Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gift Giving...Make Mine a Rose Herbal Surprise

With apologies to Gertrude Stein, "a rose is a rose is an herb." Plants defined as herbs are useful for fragrance, food or flavoring. Many have properties effective as medicine or coloring materials - for a natural dye mix lavender, roses and a little mint and lemon juice to turn materials shades of pink. 

Roses more than qualify as top shelf herbs, their provenance dates back to the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire where rose petals were distilled and made into rose oil*. This holiday season consider the "Queen of Flowers" for gift giving in one or more of their herbal delightful forms - most can be made right in your own kitchen. 


Rose and Lavender Bath Oil (from The Book of Herbs), Dawn Titmus)
Ingredients: one cup of almond oil, five drops of rose essential oil (use good quality when using on the skin), five drops of lavender essential oil, sprig or two of dried lavender, dried rose petals (small handful, don't use fresh petals), a decorative bottle to hold one cup or more, raffia
Directions: tie dried lavender sprigs (shorter than the bottle) with raffia and put in the bottle. Add dried rose petals. Pour half the almond oil into the bottle. Add the rose essential oil drop by drop, then the lavender essential oil. Top the bottle with the remaining almond oil, and then swirl the mixture so the fragrances blend well. 

Rose Petal Bath Salts from POPSUGAR
Rose Petal Bath Salts (from 
POPSUGAR Sarah Lipoff)  Makes two cups
Ingredients: rose essential oil, one cup dried rose petals, one cup Epsom salts, 1/3 cup baking soda, 2/3 cup powdered milk, glass sealable container.
Directions: crumble rose petals into small pieces on a plate, then drizzle with a few drops of rose essential oil. Mix together Epsom salts, baking soda and powdered milk in a bowl, breaking up any clumps. Layer the dried ingredients between the rose pieces in the container, starting with the dry ingredients. Layer to the top, the scent will be stronger the longer it mingles in the jar. Add a large scoop (~1/4 cup) to your next hot bath for instant stress relief!


Refreshing Tea (Betty Cahill) 
Ingredients: 1/2 cup loose green or black tea, 2 tablespoons rose buds
2 tablespoons cut orange peel
Directions: mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container
Brew: put one teaspoon loose tea in an infuser or tea ball, pour boiling water in cup and steep for a few minutes. Sweeten to taste, sip and enjoy.

Photo from StudioBotanica

Rose Petal Vinegar (Barbara Milo Orbach)
Ingredients: one cup fresh or dried rose petals, 4 cups vinegar (champagne or apple cider vinegar), clean empty wine bottles, clean corks or if using a metal lid over a jar, cover the bottle with plastic wrap first because vinegar will eat away metal if in direct contact.
Directions: rinse and gently dry fresh rose petals (no need for dried). Pour vinegar into a sauce pan and heat to boiling point. Remove from heat immediately. Place rose petals in a mixing bowl and pour hot vinegar over them, cool. Pour the mixture into the wine bottles, cork and let sit for 3-6 weeks. Shake. Strain out the petals and refill bottles.

Photo from Bumblerootfoods
Scented Rose Honey (Kathleen Gips)
Ingredients: 1/2 cup dried or fresh, fragrant, pesticide-free rose petals (homegrown is best, do not use florist grown).
Directions: rinse and gently dry rose petals. Use scissors to cut off the white base of each petal (the bitter part). Chop the rose petals into small pieces on a cutting board. Pour the honey into a saucepan and heat over low for a minute or two. Remove the honey from heat and stir in the rose petals. Let cool.  Pour into a glass jar, yield one pint. 

A quick internet search will help you find scores of other recipes including rose hip sauce, rose petal ice-cubes (great for summer entertaining), rose syrup - try over crepes or pound cake. Also look for easy rose herbal sachet and potpourri recipes. Plus there are many ways to use rose hips in wreaths and dried canes for winter bouquets. Look for quality dried rose petals in natural grocery stores. Some Denver area shops that carry outstanding essential rose oil skin care and other herb products
Herbs & Art 
Apothecary Tinctura 
MoonDance Botanicals 

*There is no other herbal essential oil quite like rose oil, derived from 'Rosa damascena' and 'Rosa centifolia' for use as fragrance in perfumes, lotions and other cosmetics. Today, Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco and France command the majority of rose oil production. It takes 180 pounds of damask rose petals to produce an ounce of rose oil or attar - the Arabic word that means 'essence' which sells for about $500.00. No wonder Cleopatra and ancient Romans had such high regard for the rose - almost bordering on obsession. They were known to use rose water in fountains, public baths and petals for stuffing pillows.  

Unknown Roses at Normandy American Cemetery
Roses truly speak from the heart - just look around. We decorate with roses for weddings, anniversaries, parades and final resting places. Roses symbolize love, devotion, celebration and life. Their long, rich history spans from thirty-five million year old rose fossil beds in Colorado at Florissant National Park to our first President who grew roses and named one after his mother which is still grown today, 'Mary Washington.' Roses grow in all fifty states and were designated America's national flower by Congress in 1986.  


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Plant Failure to Success Part II

Finally I'm back with Part II of the new pollinator and herb beds I planted this past summer. Forgive my absence, I've been out watering our landscape because it's been in the 60s and 70s for so many weeks that if plants are as dehydrated as my hair and skin, then they are parched, thirsty and looking like they need an immediate moisture injection or some Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream (yes, there is such a product, I saw it at Walgreens). Can you believe this fall weather we've been having? How are people supposed to get in the holiday..."brrr... it's cold out, I need to buy long underwear" spirit!  A change is forecast for later tonight, hope we get some rain or snow!

