The small leaves and compact growth habit of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

make it ideal for topiary.

The wood of box was traditionally used in engraving blocks, marquetry and instruments.

Buxus sempervirens Buxaceae

Although there are some 70 species of boxwood, it is the slow-growing and long-lived common box. with its neal foliage and dense wood, thai is used in formal gardening. It is also used in homeopathy but not in modern herbal medicine, due to its toxicity.

Parts used Leaves, bark (note that the plant can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, and that all parts are toxic if ingested)

Common boxwood is a hardy evergreen shrub to small tree, attaining full height over a long period of time. The small, oval glossy leaves are deep green to yellowish green. Borne in spring, the nectar-rich flowers are pale green with very reduced petals, while the fruits are three-horned.

• Varieties Some garden varieties selected for their form include 'Elegantissima,' a very compact type with white-edged leaves; 'Aureomarginata,' also known as 'Marginata,' with gold-edged leaves; 'Suffruticosa,' which is dwarf, dense, and very slow-growing, making it particularly popular for edging herb gardens and creating topiary; and 'Kingsville Dwarf,' which is favored by bonsai growers.

• Position Boxwood prefers full sun but is tolerant of shade, and prefers a well-drained neutral-to-alkaline soil.

• Propagation Take semi-ripe tip cuttings with a little hardened wood at the base, preferably in autumn.

• Maintenance To encourage dense, compact growth, trim boxwood toward the end of spring. Carry out light shaping of topiary and hedges in summer.

• Pests and diseases This plant is not susceptible to many pests and diseases, although the young spring leaves may be damaged occasionally by sucking insects, and rust can occur on leaves. It is natural for boxwood to appear bronzed in winter.

• Harvesting and storing Harvest and dry leaves in spring, before flowering.

The art of lopiary — sculpting compact, small-leafed plants into various shapes (see also Parterre gardens, page 144) — dales back to Roman times, when topiary animals and obelisks were sculpted to adorn gardens and atriums.

Topiary reached its peak in the grand European formal gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries, but declined when fashion declared a return lo more natural landscapes. In 1713. the poet Alexander Pope wrote a satirical essay for The Guardian newspaper in which he described an unfinished boxwood topiary of St George that would not slay the dragon until it was completed — six months hence.

Today, lopiary is once again a feature of grand country homes, particularly in the UK and Kurope. but it Is also popular in container gardens where herbs, such as boxwood, are sculpted into simple shapes. In Japan, cloud-pruning -the art of creating cloudlike forms -and Iwnsai are both forms of topiary.

The small leaves and compact growth habit of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

make it ideal for topiary.

The wood of box was traditionally used in engraving blocks, marquetry and instruments.


Bacopa monnieri Scrophulaceae

This tropical herb is reputed to improve both brain function and memory, and ihe dried plant is used in many traditional Ayurvedic formulations. Brahmi makes an attractive hanging basket. Viu can also grow it in an ornamental pond.

Bacopa, thyme-leafed gratiola, water hyssop u ii Whole plant above ground

Bright green brahmi is a modest ground-hugging perennial plant that grows in wetland environments. The leaves are sir pie, oval, arranged in opposite pairs, • edged and bitter-tasting. It is y succulent and bears small five-d wers that are white, which ■ blue on the petal backs, over

Calnip Flowers

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri1

irahmi requires a moist soil y light shade. It grows well <-, pot, preferably with a diameter of 1 ft. (30 cm) or more, and makes an a active hanging basket if grown in the 'iade. It is frost tender, so grow brahmi under protection in winter. • Propagation You can grow brahmi from seed, but it forms adventitious roots

Brahmi is an aquatic herb, ideal for growing in damp places in the garden or even in a pond.

Tkes ncu^e/ 'brcukrvU/' convex ^ronv BraJwyuo, the/ Hindu/ t^ocf ot creation/.

on creeping shoots, and the detached shoots quickly grow into new plants when potted. Unrooted tip cuttings also strike quickly.

• Maintenance As brahmi has very shallow roots, water it regularly, especially if exposed to direct hot sunshine. Promote rapid growth with liquid seaweed fertilizer diluted to the recommended strength.

• Pests and diseases None of note.

• Harvesting and storing Harvest stems and leaves when plant is 5 months old, leaving 2-in. (5-cm) stems so that plant can regenerate for further harvesting. Dry leaves in the shade at room temperature and store in airtight containers.

