Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
August, 2009
Regional Report

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Botanical first aid -- cape aloe, apple cider vinegar, ivy, dianthus, lemon grass, and rosemary. Comfort plants for more wagging.

Wag More, Bark Less

The circular blue sticker on the car's back window caught my attention for its simplicity. "Wag More, Bark Less." Pollyannaish? Perhaps. But life's short. And as a neighbor on Johnson Street said recently, "Why let good music go to waste? Let's dance."

"Wagging" feels right these days. It's easy to be enthusiastic and energetic when life's going relatively well. These days I'm pain-free and CAN dance -- for a while. We bark (complain, curse, scream, yell) when something needs attention and isn't getting it. I've realized I'm quick to bark when in discomfort as well as in frustration. Same with most of us, I bet.

What's the plant connection? Plants and their derivatives can comfort and cure. Plant components feed and heal us. Botany, biology -- connections to think about.

Leaves, Fruits, Seeds and Flowers to the Rescue
After an afternoon swim in the Atlantic at the Jersey shore, I came home sunburned. For immediate relief, I poured on apple cider vinegar diluted with water to cool and soothe. To moisturize, I generously sprayed an aloe/witch hazel mix and smoothed on Hawaii's kukui oil (pressed from Aleurites moluccana seeds) with lavender, chamomile, and rosemary oils.

The next day the right shoulder, unprotected by the beach umbrella, still felt afire. The pharmacist recommended a numbing spray with benadryl and MENTHOL after which I could apply aloe gel and moisturizer. Ah hah! I remembered my plump-leafed aloe plant on the windowsill. At home, I cut enough thick slivers of aloe pulp (peeled) to (gently) cover the fiercely burned, now blistering shoulder and upper arm then wrapped all with gauze. A stretchable, open-weave sleeve held everything in place.

Voila! Next morning I peeled away the compress to find mostly healed, pain-free skin that I drizzled with kukui oil. Relief worth wagging about.

Botanicals are literally helping put me back on my feet. Arnica and ivy are active ingredients in one gel I use to relieve throbbing arthritic knees and hand joints. Another effective analgesic gel contains St. John's wort, arnica, lavender, white willow, yarrow, and comfrey.

When a swarm of yellow jackets surfaced from an underground nest to attack a garden helper, I made a poultice of crushed papaya tablets to soothe the stings. Papaya pulp has the enzyme papain that breaks down protein. In this case, it neutralizes insect venom.

Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden, Pittsburgh
The ancients appreciated plants' unique qualities beyond the dinner plate. Step into biblical times -- BC and the Old Testament -- at Rodef Shalom's Special Exhibit "Lookin' Good with Plants, Then and Now."

On about one-third acre near Carnegie Mellon University, this garden displays more than 100 temperate and tropical plants grown in ancient Israel in a setting reminiscent of the Holy Land. A biblical verse accompanies each labeled plant.

This summer's exhibit features all-heal (Prunella vulgaris), aloe (Aloe vera) and carnation (Dianthus spp.) whose leaves soften and enhance skin. Sunflower (Helianthus spp.) and sesame (Sesamum indicum) seeds are pressed into lotions and skin cream. Fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea) makes soap, face cream, and hair tonic. The Madonna lily's flower is thought to remove wrinkles, tighten skin, and close pores. Mother Nature's encouragement to Wag More?

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Today's site banner is by Marilyn and is called "Salvia regla 'Royal'"