• Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Clover     Clover is also called trefoil, literally “three-leaves”, and grows in most places around the world. Although many clover plants look similar, there are around 300 species of Trifolium and they’re in the same plant family as peas. Both the round, joyful flowers and the iconic triplet of small, round leaves have a ton of folklore around them – and some surprising modern research, too.   The Kitchen Garden Red and white clover are the most common where I live, and often pop up in lawns without any encouragement from gardeners. As well as being a fantastic food source for bees and other insects,…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: The Orange     Oranges: juicy, bright globes filled with vitamin C and sunshine. The orange is a citrus fruit that’s one of the most cultivated fruits in the world, and may have been cultivated by humans for around 2,500 years. The sweet orange as we know it today is a hybrid of mandarins and pomelos, and is very different from bitter oranges, the likes of which often line the streets of towns in Mediterranean countries. I once made the mistake of plucking and peeling a juicy looking orange while in Spain, only to have my mouth shrivelled by the intense bitterness! Sweet oranges, in comparison,…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Lilac     Lilac is a flowering shrub in the olive family, Oleaceae, cultivated in many parts of the world including all across Europe and North America. Robust spikes of delicate yet strongly scented flowers come in colours ranging from purples and pinks through to blues and whites. I’ve been writing Notes from the Apothecary for over 6 years now, and some months I struggle to think of a plant that’s magical, seasonal, and of interest to our readers worldwide. I had no such struggle this month, thanks to the wonderful fragrance that stopped me in my tracks as I was out playing with my 3-year-old…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Blackthorn   Prunus spinosa, literally meaning a spiny fruit tree, perfectly describes the beautiful yet oh so spiky blackthorn. Blackthorn is a familiar sight across much of Europe, and in Northern England where I live, the blossoms are one of the most impressive displays of spring. Blackthorn blossoms really stand out in the hedgerows because the flowers arrive quite some time before the leaves; white, delicate yet profuse blossoms perched on dark, spiny twigs. Blackthorn is also intertwined with folklore, otherworldly beings, and magic. It truly is a worthy addition to our apothecary.   The Kitchen Garden Many people will know the blackthorn for its beautiful…

  • Monthly Columns,  Spells & Rituals

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Bluebell     Tiny bluebells are, for me, a sign that spring is truly on the way. In the woods near where I live, they spring up, completely unannounced, sometime between the snowdrops and the wild garlic. It’s a “blink and you miss it” kind of phenomenon; Come to early, and the ground is just green and dormant. Come too late, and the flowers have already wilted, the plants getting ready to store their energy until next year. The most spectacular showing of bluebells is at a patch of woodland a little further afield, by the banks of one of our waterways. These bluebells arise and…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Jasmine     Jasmine, or Jasminum, is a sweet-smelling flowering plant related to the olive tree. Some jasmine plants grow as shrubs but the most famous are probably the climbing varieties. Some can grow as tall as nine metres! Jasmine flowers are white or yellow, with some holding delicate tones of pink or even red.   The Kitchen Garden Generally jasmine like partial shade and a warm setting, but there are some hardy varieties that grow happily in cooler climates – hence jasmine making it into our January issue! Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, tends to have solitary, yellow flowers and may bloom from November to March…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Primrose     Primroses are a hardy, perennial plant which means they’re tough and come back year after year. They’re also absolutely gorgeous and often around in winter, lending some welcome colour to gardens, windowsills, or containers. Originally a woodland plant, primroses or Primula vulgaris will grow just about anywhere as long as there’s drainage so the roots don’t get waterlogged. Finding primroses in the wild can be a sign that you’re on ancient woodland. However, some “wild” blooms can be escapees from folks’ gardens! Either way, even in November and December, their blooms make a gorgeous, colourful addition to the winter landscape.   The Kitchen…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Relaxation Special There’s no getting away from it: things are pretty stressful right now. The pandemic situation is something we’re potentially stuck with until there’s a vaccine, plus on top of that, there’s a whole lot of unrest in the world. Finding time to relax and unwind has never been more important. That’s why I decided to dedicate this issue of Notes from the Apothecary to plants and herbs that help alleviate daily stresses. Remember, herbal remedies are a form of complementary therapy and should NEVER replace existing medication or treatments. You should always take advice from a medical professional, especially if you are already taking…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Willow   Willows are a type of tree in the family Salicaceae. They’re deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves towards winter, and they love both moisture and sunlight. Striking weeping willows are often seen trailing their leaves across the surface of streams, while fluffy goat willow or pussy willow brightens up the spring with its soft catkins. While only the largest of gardens will enjoy a willow tree of their own, many people will have a green area or park they can visit to find one of the many species of willow which grow all across the northern hemisphere. Find your own favourite willow creek or…

  • Monthly Columns

    Notes from the Apothecary

    Notes from the Apothecary: Cherries   I’m inspired to write about cherries because of my next door neighbour. They have a huge cherry tree that hangs over into our garden. We don’t mind. In fact, we love it. Not only is it a beautiful tree, with strong, thick limbs and richly coloured bark, it encourages all kinds of wildlife. Just this afternoon, we all sat enraptured in the kitchen as a squirrel hopped around the back garden munching on the fallen cherries. They’re just starting to ripen as we leave the summer solstice behind, and the windfalls attract all manner of birds and small mammals. There are actually over 50…