Herbal medicine

Bacopa monnieri. Parts used: whole herb. In Ayurvedic medicine, brahmi is prescribed by herbalists to improve memory, learning and concentration. Scientific research has provided encouraging evidence for some of these effects, but suggests improvements

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri1

keeping our brains healthy is as important as keeping our bodies in shape. Brahini has been used as a "brain workout" herb in the Ayurvedic tradition of medicine for about ">00 years. Researchers hypothesize that it may help by improving the way the nervous system transmits messages in the brain. Gotu kola (Cenwlla asiaiica syn. Hydrocolylr asiaiica) is also sometimes confusingly referred U) by Ihe common name brahmi and is a "brain" herb in its own right. However, the two plants are easily distinguished by their different leaf shapes (see Gulu kola, page (¡1).

take around 3 months to occur. Brahmi is also renowned as an exceptional nerve tonic, so it is notable that a reduction in anxiety levels was also observed in some clinical studies, supporting its use during times of anxiety and nervous exhaustion.

For the safe and appropriate use of brahmi, see Memory and concentration, page 213. Do not use brahmi if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Arctium lappa Asteraceae

Burdock is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, both as a vegetable and as a traditional medicinal plant. It is regarded as a weed In the Northern Hemisphere, where it grows well on rough ground in a sunny position.

Other common names Beggar's buttons, great burdock Parts used Leaves, roots, seeds

Burdock is a strong-growing biennial. The fairly bitter but tender young foliage of spring regrowth is used as a green vegetable. The leaves are large and oval, and the numerous purple thistlelike flowers are quite remarkable in their perfect symmetry. Burdock can grow as high as 8 ft. (2.4 m).

• Varieties Some named varieties are grown as a vegetable for their slender, crisp, textured taproots, which can grow as long as 4.5 ft. (1.3 m). These include two Japanese varieties - 'Takinogawa Long' and 'Watanabe Early'. Both have a flavor between that of parsnip and Jerusalem artichoke. Arctium minus is a very bitter weedy species that is found all over North America.

• Position Burdock requires a moist humus-rich soil and full sun, although it will tolerate some light shade. It is also fully cold-hardy, and dies down in winter.

• Propagation Propagate from seed in spring or late autumn. Although the seed usually germinates easily, soak the seed overnight in warm water before sowing, then lightly cover it with soil and firm down. Thin seedlings to about 6 in. (15 cm) apart. To produce high-quality, long straight roots, dig the soil to a depth of 2 ft. (60 cm) and incorporate well-rotted compost before sowing.

• Maintenance Keep the soil moist and weed the crop regularly, particularly when the plants are young. Remove the flowers and burrs to promote root growth.

• Pests and diseases Burdock is rarely seriously affected by pests and diseases.

• Harvesting and storing For cooking, collect young shoots and leaves in spring. Lift the roots in autumn, about 100 days after planting, when they are at least

1 ft. (30 cm) long. For medicinal purposes, dry the grayish brown roots, which are white on the inside.

The evenly distributed hooks on the burdock burrs, which kept sticking to his clothes on walks in the countryside, inspired George de Mestral to inveni Velcro in 1945. The name comes from the French words velour. meaning "velvet" and crochet or "hook." The invention has been applied to a wide range of items, from fasteners on clothes, bags and shoes to stainless-steel hook and loop fasteners ihat are used to attach car parts.

Burdock IArctium lappa)

Herbal medicine

Arctium lappa. Part used: roots. In Western herbal medicine, burdock root is used as an alterative or blood purifier. These terms describe its gentle detoxifying effect on the body and stimulation of the body's eliminatory channels, namely the lymphatic, digestive and urinary systems. It is commonly prescribed for chronic inflammatory skin and joint conditions, which traditional herbalists regard as the result of a buildup of unwanted toxins in the body. When used over a long period of time, burdock root can be particularly effective in clearing dry, scaly skin complaints, such as eczema and psoriasis, and improving rheumatic joint conditions.

For the safe and appropriate use of burdock, consult your healthcare professional. Do not use burdock if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Burdock is not an important edible plant, although the cultivated Japanese form, gobo, is used as a vegetable and also in various pickles and a miso-based condiment. It is also eaten as a vegetable in Korea. Scrape the young leaf stalks and cook them as you would celery. Use the roots raw as a salad vegetable, or cooked in stir-fries like carrots.


