Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Half a Hundred Herbs Week 23 – Horsetails


Like horrible Christmas trees, a bristly
foot-high net of pure silica. Their black
roots thread the wet ground, invade
neglected gardens, remind us by their
dull persistence that they were here,
with ferns and moss, before the trees
and dinosaurs. They will not succumb
to hoes and competition.
They mean to outlive us all.

This herb is the curse of my garden with its wet clay subsoil. It gets in between everything and no matter how I pull it up, hoe it off, feed the soil or plant densely so out-compete it, or even ‘make friends’ with it, it won’t go away.

As the poem says, horsetail stores a lot of silica in its straggly green nets, and this means that people have tried to use it in many different ways. It is said you can use it to polish pewter, but I haven’t found how this can be done. My latest guess is to powder the dried herb, and mix it with a little water to make a paste. I believe you can buff fingernails with it too, and some people say that you can make a strengthening lotion which you can soak brittle nails in. It is also used as a drench for plants affected by powdery mildew, and I’m going to try this as the meadowsweet by the pond is showing the first signs of it.

The chamomile I bought at Gardening Scotland and divided has done so well I’ve had to plant it out, and now I have the world’s smallest chamomile lawn – barely two feet square.

tinychamomile2In the stock bed, the first lavender stoechas is in rich and lavish flower,stoechasand the sweet briar is in full bloom. I’ll leave these to set hips, and try to make rosehip syrup.sweetbriar2In the kitchen, harvest time has begun. Here is the chive and tarragon vinegar, and mint sauce to use when the green herb has died back.herbal vinegarsand here are herbs I’m drying – peppermint, marjoram, yarrow and lemon thyme. It’s been a busy week!

herbs drying






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