August Newsletter 2009

Hi Everyone and welcome to the August Newsletter.

Things are getting a little quieter for us at the nursery now. Most of the salads have finished for the season which means more space and there is now no longer a continuous line waiting to be done. There is a bit less to load into the vans now too, though it doesn’t make much difference as everyone has Popeye muscles after humping crates about for the last four months.
At shows customers sometimes give us plants they think we might not have or one of the gang spy something unusual on another stall and bring it back with them. Generally speaking, they disappear with Zsuzsa who fusses over them like children. If they are plants that we think might be interesting to sell she takes cuttings to produce plants that can be grown on as stock plants, enabling us to produce a few for sale each year. This season we have two – white sage and tea tee plant. Both were tiny when they arrived back from their respective shows but are now looking much bigger and healthier and have produced a few additional plants.

White Sage

White sage or Salvia Apiana is a plant native to America, mainly California and Mexico, where it tends to grow on dry soil in full sun. It is a perennial herb and grows to around a metre or so. I’ve only come across white sage in the dried bundles that are used for smudging. This is where the dried leaves are lit and the smoke or incense is used in Native American Indian purification ceremonies. As a sacred herb it is thought to get rid of negative influences and evil spirits. It is sold here and abroad for cleansing and clearing ceremonies of people, places and objects as well as being used in meditation and prayer. It is also said to open people up and make them better able to connect with the sacred world. It has other uses – the seeds have been ground into flour, the leaves eaten and leaves and flowers infused as a tea for sore throats and to reduce sweating. I don’t think it is a herb that is grown commercially in the States as most of the bundles I have seen are wild crafted. As you can imagine this isn’t a herb that is going to survive a good old British winter and even on a heated bench it might well struggle with the lack of light we have here during the winter months. It will be interesting to see if we can keep them alive.

Tea Tree

There are over two hundred species of tea tree belonging to the Myrtle family, with most of them being native to Australia. Melaleuca Alternifolia produces the essential oil that is both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, though many of the varieties are used by Aborigines for the similar properties of their oil. Other varieties, particularly Melaleuca Cajuput that is grown in Malaysia, are used in the perfume industry. Melaleuca is generally referred to as either a paper bark for the larger species or a honey myrtle for the smaller types. It likes to grow in open woodland or shrub land next to watercourses. It likes a hot and humid atmosphere. The tannin in the leaves that fall from the plant turn the water below brown, which is maybe how the plant gained its common name. Melaleuca Alternifolia grows up to twenty-two feet, has papery bark, pointy leaves and small white flowers that are followed by tiny woody capsules. Like the white sage it won’t survive our cold winters.

Blackcurrant Sage

Last year we grew some blackcurrant sage ‘hot lips’ as stock plants. Instead of the usual red flowers these have a white lip – they are very pretty. Zsuzsa has taken cuttings this year and we have grown them on in one litre pots. They have been very popular, the stock plants having been flowering for ages now and some of the flowers no longer have the white lips but have separated themselves out in to totally white or totally red flowers. - very striking!

Think that’s about it for August so have a good month – let’s hope the sun shines again.