Monday, 4 April 2011

Weekend at the farm

It's always difficult to describe where you live and what the environment looks like. We had a busy weekend with my parents and I've shared the photos showing some of what we did on Facebook.

In the album, you will find lots of pictures of primroses - one of my favourite spring flowers. Primroses (primula vulgaris) get their name from the latin words "prima" meaning first and "rosa" meaning rose. In the middle ages, concoctions were made for use with gout and rheumatism. The flowers were used in love potions and an infusion of the roots was taken for nervous headaches.

Primrose seeds can either be scattered while still green in early summer into a prepared seed or plug tray and covered with Perlite. These seeds usually germinate in a few weeks and can then either be wintered in the plug trays or pricked out from the seed trays when the seedlings are large enough and wintered in pots before planting out into prepared sites the following spring. Primrose seeds, like violet seeds need stratification before they can germinate. In some cases, if the seed is dry, it can take two years to achieve germination, so don't lose heart the first year if nothing grows!

The primroses natural habitat is in hedgerows and under deciduous trees, so they prefer moist soils and will tolerate heavy soils in semi-shade. If you plant primroses in a wild garden, be sure that you do not cut the grass until mid-summer, when the plants will have seeded themselves.

Primroses can be grown in containers. Use a soil-based compost and keep the plant well watered. Jekka McVicar suggests giving only one liquid feeds with fertiliser after flowering.

Primroses are closely related to cowslips, primula veris. Both Matthew Wood and David Hoffman have comprehensive pages on the medicinal use of cowslips, but I had to look in Herbcraft by Susan Lavender and Anne Franklin to find a section on primroses. They suggest both flowers and leaves should be gathered as soon as they open. Both leaves and roots can be dried for future use and the flowers can be crystalised by coating first with beaten egg white and then sugar.

Herbcraft is very much a book about the energetic use of herbs, but their medicinal knowledge is sound. The section on lore says, "The primrose was a plant much prized by the Druids. The poem, 'The Chair of Taliesin', describes the initiation of a bard with a drink made from primrose and vervain. Druidesses carried primroses during rituals as a protection from evil. The Druids used a primrose oil, rubbed on the body, as a cleanser and purifier."

They suggest the whole plant can be infused and used as a treatment for nervous headaches, insomnia and as a cough medicine. The flowers can be soaked in distilled water and used as a lotion for acne, spots, wrinkles and other skin complaints.

The tea can be made in the usual manner, leaving the infusion for fifteen minutes instead of ten. If you want to make an infused oil, pack a jkar with fresh flowers and fill with sweet almond oil. Place in the airing cupboard or other warm place for fourteen days, shaking daily. Strain into a clean, dark bottle and add a few drops of vitamin E oil. Keep tightly stoppered in a dark place.

I wish I had read this section before last weekend so I could have made up some new concoctions, but there's always next year!

1 comment:

miss*R said...

sounds like a brilliant book.
I have never been to England, but my ancestry is Cornish mostly..for some reason, in my genes, I miss all of this herbal lore. we don't have it here much in Australia. :(