First, here's the link to Part I so you can pick up where I left off. I believe I was finishing up on how the new pollinator bed turned out. I said that it was nice and I still stand by that word, I'll even add pretty to the description and the best part, it will be very low water care once established. The exception is the magnolia shrub in the middle, which is on it's own drip line. Even today, November 16th, the plants look great, they are standing tall and the seed heads add interest and snack opportunities. The birds sneak in, peck away at the seeds while kicking out a mulch trail on the nearby concrete patio. I scold them a bit for making a mess, but just sweep it back each morning knowing they'll be back for more.

As with any new planting or plantings, it will take a few seasons for plants to take hold and establish their dependable good looks. It's true...new plants generally creep-crawl-leap in their early lives.

Here's the official "ta dah" final planting for the new pollinator bed dated 8-23 (planted in June). Most of the plants are from the Plant Select® program. If you're not familiar with Plant Select®, take some time to view their website and plant stories. I wrote a blog about PS back in 2015, still relevant - Plant Choices - Plant Select® Plant Smarter. 

I left some space for some of the larger plants to have room to grow, so please don't mind the gaps!

Here's the plant list, along with links from the common name to read more information. The first nine are from Plant Select® (more will be added next spring).

Heterotheca jonesii x villosa 'Goldhill'  Common name - Goldhill golden-aster

Osteospermum 'Avalanche' Common name - Avalanche white sun daisy 

Osteospermum barberiae var. compactum   Common name - PURPLE MOUNTAIN® sun daisy

Penstemon x mexicali  Common name -  RED ROCKS® penstemon

Salvia reptans  Common name - Autumn Sapphire™ sage

Agastache 'Pstessene'  Common name -  CORONADO® Red hyssop

Engelmannia peristenia   Common name - Engelmann's daisy 

Salvia pachyphylla Common name - Mojave Sage 

Veronica liwanensis Common name -  Turkish veronica

SALVIA lyrata 'Purple Volcano'  Common name - Purple volcano sage

Agastache 'Bolero'  Common name - Hyssop 

Liatris spicata 'Kobold'  Common name - Gayfeather 

Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’  Common name - Sage

Lavandula x intermedia 'Niko' Common name - Phenomenal Lavender

Magnolia 'Ann'  Common name - Magnolia

Additional photos from late summer through mid-Novembe:

Coronado® Red hyssop
RED ROCKS® penstemon
Avalanche white sun daisy 
NEW Pollinator Bed 11-15-2016

 Please check back soon for Part III and the new herb bed outcome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Plant Failure to Success - Part I

Earlier in May I challenged myself to design and install three new planting beds that had failed my expectations to grow and perform well in our landscape. No doubt you can relate, most gardeners have had plants crash or disappoint. Looking back, when the plants first went in I dreamed about them looking like the perfect field of flowers blanketing the entrance to the Emerald City, you know... where the great and powerful Oz lived. I wonder if he pitched in and did any deadheading on his day's off, but I digress. 

Before you read too far, this blog will be Part I, so please check back soon for the "ta dah" completed beds.

If you want to check out the full "before" story before reading further, click on this link - plant failer. You'll see a pathetic before picture that I just can't bring myself to re-post again.

In a few words, the beds turned out very nicely, not perfect, but a fine start, it has the making of "good bones" as they say. 

I could write paragraphs about the torture and turmoil I endured preparing the soil and working out in the hot sun, but you know that's a given. In fact we did have a very hot summer and CO soils just ain't nice to work in, they've got all that sticky clay in there.

I did most of the manual work of bed prep and transplanting some of the herbs in early morning or evening when the areas were shaded. The best part was that I didn't need to hit the gym on a regular basis during the root pulling weeks - my arms, back and legs were getting in shape, almost buff, okay that's an exaggeration. The body parts that hurt the most were my hands from all the root pulling (yes, I wore gloves). I was tempted to go to a manicure shop and request one of those warm wax coating treatments just to see if they'd feel better deep down. I didn't go, I just opted to push through, using arnica cream at night minutes before my tired head hit the pillow.

The soil wasn't really all that bad since they had been prepped five years prior when the new landscape went in. But I added several bags of expanded shale to further break up the clay soil and improve drainage. I also added some compost from my pile and a few bags of locally made amendment, but not too much, the plants going in needed excellent drainage not high fertility. 

Shopping for new plants was fun, sort of. I had to hit several places to complete the list from my plan and I still have some holes because some plants just weren't available or sold out. That's why there's always next year, right fellow gardeners!

The plan - the former herb area became a pollinator bed consisting of mainly Plant Select® plants while the former rose bed became the new herb bed. I kept some open real estate in the herb bed to pop in some annual vegetables or more herbs.

Here is one group of plants after some garden center power shopping in mid-June. I tried to purchase mainly four-inch pots over one gallon size, smaller ones are so much easier to plant and they catch up quickly in growth and size.

Below is the mostly empty pollinator bed, I kept a large lavender and sage plant, I knew they wouldn't transplant well to the new herb bed. It isn't that large an area, about 13' x 13'.

Plant Select® plants never disappoint!

End of Part I, please check back soon!