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Dig It! Garden Blog

Category: Herbalism

The Many Wonders of the Elder Plant (Sambucus nigra and Canadensis)

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Let me introduce you to elder, one of my favorite herbs of all time. Not only is this herb incredibly diverse, it’s also just plain beautiful (by the by, elderberries, if you didn’t know, make the most fabulous blue-purple dye).


Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’ Golden American Elderberry

Most people think elder plants are trees, but technically they’re shrubs. They tend to grow wild all along the East Coast, and even as far inland as the Central Plains. Here in Maine, you can probably just scavenge the surrounding woodlands for elder—if you know what you’re doing, you’ll find elder everywhere. In June and July, look for fragrant white flowers growing in flat, star-like clusters. The deep purple-black, blue, or dark red berries arrive in late summer. The stems are greenish brown and, when broken, reveal a white pith. Leaves grow opposite one another and have an uneven number of leaflets (usually 5 to 11). I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you to be sure you’re confident identifying elder before you go picking berries, or that you need permission if you’re not on your own land. Read More

For the Love of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Perhaps we might be inclined to think of dandelions as weeds first and (maybe) as herbs second. But since, by definition, all herbs are weeds. But dandelions are more than just weeds (or herbs). More often than not, they’re the first flower of spring, and so hold a special place, both for the eye and for our body’s “spring cleaning” process.

Spring cleaning is an unwavering urge that comes over us as soon as the days start to lengthen—it’s definitely time to dust away the darkness of winter. The same applies to our bodies. During the cold months we conserve energy and naturally slow down; evolutionarily speaking, we just don’t get inspired to really move during the winter. Our metabolism slows down to conserve energy, food and warmth, so the detoxing organs (the liver and kidneys) get a little sluggish, too.

We can think of the urge to clean house as a manifestation of what’s going on inside our bodies—our winter-logged systems want that same kind of airing out. Enter dandelion, which helps support the body as it rids itself of stored metabolic wastes. Read More

Use for Ajuga reptans

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

If you’ve been dropping by our blog regularly, you’ll know that Syretha, one of our horticulturists, recently posted about her fondness for Ajuga varieties (currently in bloom here at the Gardens), and I have to second that fondness.

Though I have to say, as an herbalist, I’m definitely biased; any plant regularly dismissed as an invader or a common weed, well, I’m bound and determined to discover a use for, herbal or otherwise. Read More