Sweet Cicely – Attracting Beneficial Insects

Permaculture Bug Bedtime Stories - Attracting Beneficial  Insects

The Sweet Cicely ( Myrrhis odorata ) flower attracts and provides nectar for this syrphid fly, which hopefully will stick around the farm, because syrphid fly larva eat up to 40 aphids a day. It is nice to know I have all these helpers flying around , I’ll give them a special “two thumbs up” in this weeks IPM report.  Sweet Cicely is not just  about bugs,  people use the sweet aniseed flavored leaves as a low-calorie sweeter.


Manuka and Honey Bees a Winning Team

Leptospermum scoparium & Apis mellifera a Winning Team

Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is one of the most common plant species found in New Zealand. This pioneer plant loves to grow in deforested land. It is prized for it’s red hard wood and used in North America as an ornamental. Manuka’s claim to fame is the amazing medicinal properties of the honey that bees (Apis mellifera ) produce from it’s blooms.

Celandine aka Greater Celandine, Swallow Wort, Tetterwort

Celandine aka greater celandine, swallow wort, tetterwort

Chelidonium majus has a long history of use in homeopathy and Chinese medicine for a large number of medical complaints. It grows in several unused corners of the farm and whenever I have to cut it down it instantly makes me sneeze. I am thinking of renaming it to Brian’s Sneeze-weed ! Speaking of plant names, the name Tetterwort seems to apply to a few different plants used for treating Tetter which is an old English term for skin disease.

Elderberry – Herb of the Year 2013


Elder ( Sambucus spp. ) was the ” Herb of the Year 2013″ and could be the ultimate permaculture plant, ” a fantastic attractor of beneficial insects and hummingbirds, can be used as a windbreak or living fence, provides food and shelter for wildlife (especially birds), and is a great pioneer species.” (John Kitsteiner Temperate Climate Permaculture ) Click on the picture to read John Kitsteiner’s complete article on Elderberry.

Laurus nobilis

Laurus nobilis

Bay laurel is another culinary super-star, but also it is claimed to be an important herb for public safety…… “neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightening, will hurt a man in the place where a bay-tree is. ” ( Nicholas Culpeper , Culpeer’s Complete Herbal, and English Physician 1826 ) Vancouver Island gardeners should remember that even with all these virtues, Bay is a tender perennial and should be protected during the coldest months of the winter.

Dyers Woad

Dyers Woad

Woad ( Isatis tinctoria ) has a long ethnobotanical history dating back thousands of years. In addition to being an important source of blue dye, it had many traditional medicinal uses. Click on the image to learn how to extract the blue dye from woad leaves.

Coltsfoot, another early bloomer

Coltsfoot, another early bloomer

It’s raining on the farm today and even moderate rain on the poly covering on propagation greenhouse sounds like a thunderous downpour. So I found a nice bright flower to cut through the gloom. Coltsfoot ( Tussilago farfara ) was smoked as a cough remedy as early as AD23, it is still an ingredient in herbal tobaccos and is used for curing some pipe tobaccos. ( ref. Deni Brown, 1995, Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses )