Listen as the garden teaches

Lilah, pictured above, oversees the garden as the temperature climbs towards 90 degrees.  She appears to be sleeping, but listens as the garden teaches.

It’s not that unusual for us to go from blustery, gray, chill and damp directly to summer. But this year the perennials are more confused than usual. A feast for the eyes and soul, a grand allergy provocation (all those grass and tree pollens.) The sixty-foot Linden tree that anchors our property and shades the house is barely budding. Yet blooming all at once, we have, left to right:

Row 1 Jack-in-the Pulpit, Goldenseal, Solomon’s Seal

Row 2: Pulsatilla, Dwarf Comfrey, Greater Celandine

Row 3: Senencio,  Cramp Bark, Apple

Row 4: Lenten Rose, Horny Goat’s Weed, Tiarella

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We began populating our city lot with perennials and medicinals several decades ago.

In 2009 we studied how the water ran, the sun moved, the winds blew, the soil clumped or didn’t – and began applying permaculture principles. We dug up and sheet-mulched vast swaths of lawn and added medicinal trees and shrubs: Fringetree, Vitex, Witch Hazel. We put a bamboo-management plan in place. We added a couple of apple trees and a fig to the venerable grapevines planted by an earlier owner. We’ve drawn back the no-longer common swallowtail caterpillars and gold-finches. The neighborhood fox. And many curious neighbors.

Some plants have flourished, some are just hanging on, many others  did not survive.

The garden teaches

1.  Not everything blooms where it is planted.

2. Not everything blooms.

3. Living things do not mature at the same rate.

4. Some parts of the same living thing may mature while other parts remain stunted.

5. It is wise to feed the roots.

6. A tree shaped by storm damage (aka Life) is no less beautiful than before.

Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet:  Fall Allergy Season Tips

Sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes? Manage seasonal allergy symptoms with friendly herbs and simple steps.


Reduce your exposure to airborne triggers

Limit your outdoor time or time of day to early morning, late in the day, and after rains, when pollen counts are lower.

Avoid exposures to secondary smoke and chemical irritants.

Use a HEPA filter vacuum.

Change pillowcases nightly.

Get pets off the bed, out of the bedroom.


Wash away irritants

Fill neti pot with warm salt water, use morning and evening.

Add 5 drops each of Goldenseal and Propolis tincture to soothe and restore health to irritated nasal tissue.

Add 5 drops Echinacea tincture to fight infection.


Desensitize your immune response to local allergens

Enjoy a daily teaspoon of local honey!


Reduce “lifestyle load” and manage your stress response 

The stress hormone cortisol increases immune production of IgE, a key immune cell in the allergic response: lower your stress response, lower your tendency to allergic hypersensitivity.


Choose foods that improve immune response and avoid foods that make the body reactive

Eat more colorful foods, whole grains, organic when possible for selected foods.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids: fish and fish oils, & in nuts & seeds & their oils – flax, walnut, canola oil.

Drink more water and herb tea to keep flushing out your system.

Eat less red meat, white foods.

Drink less alcohol, coffee

Avoid sugar, which depresses immune response.


Herbal help for acute bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes

Chinese skullcap tincture (Scutellaria baicalensis): 3 droppersful in a little water. You can repeat that every 20 minutes up to one hour, but in my experience, you probably won’t need to!


Herbal supports for extended use through the allergy season

Nettle tea: limits histamine release, reduces production of excess mucus, and helps your lymph system remove wastes and toxins, allergens among them.

Elder flower or berry as a tea or tincture, or the berry as a concentrate mixed with water, limits histamine release and reduces mucous membrane swelling.

Mullein leaf or flower as a tea or tincture helps reduce flow of mucous with sense of heat, soothes irritation to reduce cough. Generally safe for long-term prophylactic use, and short-term symptomatic relief.

Note: Consult a health professional before self-treating with herbs if you are on blood-thinning medication, or multiple prescriptions for medical conditions; pregnant; or anticipating surgery.

More about seasonal immune support:

More about how herbs work for health: