- Author: Jan Rhoades
Well, it is that time again. The holidays are over so I can spend dreamy nights curled up on the couch with the seed catalogues and sunny winter days digging in the garden beds. Ah, a gardener's heart filled with hope and joy for the coming season!
Thinking back on my veggie gardens, I have always planted borage. Somewhere along the way, someone made sure I knew how important it is as a garden addition. It attracts pollinators, is a beneficial companion plant, has nutritious edible leaves and flowers, is virtually pest free, and, as a bonus, it is a prolific self-seeder.
A historic medicinal herb, Borage (Borago officinalis), is a Mediterranean annual also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss. It's not only a favorite plant of honey bees, but also attracts bumble bees and small, native bees. It has served many purposes from the time of ancient Rome to the present. Pliny the Elder believed it to be an anti-depressant, and that it gave courage and comfort to the heart. Francis Bacon thought that borage had "an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.” One old wives' tale states that if a woman slipped a bit of borage into a promising man's drink, it would give him the courage to propose.
John Gerard's Herball (Published in 1597) mentions an old verse concerning the plant: "Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago (I, Borage, bring always joys)". He states that "Those of our time do use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the mind. The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadness, dullness and melancholy, as Syrup made of the flowers of Borage comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the frantic and lunatic person. The leaves eaten raw engender good blood, especially in those that have been lately sick.”
At one time borage was grown by beekeepers to boost honey production. It can be grown as an ornamental plant, but is also edible. You could say that borage is a sort of super plant.
In the garden, the claimed uses of borage include repelling pests such as hornworms, attracting pollinators, and aiding any plants it is interplanted with by increasing resistance to pests and disease. It is also helpful to, and compatible with, most plants — notably tomatoes, strawberries, legumes, spinach, brassicas, and squash. Some strawberry farmers set a few plants in their beds to enhance flavor and yield. Tomatoes planted near borage seem to improve in growth and disease resistance. Borage adds trace minerals to the soil it is planted in, and is good for composting and mulching.
It is an annual, but readily self-seeds and thrives in full sun. It is so proficient in self-seeding, in fact, that once a borage plant has established itself in your garden, you will likely never have to reseed again! The bloom period is different for various climates and growing zones. In my garden, borage will bloom from mid-spring to early fall. Borage will bloom for many weeks if the older flowers are trimmed off, and you can often push tattered plants to make a comeback by pruning them back halfway in midsummer. Healthy borage plants shed numerous black seeds, so expect to see volunteers for two years after growing borage. Self-sown borage seedlings are easy to dig and move, or you can pull and compost the ones you don't want.
Now, you may be thinking, “This is amazing! How in the world do I grow this miracle plant for myself?” It's quite simple actually. Seeds germinate easily and are best sown in full or partial sun under ½ inch (1 cm) of soil. Borage is not fussy and grows happily in poor soil. It's easy to sprinkle a patch with seeds and then cover it with a few handfuls of soil or compost. The plants can easily grow to be 3 feet (91 cm) tall and 2 feet (61 cm) wide, so give them room to grow, and let them shade your partial sun plants. Water well until the seeds germinate and the plants are established, then water only when dry. Feed monthly with a balanced organic fertilizer at half the recommended rate. Treat this easy-to-keep herb well and it will reward you with scores of beautiful flowers, lush foliage, and fertile soils.
If the Borage begins to take over your garden just thin out by hand pulling the plants out. The shallow roots will dislodge easily. Remember that the stalks are prickly, so you may need to wear garden gloves.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
Every Saturday, volunteers from the Los Angeles Master Gardener program are available at The Huntington Ranch Garden in San Marino, California, to talk about sustainable gardening, to share gardening tips and to sample produce. On December 21, 2019, we had the privilege of meeting some dedicated volunteers who gave us a personal tour and some seed samples to take home!
The Huntington Ranch Project describes itself as:
...an urban agricultural garden project that explores and interprets optimal approaches to gardening in our regional ecosystems and climate – the semi-arid landscapes of Southern California. Part classroom and part research lab, the Ranch Garden draws inspiration from Huntington's and the region's agricultural heritage, while making connections with gardeners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape professionals, educators, and researchers throughout Southern California… The Ranch Garden is envisioned as a community resource to help bolster L.A.'s capacity to establish a sustainable and equitable food system.
The Ranch Garden includes a mixture of edible landscapes, including fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. Master Gardeners, working with The Huntington staff, have designed special raised beds, including some fully enclosed beds, designed to protect against squirrels, rabbits and other hungry critters. The Ranch Garden also features a hydroponics demonstration.
