Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Half a Hundred Herbs Week 21 – Elderflower

SIt’s said that it isn’t summer until the elder is in flower, and summer isn’t over until the berries are ripe. Well, the elders along the river road are just coming into flower, and I’ll be out to pick them just as soon as the rain stops and the blooms are dry. You have to be careful to pick fresh blossooms, as once they’ve been fertilised they develop a rank smell, reminiscent of cats’ pee. I don’t do elderflower cordial, although it’s got so trendy in the last year or two, but I do dry the flowers for tea. Mixed with equal quantities of mint and yarrow they make a cold remedy as good as anything I’ve ever tried – though nothing can really do more than blunt the edge of a good-going virus determined to make you miserable.

I don’t grow elder in my garden – it really isn’t big enough for the both of us – and anyway, I have a feeling that elder is one of those plants that is meant to be wild. It has more than the average magical references, and you’re supposed to ask permission before you take any wood, to avoid bad luck. But it grows wild almost everywhere – you be hard put to it not to be able to find a bush somewhere!

It is summer – although the rain has come back today. There are the first wild roses in the garden, and most of the young birds have fledged. the garden is like a schoolyard at playtime, full of riotous young starlings and dunnocks. The gulls in the warehouse colony are still sitting tight on their eggs, though, and I hope that this means they’re too late to predate the nests. The garden is dooing well. I’ve had a 100% success with the blue hyssop cuttings, though the sage and santolina and rosemary are much more average. The smallest knot garden project is looking a little bit dodgy just at the moment!

The smallest chamomile lawn on the planet might be more optimistic. In between getting thoroughly sunburned at Gardening Scotland yesterday, I bought a pot of chamomile, very overgrown and just ripe for dividing. I got about twenty small plants off it, and if they all grow on, I’ll have enough for a first level experiment.

I also made the acquaintance of a brand new herb garden The Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh. It only opened in May, but the stall had the most fantastic variety of herbs I’ve ever seen. I went a bit mental and bought three scented geraniums, a monarda citriodora (lemon-scented bergamot) and a pink lavender, and got chatting to the owners. I’m going to pay them a visit soon, as although their website is still under construction, their facebook page indicates that they are a very interesting gang indeed.

meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this track from a band I am very taken  with just now. Samhradh means summer, and Seren from Tairis says that this is a traditional beltane song. I was too late for Beltane, but I think the elderflower indicates that this is really the right week —-elderflowers

The Gloaming Samhradh







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