It was the second River of Herbs meeting today and we took a stroll through part of park Frankendael, hunting for Molehills.
I used a few hills to build a lovely aerated soil mound around my geveltuin Lavender shrub. Molehills generally contain lovely rich soil – just the thing to encourage the Lavender to set down roots along it’s aging branches, for new plants to form.
We removed a few wild garlic plants from a path in the park, where they never reach maturity due to foot traffic and gardening. These babies will have new homes with Urban Herbies in shady balconies and pavement gardens.
There is plenty of Yellow Archangel to be seen (or eaten) at the moment.
And this looks like Garlic mustard early leaves to me… I can’t wait (but must) for these plants to bolt upward and produce absolutely delicious leaves!
Here’s a photo of one of our first River of Herbs projects… Edible and medicinal Violas and Primroses. Not obtained from the wild, cultivated varieties.
Thanks everyone who came for your help and inspiring ideas and enthusiasm!
UPDATE: Next Meeting – Starting at Mercatoplein
Please see this event link to River of Herbs website.
Lavender today. It grows really well in urban locations, such as here in a busy shopping precinct. I’ve been looking at ways to grow new Lavender plants from old leggy ones.
Mounding is a suitable method for Lavender. Simply make a mound of easy-to-root-in soil, with the existing lavender plant shoots, just peeking through. In time the old branches will send down roots, into the mound and you’ll be able to cut off a while bunch of new small plants.
Today, Lavender looking as spritely as ever, regardless of sub zero weather. This is a great urban herb! The leaves, flowers and seeds can be used for various culinary and medicinal purposes. I keep a bottle of Lavender essential oil in my kitchen in case of burns. I don’t like essential oils very much as they are so concentrated and far from the natural herb state but I find this one very useful. It’s about the only essential oil I keep in the house and it has helped heal minor burns swiftly, with less or no pain than without its use and no scars.
And just because they look so gorgeous in the snow – Rosehips! Another of my favourite urban herbs.
Today a frosty Amsterdam yields far less edibles and medicinals but there are still plenty around, including evergreens and beautiful Lavender shrubs. They grow so well in most Amsterdam locations and the leaves and flowers are very useful, whether in flavouring cakes, confectionery our treating minor burns, some forms of eczema our helping people to sleep.
Here’s one on my neighbour’s geveltuin (pavement garden).
Here is another plant which become popular in the winter due to it’s pretty tiny flowers. I’m used to it on moorland but here it is gracing another geveltuin, close to my home. It is Heather (Calluna vulgaris). I’ve never eaten it but the flowers are apparently edible. If the leaves and stems are edible, I can’t imagine they can be very palatable. Here is a useful entry on Celtnet, about the plant and some ideas on how it may be used. The plants certainly stand up well to the snow and they produce valuable nectar for insects. Heather honey is delicious!
Snow in Amsterdam today.
Some blanketed Lavender…
A pretty and tasty Rose…
And some Ginkgo fruit, hanging on in the trees, even now…
We’re back home and the weather in Amsterdam is mild (10 °C) but dull. This photo of my geveltuin, sort of reflects that. It needs a new year spruce up.
Today I looked at small herbs, growing along the Middenweg, which could easily be”weeded” out and replanted in locations where they could be allowed to grow unhindered and provide food…
Here’s a little Hazel, coppiced by repeated strimmings and strong.
Lavender. Smells great, tastes interesting but more useful for remedies and use in the home. Consider adding a handful of the flowers or fresh seeds to a small jar of honey, infuse for anything from a few days and use on minor burns.
Hollyhock, seeds. Now’s the time to collect them and help new plants grow where you’d like them.
Olive, with little Olives! We lost our roof top Olive last winter, during the drop freeze, but they can do just fine here, if protected in mid winter. No need to wait for the fruit, the leaves are also useful.
A very well trodden Plantain. These look great in a put and are so useful.They do well in tree pits, are evergreen and can look quite attractive.
Chickweed, one if my favorites for food and remedies, even in the winter. grown in a put they can make a thick yet delicate edible herbal carpet.
Dandelion. So useful and so bitterly tasty! Encourage strong roots by digging the soil before transplanting to your chosen location.