Calendula officinalis Asteraceae

Calendula has large daisylike flowers in golden yellow or orange. In ancient Rome, the herb was used to make a broth that was said to uplift the spirits. In India, the brighl flowers decorated the altars in Hindu temples.

Other common names Golds, marigold, pot marigold, ruddles Part used Petals

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Native to the Mediterranean, calendula forms a dense clump of simple lance-shaped aromatic leaves. The flowers resemble large daisies.

• Varieties The original calendula of the herb garden was the single form; however, in the 20th century, double-flowered forms were extensively bred, yielding much larger harvests of petals. Two notable choices are 'Pacific Beauty' and the dwarf 'Fiesta Gitana.' 'Erfurter Orangefarbigen' from Germany is used for commercial medicinal flower production in Europe. A remarkable heirloom single variety from the Elizabethan period,

C. officinalis 'Prolifera,' is still grown. This is the quaint 'Hen and Chickens,' which has a central flower encircled by a number of miniature flowers.

• Position Plants need full sun but will tolerate partial light shade. They prefer a moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

• Propagation Calendula is an annual that is very easy to grow from seed.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

In/ the/ jftlMte/ many /dartfb were/ re*iaryi&o( 'ftlary/ \yotcf' in? honor o^ the/ Virgin/ Mary.

• Maintenance In hot summers, calendulas usually cease flowering. Regular deadheading will help to prolong flowering.

• Pests and diseases Plants are prone to mildew in autumn. The variety 'Orange King' has good resistance. Spider mite can be a problem in midsummer, although reducing water stress lessens the severity of attack.

• Harvesting and storing Gather petals after the dew has dried and spread them very thinly over paper on racks, out of direct sunlight, in a well-ventilated place. When they are dried, store them in airtight containers.


Pot marigold should not be confused with the Mexican genus (Tagetes). which includes the so-called African and French marigolds (right) as well as the coriander-tasting Andean herb huacatay or Peruvian black mint iTageies lerniflora). and the closely related T. minuta.

Herbal medicine

Calendula officinalis. Part used: flowers. Brightly colored calendula flowers possess significant wound-healing and local anti-inflammatory properties. To aid the healing of wounds, cuts and burns, apply them topically in the form of an ointment, cream or infused oil.

Calendula's slight astringency may help to staunch bleeding, while its antimicrobial effects help to keep the site of injury free from infection. Use a calendula tincture as an effective mouthwash against gum infections and mouth ulcers and also as a topical antifungal agent for some skin conditions.

Traditionally, calendula flowers are taken internally for infections and inflammation of the gut, including stomach and duodenal ulcers, and also as a lymphatic remedy for the treatment of swollen lymph nodes.

For the safe and appropriate external use of calendula, see First aid, page 220. For internal use, consult your healthcare professional. Do not take calendula internally if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Topical application is considered safe at these times.

Calnip Flowers

Caraway crcucJzerb

Roll out ready-made pizza dough or puff pasiry on a lightly floured work surface. Whisk 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons water until combined and brush lightly over dough. Cut dough into squares. Combine 2 tablespoons each of poppy seeds, caraway seeds, sunflower seeds and chopped almonds. Sprinkle over squares. Cook in preheated 400°F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until pastry is golden. Serve warm. Makes 36.


Carum carvi Apiaceae

Caraway was a popular Middle Eastern herb before being introduced into Western Europe in the 12th century. Its seeds are used as an anise-scented spice in cooking. The herb also has medicinal and cosmetic uses.

Other common name Persian cumin

Parts used Leaves, roots, dried ripe fruits (known as seeds) and their essential oil

Caraway (Carum carvi]

Caraway is a biennial with divided fernlike leaves and a parsley-dill fragrance. It has a spindle-shaped taproot, which can be cooked as a root vegetable, like carrot. The flowering stem, about 2 ft. (60 cm) tall, bears tiny white flowers touched with pink that are followed by crescent-shaped ridged 'seeds' C. roxburghianum, known as ajmud, is a popular Indian spice.

• Varieties 'Sprinter' is high-yielding and the seeds don't shatter, making it easier to save the seeds.

• Position Caraway requires a well-drained fertile soil and a warm sunny position. Thin plants to 6 in. (15 cm) apart.

