayers by night

may become a wolf

when the wolfbane blooms

and the autumn moon is bright.

A little ditty from the 1941 movie, The Wolfman.

from Max

Meet Michael Balick

Balick BookBecky M. sent us this link to an interesting interview with Michael Balick, an ethnobotanist and Vice President for Botanical Science at The New York Botanical Garden. He is the author of Rodale’s 21st Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants.

The book looks like a winner to me. You will find that chocolate is an Herb!

By the way, the website that this article is on is excellent. I just read about reverting plants and how hostas are developed. The pictures are georgious too. You can find this link in the “Garden Tips” section of the “Other Interesting Sites” Menu item. Just click on this entry: “Margaret Roach’s A Way To Garden”.

2014 Herb of the Year

Wormwood

Wormwood

The 2014 choice for the Herb of the Year is actually a large and diverse group of plants: the Artemisias.

They include tarragon, one of the finest and most important ingredients in French cuisine, Sweet Annie that is the source of a medicine crucially important for the prevention and treatment of malaria, and bitter wormwood which is the defining ingredient of vermouth (without which the martini could not exist!)

Man’s connection to the artemisias goes back a long way.  They are found growing in large expanses throughout the world undoubtedly caught the eyes of early hunters and gatherers.  According to the Greek myths, Artemis, the goddess of the wilderness and of the hunt, gave the power of the plant to Chiron the Centaur who was a great healer and teacher.  It was Chiron who developed the first medicines from artemisia.

Tarragon

Tarragon

The many silver or grey artemisias can help create a beautiful, serene effect on the landscape.  The artemisias are very hardy, drought tolerant, and adapt well to most garden situations.

This excerpt was taken from the Richters 2014 Herb and Vegetable Catalog.
from Patti Ewell

The Prickly Herb Burdock

Burdock Burrs

Burdock Burrs

You know those sticky burrs that latch on to your clothing as you traipse through the fields? They are from the burdock or Arctium plant. Often mistaken for a rank weed, the root of this herb is very useful and used for medicinal purposes. July through October is the peak flowering season, so look for it now.

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