Plants are a natural resource and there is something very soothing about caring for them outside in the summer. In the early morning with the dew still on the flowers you can make a beautiful bouquet while you clear away the weeds sprung up overnight. In the shade of the afternoon you can sit with an icy drink or soothing cup of tea and admire your handiwork. On the night breeze you may catch the fragrance of jasmine or nicotiana.
I’ve long been interested in aromatherapy, herbs and the medicinal properties of plants. Scent plays an important role in how we comfort ourselves. Think of how the familiar fragrances of summer enhance the season – a sprig of mint plucked up to add a fresh note to a tall cold drink or a dessert, a branch or two of basil in a fresh tomato sauce, or a sprinkle of chopped cilantro on a fish taco.
One of my favorite gardens is the healing one I planted outside my front door. I chose a variety of plants and herbs with a history of healing use to grow as annuals and perennials, inspired by the Chelsea Physic Garden. Over the years it’s interesting to note which ones have stayed the course. Foxglove and quinine, aka digitalis and cinchona, are very ornamental, even though I don’t harvest them for their medicinal properties. Mint is everywhere. Chives, sage, thyme and oregano return year after year, while the rosemary and basil must be planted again each spring. Lavender, beloved from antiquity for its clean scent, has a tenuous hold after much experimentation. Peonies are a fragrant perennial and visual delight and the roots have anti-inflammatory properties.
I enjoy learning about the history associated with these plants. It makes for a deeper sense of connection on a different level as I tend them, roots to leaf tips. The next time you’re tugging at weeds, clipping away errant branches and raking up debris, remind yourself of the continuity you share with a long line of your ancestors.
In the busy headlong rush of summer, take a few moments to nurture your garden. You’ll be glad you did!
Photos by Claire Mauro