• Propagation Sow caraway seed directly into the soil in either spring, or autumn (the latter crop will seed "Jy, the following summer). w

• Maintenance Regularly weed and water the crop, because the seed is often slow to germinate.

• Pests and diseases Caraway is rarely troubled by pests. To prevent fungal diseases of foliage, water in the morning; try not to water from above.

• Harvesting and storing Gather leaves at any time. Lift roots after harvesting seed. Cut flowering stems when the seeds begin to darken and ripen. Secure stems in small bunches to allow air movement, and hang the bunches upside down until dry. Then shake bunches over sheets. The seeds often contain insects, such as weevils, so freeze to kill the eggs before storage.

Herbal medicine

Carum carvi. Part used; dried ripe fruits. Caraway's ability to dispel wind and exert a calming, antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal tract makes it a reliable remedy in cases of flatulence, intestinal colic and bloating. As a result of its slightly drying nature, it is also prescribed with other appropriate herbs to assist in the relief of diarrhea.

For the safe and appropriate use of caraway, see Wind, bloating and flatulence, page 206. Do not use caraway in greater than culinary quantities if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Caraway seeds are used to flavor rye bread, sausages, cabbage dishes, cheeses, soups, pork dishes, goulash and cooked apples, as well as liqueurs and spirits such as schnapps. A digestive known as "sugar plums" is made from sugar-coated seeds. Use the feathery caraway leaves in salads and soups. Their taste resembles a mixture of parsley and dill.

Catnip [Nepeta cataria)

Part used Leaves

Catnip is a short-lived perennial native to Europe that resembles its relative, mint. It has soft, hairy, aromatic gray-green leaves and small, white, lipped flowers. The chemicals responsible for the amazing response of many cats are nepetalactones. A lemon-scented variety, N. cataria var. citriodora, has a similar effect. Not all cats exhibit such reactions: young kittens and older cats show almost no response. • Varieties There are some 250 species of Nepeta, many of which contain nepetalactones and attract cats. These include two common garden perennials that are both called catmints, namely N. mussinii and N. x faassenii.

• Position Catnip needs a well-drained soil, and preferably full sun.

• Propagation Grow catnip from seed, if possible in seed trays; seeds germinate best between 68 and 86"F (20 and 30°C). You can also propagate it easily by tip cuttings, and by root division in early spring.

• Maintenance Cover young transplants in wire netting to protect them from felines. Plants grow rapidly in summer to form quite large, floppy bushes, so you'll need to stake them. Water regularly.

• Pests and diseases In warm humid climates, septoria leaf spot may cause spotting, followed by yellowing of mature leaves. The nepetalactones effectively repel insect pests.

Many eats that encounter this velvety, curiously scented perennial react by rolling in it. rubbing against it and generally behaving as though the aroma is irresistible. Catnip is used to relieve fevers, colic and teething pain in young children.

Catnip [Nepeta cataria)

• Harvesting and storing Once the bush is well grown, harvest catnip at any time after the dew has dried. Secure small bunches of stems with string and hang them upside down in a well-aired place. When perfectly dry, strip the foliage and store it in an airtight container.

■ Herbal medicine

Nepeta cataria. Parts used: leaves, flowers. An excellent remedy for children, catnip helps to resolve feverish conditions, and its antispasmodic properties alleviate flatulence and colic. It is a mild sedative and can reduce sensitivity to the pain of teething and improve irritability.

Catnip can also be used to treat the symptoms of colds, flu, digestive bloating, nausea and cramping in adults, and it is particularly effective when stress is a contributing factor.

For the safe and appropriate use of catnip, consult a healthcare professional. Do not use catnip if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Nepeta cataria Lamiaceae

Catnip cat toy you/ wM need

□ thin cardboard

□ soft pencil

□ two 5 x 6Vi in. rectangles fabric

□ sewing thread

□ dried catnip

I Trace a fish outline onto some thin cardboard and cut oui a template. Place the fabric rectangles right sides together. Trace the fish onto the wrong side of one rectangle, remembering to add /i-in. seam allowance all round.

2 Stitch the two shapes togeiher. leaving a small opening for turning. Trim seam, clip curves and turn right side out. Fill wiih dried calnip and stitch opening closed. Stitch a small bell to the head of the fish.

Catnip is a useful herb to have on hand in the home. Nepetalactones are a very powerful mosquito repellent and cockroaches don't like them much, either.

Continue reading here: Curry plant

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