The snow has almost thawed and the sun is out. Willow tendrils have tiny buds and there is lots of slightly dishevelled green life around.
Here us a tiny yet tough lemon balm, in park Frankendael today.
And the Mallow I photographed mid summer is still doing well in the shelter of this rock.
I thought that this is Malva sylvestris, Common Mallow though it more likely could be a stunted Lavatera arborea (must look at it again this week), growing in one of my neighbour’s roadside planters. This plant seems to offer flowers all year long! The whole plant is edible and soothingly medicinal – if it’s Malva. If it’s a Lavatera then the leaves and flowers are also edible though the medicinal qualities are far less than Mallow.
I believe that this is Slender Speedwell (Veronica filiformis). Its a pretty little plant with forget-me-not style flowers, which is edible and medicinal. The ladybirds were having a field day on it, munching through aphids, not yet killed off by cold weather. Here’s a useful and inspiring blog post about Speedwells, which may be of interest.
And here is one of the easiest and most useful herbs to grow in Amsterdam. Calendula officinalis. You can save the seeds and they’ll reward you handsomely next season, add the flowers to cooking pots (it’s called a pot herb for this reason) for colour and bitterness, make healing oils, ointments, lotions, lip balms, dyes, soaks etc from the leaves and flowers. It’s a magical plant. Here it is still flowering along my street, in another neighbour’s pavement garden pot. If you’d like something very simple to grow and safe (well, within reason of course) then I’d go for Calendula.
A stroll around my neighbourhood, led me to some very useful plants and a poisonous one, today…
Firstly, Annual Nettle (Urticaria urens). Full of nutrients, rather like it’s better known perennial sister but with less ferocious stings. If you are used to seeing Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) around town you may notice that this annual has more toothed leaf edges.
Next is a handsome, deep rooted Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis agg.)
Then a strong, protective Ivy plant (Hedera helix) in full autumn insect feeding bloom.
Here is a lively patch of vitamin packed Chickweed (Stellaria media) making three most of a protective playground fence.
Here’s a tiny Hollyhock seedling, growing in a pavement crack.
I also liked the look of this decorative (and edible) Pansy (Viola tricolor).
And a lovely nutritious Mallow growing against the building where I live.
Lastly a striking plant which I’m quite sure is a poisonous nightshade. This one seems to be used as a decorative addition to pavement garden. I will try to find it’s name but think it is sometimes called Love Apple, Nicandra spp.
Here is Wild Basil (Satureja vulgaris / Calamintha clinopodium). It doesn’t smell nearly as strongly as its cultivated cousins but it tastes good and is a useful culinary herb if you are lucky enough to find a favourable patch. There are reports on the internet of it being used as a heart tonic but I can’t find any real reference to this and know it more as a useful herb to sooth digestive complaints such as gassiness and indigestion, much as close relative mint can be used. It is easy to identify; a hairy labiate so having square stems, small pale purple labiate flowers positioned in rings around the stems above leaf bases. The increasing size of the flowers makes the leaves point increasingly downwards, as the season moves on. The leaf veins are quite distinctive, more pronounced beneath and depressed above than most similar plants. The leaves grow in pairs, opposite each other on the stem. It smells aromatic when the leaves are bruised but not hugely so. Not like cultivated basil which is very strongly aromatic. This plant has been flowering in Amsterdam for a few weeks now and should continue to do so until September. I find the name Wild Basil a little misleading and prefer to think of it as a Calamint (which it is).
Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgaris) is the next Frankendael herb today and another well known culinary name. I last photographed it on day 2 and since then it has thrived and flowered. The flowers grow at the top of the stems rather than those of Basil. Marjoram flowers are more pink than purple and the plant smell stronger than Wild basil. The stems are distinctly woody. As well as being tasty and easy to grow in a pot, Marjoram has many historic uses including releiving the pain of rheumatism, easing colic and headaches. There are modern reports of it having quite potent anti cancer properties. Marjoram is quite a strong herb, as well known culinary herbs go, and is one to avoid during pregnancy. I also know of Greek and Turkish women who went out for a hearty plateful of Marjoram flavored food, when their baby’s delivery date is overdue. I tried it and it didn’t work for me but the food tasted great and it cheered me up no end!
Musk Mallow (Malva moschata). Here’s an interesting link in Dutch, for some information about uses of this beautiful plant and also two similar looking ones, Marsh Mallow and Hollyhock.
Lots of beautiful flowering herbs in the park again today. My camera kept taking over exposed photos so here are the passable ones…
Mallow (Malva sp.), full of slippery soothing mucilage and goodness. This is a nourishing and useful herb to grow. I tried it several years ago in one of my Permapots and although the plant faded away during a harsh winter, the seeds pop up every year and provide me with some tasty leaves. There are perennial varieties, I need to identify the one in this photo properly but all are useful and edible. There are masses of these plants along side some roads at the moment. The flowers look quite striking as they are much larger than those of most wild herbs.
St John’s / St Joan’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), with it’s sunshine filled flowers and leaves which can be turned into a mood lifting tincture and muscle soothing oil. I use the infused oil as a very effective sun protection lotion. I have very fair skin and it always works. It also helps to sooth sunburn when that does arise. Susun Weed pioneered this use of the herb, I am very grateful as I really dislike lots of the chemicals in commercial sun lotions.
I’ve had my eye out for this herb little beauty for a long while and finally I found it in flower today – Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris). A herb with lots of history and a multitude of uses.
Lastly today, Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria). Panacea of the ancients, now used mainly as a remedy for the pain of stomach acid indigestion and gall stones.