Sunday, January 28, 2018

The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

(English Cottage Garden)

In midwinter my thoughts turn to gardening, of course. Ever wonder about the history behind these cherished plots of earth? Cottage gardens stretch back hundreds of years to the time when people used herbs for everything and grew most of their own food. These homey plots acquired their name from the country cottage around which they grew. I love cottage gardens and strive to have my own. However, I live in a boxy white farm house, not a cottage, and our yard and gardens are rather sprawling for that overflowing, filled to the brim, in a compact sort of way look. Like mine, these small gardens are (and were) a mix of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. I strongly associate cottage gardens with the British Isles, because of our shared history and the influence of the Mother Country on the New World. But other countries have them too.
(Bee on catnip blossom with our house in background)

(Heirloom poppies)

(Bees on poppies)

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden." ~Hugh Johnson
People acquired the plants for their cottage gardens from friends and family in the form of ‘starts’ (root divisions) cuttings, and seeds. Very much as I do today, only I have the added benefit of seed catalogs. They are called passalong plants. Sometimes these gifts of plant starts to others have come back to me when my own died out.  Thank heavens, I'm generous. If I gave any of you lupines, I would like some back now. :) I'm also a big fan of wildflowers.
(The front flower border in our garden)
Daughter Elise (my right arm in the garden) and I encourage beneficial insects to make their home among our plants. We are discovering which herbs and flowers, etc, are best for attracting pollinators, and we continually experiment with companion planting. It's as much a happy accident as intentional, but we grow a wide variety of flowers so that pollen sources are available throughout the growing season. We've learned that heirloom, non hybrid flowers and vegetables are best for attracting butterflies, beneficial insects, and bees... As it turns out, these are the kind that make up traditional cottage gardens. Those new and improved varieties may look more attractive to us, but not to the pollinators. Butterflies give them a pass. Elise and I noted this with the 'Wave' petunias we got from a garden center. Not a single butterfly or bee paid any attention to those prolific blooms. 

 A few pics from our garden this past summer and some of our visitors.

(Painted Lady butterfly on Agastache flowers)

(Hairstreak butterfly on asters)

(Bee on Tithonia)

(Butterfly On Forget-Me-Nots)

(Monarch visiting Bright Lights Cosmos)

Also, watch out for plants from garden centers that have been treated with systemic insecticides called neonicotinyl insecticides. You will unintentionally kill nectar seeking visitors with those flowers. For more on avoiding these killer flowers visit:

"It was such a pleasure to sink one's hands into the warm earth, to feel at one's fingertips the possibilities of the new season." ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

If you are in an herb growing mood and want to learn more of their lore and historic uses, I am pushing my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles: 

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Available in kindle and print at Amazon: 

You can't go wrong with herbs.

For more on me, follow my Amazon Author Page:

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Community for #Book Lovers! #Mystery #Romance Reads + #Giveaways ~ Join the Fun! #amreading #ABA Happy New Year

Hear ye hear ye! I'm ringing in 2018 with some exciting news. I’m honored to be one of 12 super authors taking part in a fabulous new website, Moonlight and Mystery. This online magazine offers superb romantic suspense, mystery, and page-turning reads, some with a sprinkle of supernatural, time slips, urban fantasy, or magic.

Look for:

Super reads and prizes
Sweet games and contests
Behind the scenes secrets
Free ongoing mystery reads
Compelling articles

We invite you to be part of the inner circle, contribute to the authors’ creative process, and share your favorite books and authors.   

I spent days creating an author page with more about my books at:
For more of an insiders’ view, join our Street Team:
We look forward to seeing you and growing as the year progresses.  

Make reading more one of your New Year's Resolutions!
Kathryn Knight
Casi McLean
Alicia Dean
Tamara Ferguson
Suzanne Jenkins 
Beth Trissel
Kim Hornsby
Brenda Whiteside
Renee Johnson
Emma Kaye
Maureen Bonatch
Sharon Buchbinder

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Herb of Remembrance

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but I love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. The fragrance is said to stimulate memory so I sniff it frequently and carry  sprigs with me. I have a potted plant growing in my sun space that I've kept going for several years. It stays outdoors in summer (pictured), but our Shenandoah Valley winters are too cold for it to survive. I added a trailing variety this year that is abloom with tiny blue flowers out in my sunspace. Very cheery.

Rosemary, known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, appears in that immoral verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a role in many of my stories, particularly my ghostly murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter. I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did. My new paranormal time travel romance, Somewhere My Lady, with flavors of Somewhere My Love, was released this summer. Somewhere My Lady is book one in my Somewhere in Time series.
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve is a wonderful source of herbal lore as well as practical information on the medicinal uses and growing requirements for a host of plants. I have volumes one and two of Ms. Grieve’s work and can easily lose myself in their pages. She refers to her herbal as modern, and in comparison to the ancient herbalists it is, but A Modern Herbal is charmingly quaint and published in the early 20th century.
Regarding Rosemary, she says,
The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.
At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves (fourth wife of Henry the Eighth and one of two who outlived him) wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year‘s gift…
In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’
The Treasury of Botany says:
‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’ (Meanie heads.)
Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.”—HERRICK.
Rosemary Christmas TreeRosemary Christmas Trees
Although an herb, rosemary is often shaped into lovely miniature Christmas trees. The plant is well suited for this purpose as its essential oils produce a scent similar to pine trees and it has a natural evergreen shape and needle-like leaves.
If you purchase a rosemary plant whether as a Christmas tree or for your indoor herb garden, remember it needs good light and moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry before re-watering to avoid root rot. The most common cause of death for potted rosemary is over watering. In spring transfer your rosemary to a clay pot. The clay will help wick excess water out of the soil. Fertilize monthly to maintain health. To this advice I add that you can also kill them by allowing the plant to dry out, so don’t do that either.
Because rosemary is native to the hot, dry hills of the Mediterranean, growing it indoors can be a problem. You may find you get more dense vigorous growth if it is kept outside during most of the year. Trim the plant periodically to preserve the Christmas tree shape. 


Is he real or is he a ghost?

Lorna Randolph is hired for the summer at Harrison Hall in Virginia, where Revolutionary-War reenactors provide guided tours of the elegant old home. She doesn't expect to receive a note and a kiss from a handsome young man who then vanishes into mist.

Harrison Hall itself has plans for Lorna - and for Hart Harrison, her momentary suitor and its 18th century heir. Past and present are bound by pledges of love, and modern science melds with old skills and history as Harrison Hall takes Lorna and Hart through time in a race to solve a mystery and save Hart's life before the Midsummer Ball.

"Somewhere My Lady is a fun supernatural romance that will have you slipping in and out of the past and future as if you were a spirit yourself.'' ~Colleen Chesbro at Colleen's Book Reviews

"Quite simply, one of the best paranormal, time slip stories I've ever had the pleasure to read." ~Elaine at Splashes Into Books