Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Ancient Herbalist planter

At one time, my home, Woodloft, boasted a huge herb garden. Great stands of aromatic culinary and medicinal herbs abounded there. Over the years, the magnificent trees surrounding the garden grew so large that the herbs were in shade throughout the growing season. Because I love the trees at Woodloft, I decided to move the herb garden instead of trimming the trees. I replaced the garden with my seven-circuit labyrinth and moved the herbs to sunnier ground. For a while, the herbs prevailed. After the passage of a few more years, however, the new spot, too, was shaded by trees.

Previous herb garden

Once again, I chose to move the herbs instead of cutting back the trees. This time, I moved the herbs into pots. Yes, I know – the word “pot” conjures up images of Aunt Emily’s plain, terra cotta clay potted garden. Not so here. You see, I sculpt my own pots (or planters, as I prefer to call them) or mosaic them. Some of them even match my shiny car, B-dazle.


Mosaiced planter

Another unusual planter titled "Madam Thyme"

I’ve painted signs on thin pieces of slate to mark the location of each herb. Some of my herb planters are nestled in crevices along Woodloft’s front walk. Others are lined up along the wall beside the driveway. Anywhere a patch of sun appears between the trees here, there’s a good chance you’ll find a planter growing herbs.

.Slate herb sign

Another herb garden slate sign

Herb planter nestled in a crevice along walkway

Shaw’s Garden in St. Louis inspired me to start growing my own herbs. The classes I took there were invaluable and my love of herbs was nurtured by the sweet, elderly teacher who seemed to know almost everything you could want to know about them. She conveyed an infectious enchantment with herbs that has remained with me to this day.

Since that time, I have read every book I could get my hands on that has anything to do with herbs. One book that made a major difference in my life was Wise Child by Monica Furlong. The story takes place in Wales, the land of my ancestors, and it inspired one of my sculptures, Moon Woman, which I embellished with a story of its own.

Moon Woman sculpture

Moon Woman

By the moon's light she plucks the herbs from the hidden dells and meadows surrounding her glen. Sometimes she gathers in the full moon and other times she waits for an eclipse. She knows the properties of the herbs are altered by the moon's different phases.

Being Celtically aware, she practices the earth rites as the old ones before. She accepts the earth as a living entity and believes in the magical order of the trees.

She has learned how to become a healer and knows that all illness begins in the mind, dwelled upon until it becomes a thought form. She teaches others to discipline their thoughts for they will take form and that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

Doran planter

I plan to include many posts about herbs and some of the ways I use them. Here is a picture of a typical planter I created and the story I wrote to accompany it.

The Doran

Some call her a witch because in her presence miraculous things sometimes occur. She is known to be able to cure many illnesses with the oointments, teas, tinctures and potions she makes with her herbs. She spends hours cutting, removing seeds, shredding roots, turning, drying, crushing, steeping, infusing and distilling. She uses eyebright, pennyroyal, primrose, lovage, borage and comfrey. She carefully watches the sesons: She dies with the winter and rises with the spring. She is totally in tune with the harmonics of nature because she is able to see on luminous levels. She believes we are all in some way linked together; the birds, trees, plants and flowers and we are somehow a part of something much greater than we are able to comprehend. She is majestic, serence and at peace with herelf and the universe that surrounds her. She is a doran..

One of the herbs I have used medicinally is thyme. In my study of herbs, I read that thyme helps alleviate respiratory problems.

Another large thyme planter titled "Thymekeeper"

I had a chance to test that use firsthand several years ago when a friend was using some rather noxious chemicals to clean my swimming pool. As he threw a scoop of cleaning agent into the pool, the wind shifted and he inhaled a large dose of the powder. He began to have trouble breathing, so he called the hospital. They told him to relax, to wait a while, and to come to the emergency room only if the breathing problem persisted. In the meantime, I grabbed a huge handful of thyme and made an infusion by placing it in a large glass canning jar. I poured scalding hot water over it and covered the jar with a piece of aluminum foil. After letting the thyme steep for about 5 minutes, I removed it and poured the resulting infusion through a sieve. I served it to my friend with a teaspoon of honey, telling him to drink it as hot as he could stand it. He sipped the concoction until it was gone, and within thirty minutes, he was breathing normally again with only a bit of discomfort in his chest. The active ingredient in thyme is thymol, a fairly effective antibiotic and antifungal. Wild thyme may have antispasmodic properties, this is usually observed in the context of an infection rather than chemical exposure. I have used this method time and again and I can tell you that it has always worked for me.

Infusion of thyme with mug created by Brian Seckinger

I have often encountered interesting uses of herbs for culinary purposes when I travel to other countries. I travel to Italy as often as time and money will allow. During one of my trips there, I noticed that some of the restaurants in remote rural villages displayed small glass jars with an unidentifiable solid mass immersed in pale green liquid. I eventually discovered that the solid portion of this concoction was cheese. At one of the restaurants, I convinced the elderly chef to tell me what else was in the liquid. He laughed and told me (this was actually a matter of him showing me by using hand gestures in a charade-like manner) that there really was nothing to it. He said that you take a round of goat cheese, brie or some other cheese, put it in a glass jar, and add plenty of juniper berries to “keep” the cheese. You then add whatever other herbs you like as well as several cloves of garlic. Finally, you pour the “nectar of the gods” (extra-virgin olive oil, of course) into the container to cover the cheese.

Cheese and herb jar

This cheese can sit on your counter indefinitely. Most Americans store cheese in the refrigerator, but I can tell you from experience, this method works just as well. Juniper and other herbs contain antimicrobial substances, so I suppose that is why the method works. The cheese can be served to guests by placing crackers on a plate and having your guests use a small cheese knife to scoop the cheese out of the jar. Some of the oil will follow. As you can imagine, this is a delicious appetizer.

I hope I have whetted your appetite for more herb stories – and for more herbs! If so, please “stay tuned.”

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  1. I follow not only your wonderful blog but also Moon Woman's advice to change a thought and look at all the magical things that have happened!

  2. I am gradually making my way through the beautiful photos on your blog. Your garden with the labyrinth is something I am doing at the moment. I installed one at my church and now my garden needs one too. I just love th em and have walked quite a few, the first one being the Desert Light Labyrinth in the AZ. desert. I am in south Texas and it's time to start planting. This is a new home to us so I am starting over planting herbs etc. Thank you for sharing all you do. I love the herb prints too. I have done it on fabric but you have to use fabric dye for it to work. Anyway, love your blog.


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