Lastly today, Rosebay willowherb. Such pretty and tasty flowers.
We have painters arriving at any moment, to decorate the front of our apartment. My little Mediterranean herb geveltuin (pavement garden) sits right in the line of fire so I decided to harvest a good quantity of stems and flowers from a few of the plants.
I’ll use the Lavender to make an infused olive oil (for cooking and use on skin).
The Rosemary will also make a great infused oil, an aromatic vinegar and I’ll dry some for winter meals.
The Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) will make a good insect repellant to spray on plants & people and a crumbly delicious culinary herb when dried. I’ll infuse some oil with the rest, to add to room sprays and for use in cooking and more. I’ll also reserve some for a small quantity of wormwood/absinthe schnapps.
I love this herb and will add it to the meetup group propagation programme next year as it is listed as a threatened species in the Netherlands. It really thrives in the dry sandy soil beneath our apartment and I’m sure more people would appreciate having it around. If you’d like some to propagate when the times come, please contact me.
This year there is not so much Rue and the Sage is too low growing to harvest without making it look messy.
I visited the park very early this morning and was pleased to find a surprise clump of my favourite herb for grounded-ness and muscle pains – Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). It is shown in this photo growing in a location quite far away from the ones I already know. So, I have high hopes that there is quite a good population of this useful plant in the park and also the city. I’d really like to know if any followers f this project know of Motherwort growing near them in other locations. I know that Jennie Akse knows of plenty in Beatrix Park, I’m not sure in which part they are but they certainly like it there too. Note that the pink flowers, next to the Motherwort leaves, are from another plant (see below). Motherwort is sometimes mistaken for a member of the Geranium family due to it’s leaves, however it is easy to spot the square labiate family stems. Failing that, if you mistakenly taste even a fraction of a Motherwort leaf, the extreme bitterness will soon teach you it’s not an aromatic Geranium! Motherwort is generally used as a tincture.
Here is a beautiful plant, from a very common and varied city tolerant herb family – called the Cranesbills or Scented Geraniums or Pelargoniums. I think that this one is most likely Geranium pyrenaicum, Hedge Crane’s-bill and as I’ve mention plenty times before, all member of the Geraniums are edible, tasty and useful. I read the other day of an old Rose Geranium infused alcoholic punch recipe, from Arabia. It is in Patricia Telesco’s Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook – a nice resource book containing many traditional and interesting herbal recipes. This plant is not Rose Geranium but itis related and extremely fragrant. I am quite tempted to have a go at it, maybe when the summer really arrives.
Another herb which is in season for harvest at present, is Lavender. I don’t see much of it in this park but it grows prolifically in the city and can be used very easily for many applications. Christian Huygensplein, near my home is planted out with it. Thank you Amsterdam Oost! Unfortunately, each day I have had time to visit any Lavender with my scissors, the weather has been damp so harvesting those pretty flower stems has been out of the question. No point in harvesting when the flowers are likely to mould, before they can dry out thoroughly. If you are lucky enough to find a huge patch of Lavender, the flower stems can be carefully but quickly thinned out, just above the foliage, perhaps taking every 20 stems, without much visible impact on the plant. I’m sure that my neighbours would not appreciate anyone chopping clumps of the flowers from the shopping area but I’m sure a few carefully flower stems wouldn’t be missed.
Lastly and shown above, is a striking herb which I have no experience of using at all but know it has historic uses. It is called Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) and I know it only as a garden plant from Somerset. Here’s a link to a page from a wonderful recent-historic book, offering a glimpse into historic uses of herbs.
I was so pleased when I realised that the local council had commissioned simple herbs for the planting scheme at Christian Huygensplein in Oost Watergraafsmeer, Amsterdam.
About a year on, the herbs are looking great so I thought I’d share a photo. I hope you can see a Pine Tree trunk surrounded by thick Lavender and an Ivy plant climbing up the trunk.
Three practical herbs in an area which needed a little smartening up at the time. Mostly the planting, which had a lot of hot dry weather soon after it was completed, has faired well. It looks good, smells good and could be used for a multitude of remedies, should the need arise.
Thank you Amsterdam Oost! Now how about a few more nut trees?