Although any trip to The Huntington is well worth the time, the Ranch Garden is a feature that should not be missed by gardeners who raise edible crops.
It is only open on Saturdays from 10-1.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
On our recent trip to The Huntington, we divided our time between the Ranch House garden, the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the bonsai collection, and the desert garden.
The Chinese garden (the Garden of Flowing Fragrance) features a lake, tea house, stone bridges and waterfalls, against a background of mature oaks and pines.
The Japanese Garden includes a traditional moon bridge and tea house, and a zen garden.
Outside of the Garden, local bonsai associations have dramatic bonsai on display.
The desert garden contains over 2,000 species in 60 landscaped beds, and its website states it is one of the largest outdoor collections of cacti and succulents in the world. We were surprised to see many cacti flowering at this early time of the year. Stunning cholla, barrels, aloes and agaves are just some of the cacti and succulents that are thrilling to see. Yuccas dominate the landscape and tower above the walkways.
It would be easy to spend a full day or more enjoying all of the gardens The Huntington has to offer – but try to visit on a Saturday so you can enjoy the special treat of a visit to the Ranch House garden.
For more information, see https://www.huntington.org/gardens
- Author: Jan Hambleton
Jardin Majorelle is located in Marrakech, Morocco. It was originally created by Jacque Majorelle (1886-1962), a French Orientalist painter and son of the famous Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle. He was invited to Morocco in 1917 by a friend. In 1923 Majorelle moved there, purchasing a large palm grove from which he created the Jardin Majorelle.
- Address: Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Gueliz, 400090, Marrakech, Morocco
- Website: https://jardinmajorelle.com/ang/
- Open Daily, hours posted on website
- Author: Dustin Blakey
I've noticed as I get older my Christmas wish list gets less interesting and more practical. I have to work harder now to think of fun stuff. Instead I end up with great ideas like silverware. I know I'm not alone.
So what do you get that special someone who insists on a practical gift?
As I was looking for ideas for my wife—a poster child for gifts practical and boring—I discovered that many people give pillows as Christmas gifts. At first I thought that was weird, but then I remembered that last year she gave me a fancy, hypoallergenic, contouring pillow. It's very comfy. Maybe I should return the favor?
This ultimately led me down the Google Search Rabbit Hole where I soon encountered dire warnings about dust mites.
As a county agent in Arkansas, I encountered dust mite complaints a few times a year. Most of the time it was a case of delusory parasitosis, but sometimes it appeared to be a legitimate complaint, especially in wet years when conditions for their growth were favorable.
House dust mites are microscopic mites that feed on dead skin. They may be allergenic or asthma-inducers to some individuals. There is a large amount of scary information about them, but the truth is most people will have little to worry about from house dust mites.
House dust mites thrive in warm, high-humidity environments. Judging from the condition of my skin right now, I'd say that I am located in the polar opposite of a high-humidity environment. Locations that experience seasonal dry spells with low humidity (think: Eastern California) have a hard time maintaining large populations of house dust mites. These mites prefer climates like the Southeast US where the air feels more liquid than gaseous. In California, they are most commonly found along the coast.
In most of the western US, you probably have little to worry about. You would do better focusing on earthquake preparedness instead of these microscopic detritivores. (Google that instead of dust mites if you're bored. It's much more helpful.)
If you are still concerned about house dust mites—because who isn't after reading about them?—there are a few easy measures that will control or avoid the problem with things you already have. Reducing inside humidity below 50% will help. Heaters and air conditioners* both lower relative humidity. Pick whichever seems appropriate.
Frequent vacuuming of suspect furniture, rugs, and fabrics will reduce mite populations by reducing food sources. This is especially helpful for pet owners. Mattresses and pillows can be encased in protective covers if you are one to err on the safe side and have extra money to spend; however, many pillows (or their cases) can be washed. Mattresses can be vacuumed, too. Mites or not, this is just a good way to keep things clean.
You do not need to use any fancy, hi-tech control gimmicks or pesticides you may find on the internet.
All this to say: if you want to get your spouse a new pillow this holiday season, get one based on comfort and be wary of diving too deeply into pointless online searches like I did.
Or you could just play it safe and get some new silverware. Just don't forget to wash it before using.
* Not swamp/evaporative coolers, but you wouldn't be using those in a humid environment anyway.
For more information on house dust mites, consider clicking on these exciting links: