Yarrow

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Achillea Millefolium

It is not at all difficult to find Yarrow.    It’s persistence is very likely the reason that it has survived from ancient times until this day.    It survives regular mowing.   Yarrow thrives in ditches and fields.    Long before there was any scientific substance to back such claims, Yarrow was widely respected as an effective medicinal herb.

Description

There could be no mistaking Yarrow.   It is an upright perennial with delicate fern like foliage.   Yarrow is native to Europe and hitchhiked over with the early immigrants.   While it is not an invasive species, Yarrow has naturalized here in North America.   I find that wild Yarrow usually has white or sometimes pale yellow flowers, but there are a wide range of colours in the cultivated varieties.

yarrow5 Growing Information

Zone 2 and up.  Yarrow will grow in any soil, but can reach three feet or more in a well nourished spot in full sun.   Yarrow starts easily from seed and will bloom the first year in good ground.

Varieties (that i know of) :

  • Proa Yarrow -White Flowers
  • Moonshine Yarrow – Yellow flowers –
  • Mongolian Yarrow – Light Pink flowers
  • Red Yarrow – Red flowers
  • Sneezewort Yarrow – White or pinkish flowers
  • Wooly Yarrow – Low growing with Yellow flowers
  • Yellow Yarrow – Tall with yellow flowers

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Notes

There is an undocumented belief that Yarrow is a great companion plant for any herb that will be harvested for its essential oils.

Yarrow does make an excellent living mulch in the garden and has been found to attract the very beneficial hover flies ( look like small bees and eat aphids 🙂    It is also thought to attract predatory wasps and lady bugs.

Yarrow should be encouraged because it is so useful, but can be invasive in a perennial bed.    In my yard, I find it best suited to being part of my little wildflower garden.

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Garden Sage

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Salvia Officinalis

Garden Sage makes a wonderful herb to plant by your garden gate.  While it might not have the striking appeal of some other sage varieties, plain garden sage more than makes up for that with its lovely earthy fragrance every time those soft leaves are touched.   If I didn’t have happy boisterous dogs, I would also plant Garden Sage by my front door for good health.

Description

Garden Sage is a hardy perennial herb with soft velvety leaves.   As it ages, the stems become quite woody but the growth remains dense and full in well nourished ground.    Garden Sage has a short flowering time with small blue flowers that bees are fond of.

gardensageGrowing Information

Perennial in  Zones 5 – 9,  can be grown as an annual in cooler climes if started indoors eight weeks before the last frost.

Sages of all sorts prefer full sun and are great plants for gardeners who need to conserve water.   Once they are established, all sages actually prefer not to get their feet too wet.

Even in milder climates, sages of any variety benefit from heavy organic mulch to protect them from cold weather before they are blanketed with snow.

Garden Sage can be helpful companion plants for cabbage, carrots and tomatoes.   Sages of any sort should not be grown near Rue or onions.     Cucumbers will not do well when planted near sage.

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Notes

Unless one is cooking for a crowd, there is no need to harvest the entire plant for winter stores.    Individual leaves freeze dry very well on trays and winter well if they are layered in a container lined with parchment paper in the freezer.    Leaves can also be preserved in oil or processed in the same fashion as pesto.

If one is making bundles for smudging, the plant is best harvested and tied in shape after flowering   Hang individually to dry.

Clary

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clary

Salvia Sclarea

There is nothing about the humble first year Clary (below) that even hints at what a spectacular show stopper (above) that this biennial herb becomes in its second year.   If you have been hesitant to try biennials in your garden, Clary would definitely be the best one to start with.

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Description

In its first year, Clary has a cluster of large soft green fuzzy leaves.   In the second year, those same leaves come back to life and burst into a beautiful flowering plant that holds its beauty for nearly the entire summer.   Even when it begins to fade a bit, it is still a lovely sight as it goes to seed.

clary3Growing Information

Zones 4-9

Clary is a soft leaved biennial that flowers in the second year.    During the first year, there will be a cluster of soft leaves that can reach 12 to 18 inches tall.   During the second year, Clary can easily reach three feet.   In well nourished soil it can go as high as five feet.    The second year plant can spread at least as wide as its height.

Clary prefers well drained dry soil and will thrive in full sun.

Clary is easily started from seed.   Although it can be directly seeded in the garden, it does benefit from an early indoor start in jiffy pots.

clary4Notes

Even in our lovely pocket of Zone 6, I have found it beneficial to heavily mulch Clary with a good thick covering of straw.   Pull it back gently in the spring so as not to disturb the early growth.

If left standing over the winter, in mild years second year Clary can self seed..

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Borage

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Borago officinalis

Borage may be famous for its ability to promote bravery, but for my money the best bit about borage is that bees are drawn to its little blue flowers. And as any gardener knows, without bees there would be no gardens at all!

Description

Borage should be at the top of every lazy gardener’s wish list! Why? Because it is that loveliest of things, a genuinely self seeding annual!

Mind you, the new shoots will not pop up in the same neat row where they were planted. Look carefully in the early spring for the tiny round leaves that only bear a passing resemblance to the mature plant.

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Growing Information

To Zone 4 as an annual, Zone 5 and up as a self seeding annual

Hardy, upright leafy annual or self seeding annual

Blue flowers, blooms from early summer until first frost if deadheaded

Will grow at least a foot in poor soil, from 2-3 feet when well nourished

Prefers full sun but can get by anywhere

Spreads easily …. you should only need to seed once if you watch for the popup seedlings when you are readying your garden in the spring

Although I have found nothing anywhere to substantiate this, in my garden, all vegetables seem to benefit when this self seeding herb pops up in a bed

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Notes

I have only ever grown the blue flowered Officanalis because I like the young leaves in salads early in the season.

There is also another blue flowered variety, Borago pygmaea, but as it is not suitable for culinary or medicinal use, I have never tried it here

There is a white variety, Borago Alba, that is often available in greenhouses that can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes, but I do not know how attractive it would be to bees.

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Borage is such an easy thing to start from seed that it is surprising that it is not found in more home gardens.

Although Borage is self seeding, if for some reason you do not want to grow it again, it is easily tilled out of the garden in a year or two

If you are looking for a fun little plant for a children’s garden, this would be one of my first picks. It is safe for them to eat. It is easy to germinate, so they can quickly see results. And I think it is a great thing to encourage children to have respect for bees.