A Gardener’s Diary: Earth Day celebrated

Today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Hope you have a great day. Many activities are going on around the world. Many web sites have suggestions for this day like planting wildflowers, or native plants which will thrive in their natural habitat. Plant flowers that will attract butterflies. Grow an organic vegetable garden. It is easier than you think. One of the most important suggestions is to conserve water, and tips for how to do it in your garden are at www.almanac.com/content/water-wise-garden.

This year I am cleaning the garden and cutting down on the numbers of the same plants. Some of them just multiply if you blink and the first thing you know, they take over all the space. I have lots of plants in pots that should have been in the garden by now but I could never find the space. This year I hope that all my potted plants will be in the ground by the end of June. Some of the pots are getting too large for moving around. I am also sure that rocks grow with time. They are a lot heavier than 10 years ago.

One of the plants I have to be careful with is Elecampane: Inula Helenium. From Rodale’s Herb Book here goes: known primarily for its bitterness and pungency, elecampane was widely used by the ancient Romans. Planting elecampane in a garden to grow proudly alongside the geraniums and the daisies is perfectly natural. Most people don’t realize that it’s also perfectly natural for this herb to be sitting next to the Vicks and the throat lozenges in the medicine cabinet. Herbalists throughout the world have used elecampane’s thickened root for treating diseases of the chest. Rarely used alone, the dried, crushed root is said to be an effective ingredient in many compound medicines. Elecampane can still be used as a remedy for coughs and other minor respiratory ailments. To make a tea for this purpose, simmer an ounce of the root in a pint of water, and let cool.

Culinary: The rootstock has been traditionally used as a flavouring for sweets; it has also been candied and eaten as a sweet itself.

Ornamental: While it has traditionally been a favourite in herb gardens, elecampane can also make a striking addition to many types of outdoor gardens and natural habitats.

Craft: Elecampane can be striking in dried arrangements, too. Cut the flower heads when the plant reaches its brown stage.

Cultivation: Elecampane is easily propagated from root cuttings taken in the fall. The roots will develop into plants by early spring. The plant prefers a clay loam that is moist and well- drained, and a slightly shaded spot. If you intend to harvest the plant’s roots for medicinal purposes, do so in the fall of the plant’s second growing year, after two hard frosts.

The plant can reach about four or five feet and has very large leaves that give it an exotic look. The flowers are yellow and the plant blooms July to August.

I am not doing the market in Lumby this year but I will be available at my house for perennials, tomato plants and many others like herbs and vegetable plants. I will do this May 2 to early June.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. She writes about gardening every other Wednesday.