Flower Power

I’m not talking about the 1960s and 70s, I’m talking about the healing powers of flowers … specifically, lavender.


Lavender is a wonderful Old World herb that has many uses, from medicinal to culinary.  I first learned that lavender was more than just an ornamental flowering herb when I worked at The Body Shop during college.  During the time I worked there, the company introduced aromatherapy items to their product line.  We all learned a lot about different herbs used in aromatherapy.

We learned that lavender aides in relaxation and that it is very healing.  We were told the story (true story) of René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist who coined the term Aromathérapie in his book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales.  In 1910, while experimenting in his laboratory, he burned his arm and instinctively plunged it into the nearest container of liquid.  That container happened to hold pure lavender essential oil.  After the quick healing of his burn and the lack of scarring, he began to study and write about the healing properties of essential oils.


I have recently become more interested in using herbal and natural remedies where I can (though I do still also use medicines, too).  On January 20th, I burned my arm on a pan I just took out of a 350F oven (home-grown filet mignon … it was worth it). Instead of running my arm under cold water or getting an ice pack, I went into the bathroom, put some lavender essential oil on a Q-Tip and applied it to the burn. Then I put my arm on an ice pack. The burn didn’t blister and by the next morning the pain was gone!  Below is a photo of the burn on 2/13/13 (24 days after getting the burn).


I have to tell you how amazed I was because about 10 +/- years ago I burnt my arm (same arm) on my oven when I was checking a pie.  The oven wasn’t much hotter and I put cold water and ice on it.  I ended up going to the doctor’s the next day and was prescribed burn cream for my 2nd degree burn.  Here is a photo of my scar (taken the same day as the previous photo).

old burn

And here is a photo of both burns.  What do you think I’ll be using the next time I burn myself?

both burns

Before I purchased lavender essential oil, I would pick some lavender leaves from my plant outside when I would get a burn (can you tell it happens relatively often?), crush the leaves between my fingers and apply them to the burn.  Blisters that had begun forming disappeared and the burns healed more quickly.  I also use lavender essential oil if, actually, when I get sunburn.  It helps with the pain and speeds healing, too.

Praying Mantis on Lavender Bud

Spring is coming soon… why not add a lavender plant or two to your garden.  Not only is lavender beneficial to your health, but it is also a beautiful plant and enjoyed by many insects.  Praying mantises lay egg cases in my lavender each year; and bees just flock to the fragrant flowers.

Praying Mantis laying Egg in Lavender

If you aren’t sure what variety to plant or are intimidated by the care, click here for a wonderful guide to lavender that I reference again and again!


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or herbalist!  Please use common sense when treating burns or any other ailment and seek medical attention when necessary!

Fall is Almost Here…

…and the garden is winding down. 

This summer, in southeastern PA, has been a weather rollercoaster.  A pleasant but dry June was followed by a HOT and even drier July.  August brought some cooler temperatures and rain.  Lots of rain.  And flooding – especially with the arrival of Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Depression Lee.  Philadelphia recorded its wettest month EVER in August!  My garden is looking a little unkept now – to say the least – since I haven’t been tending it in the rain.

I had several firsts this year in my veggie garden!  I harvested my 1st asparagus from the bed I started last year.  I tried growing tomatoes from seed planted directly into the ground.  I didn’t spray any insecticide (I only use 100% natural sprays when I need to use them).  I also saw my 1st lacewing in my garden!

Last year I planted 10 asparagus crowns and only 2 didn’t make it.  The other 8 began sending up spears in April and I was able to harvest a few during a 2-3 week window.  New research has shown that you don’t have to wait till the 3rd year before harvesting, and harvesting the 1st year after planting actually increases the buds that are formed by the crown.  For more information on growing asparagus, click here.

For the 2nd year in a row my seedlings didn’t grow more than 2 inches.  Although I haven’t figured out the cause yet, I tried planting my tomato seeds outside at our last frost date (for our zone 6 garden, it’s May 15th).  I heard someone say that they regularly do this and harvest tomatoes the same time as their neighbor who uses started plants.  I must say I was a little skeptical, but my seeds sprouted and grew.  I trellised and pruned them, and they began to produce fruit.  I ended up harvesting tomatoes the same week my father-in-law, who used started plants, did!

This summer I didn’t spray my garden at all with pesticide.  I usually use an all-natural product called Pyola from a company called Garden’s Alive.  It’s a concentrate made of pyrethrins and canola oil that you dilute with water and apply as needed. I did use diatomaceous earth on my eggplant to try to control the flea beetles that were attacking it, but after seeing my 1st lacewing in my garden I decided to try to do without spraying the entire garden.  In addition to the lacewing, my Garden Patrol also included Wheel Bugs,

adult wheel bug eating a bumblebee


hatchling wheel bugs and eggs


wheel bug nymphs

Praying Mantises,

praying mantis on a tomato plant

various spiders, native and Asian Ladybugs,

pink spotted ladybug


checkerboard ladybug

frogs, American Toads,

American toad

various songbirds and Milk Snakes .

juvenile milk snake

I truly enjoyed all of the life in the garden this year and always wondered what I’d see each time I worked in it.  I have big plans for next year and I’m anxious to start on them.  We’re going to finish putting mulch down in between the beds to eliminate the need to mow the garden.  I’m also adding a perennial herb bed with rocky areas for snakes and toads to hide.  The birdbath will move to the center of this bed.  Lastly, we’re going to plant 2 organically grown blueberry bushes next spring.

Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Lavender and Cuckoo Clocks

You may be asking yourselves what could lavender and cuckoo clocks possibly have in common….  I’ll tell you:  Mrs. Parr.

When I was a little girl, my mom-mom would babysit my sister and I while our mom and dad worked.  She and my pop-pop only lived about 5 blocks from us in our small town in south Jersey.  Mrs. Parr lived 2 doors from my grandparents and I loved to visit her and her husband.   

When I think of her house I remember the smallish but beautiful cuckoo clock in the plain living room.  I loved to listen to it announce the hour!  The detailed carving was so lovely and the polished wood shone. 

Out back you were immediately met by gardens with a myriad of flowers as tall as I was (remember, I was 5 or 6 at the time).  There were daisies and other wildflowers everywhere.  I first learned about lavender there.  I remember Mrs. Parr showing me the flowers and giving me some to dry.  I had those dried lavender buds in a dish on my dresser for years… and thought of her each time I looked at them.

Now lavender is an essential part of my garden.  My 1st garden in Philadelphia had lavender and it came to the farm when we moved.  I’ve learned about its medicinal properties (see my previous post) and how to propagate it.  I’m now planning to plant a lavender hedge along our patio in the coming seasons.

Oh, and as for the cuckoo clock… I’m still waiting for one.  Dave has been to Austria and Germany for business over the past couple years.  I’ve requested one the next time he goes back!