In it the authors, Jack R. Pyle and Taylor Reese, explain the reasoning behind the methods my grandmother, and perhaps yours, used in planting their gardens. The book is full of useful and interesting concepts regarding the effects of the moon’s phases on everything in nature. One chapter took me back to my childhood – walking barefoot on tough Piedmont Carolina clay through my grandmother’s garden. At least one side of her vegetable garden, was always planted with a row or two of sunflowers.
I loved the tall plants with their sunny faces watching over me and that garden. In Chapter Four of Raising With The Moon the authors skim the surface of companion plants. While they would need an entirely separate book to cover all of the beneficial combinations of plants they give several examples and end the chapter with two charts – ‘Good Companions’ and ‘Bad Companions’. In the ‘Good Companions’ chart Sunflowers are listed as being good neighbors for cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. They don’t say why so I did a little of my own research and found that Sunflowers are hearty enough to resist aphids. Those sentinels help keep aphids off susceptible plants – an organic method of pest control.
So my grandmother, who planted by the signs, also practiced companion planting. She also had marigolds and dill in her garden. Marigolds’ pungent smell deter many garden pests but the flowers “will be all but ignored by bees….and the lady bugs, the mantises, and other insect predators”. The reason I mention this companion planting concept is that some of the plants we’ll be looking at today are the wild versions of herbs that are good garden companions.
This plant has pink or white flowers mixed with bulbets or without flowers and replaced by bulbets with tails. They typically bloom from May – July. If you like garlic, and if the sources I reviewed are accurate, you’ll love the bulb of this plant since it is described as having a very strong garlic flavor.
It was introduced into North America during colonial times and, like many non-native species, has become a pest in some locations. Apparently that is not the case here because this year was the first time I’d ever seen this plant.
This member of the mint family has distinctive hairy stems and even the whorls of blooms have dense ‘hairs’. What I love about this plant is the dotted pattern on the interior of the blossoms. Perhaps they are another method of ‘directing’ pollinators to the center of the flower?
Hairy Wood Mint – Blephilia hirsula Close
Hairy Wood Mint – Blephilia hirsula
Hairy Wood Mint – Blephilia hirsula Blooming
Hairy Wood Mint Shadowed
Wild Basil – Genus: Clinopodium; Species: vulgare
One of my favorite herbs for flavoring dishes, particularly tomato based sauces, I used to grow the domestic variety in my herb garden. Just as with the domestic variety the leaves can be crushed or dried and used for flavoring.
Wild Basil Buds
Wild Basil Plant – Labiatae saturejam vulgaris
Labiatae saturejam vulgaris Wild Basil Close Blossom
Labiatae saturejam vulgaris Wild Basil Blossom Circle
Wild Basil Patch
Lyre-leaved Sage – Genus: Salvia; Species: Lyrata
Unlike the other ‘mints’ we’ve looked at, the lyre-leaved sage plant’s leaves are primarily at the base of the flower stem. It is a heat-tolerant, adaptable ground cover that blooms from March through June in most any sun setting (full sun, shade, partial shade) American Indians used the leaves in a salve for sores.
The next two plants are not wildflowers. One is a vine and the other a tree – both of which have been converted into liquid forms for centuries.
First we have a vine that has been cultivated from its wild original since the 16th century and is native to the southern portion of North America. The oldest and largest wine-maker here in my home state, Duplin Winery, makes all of their wines from Muscadines.
For the tree I’m including, rather than wine you can buy it in tea form or, if you know how, you can make your own from its roots. However, one variety of this lovely tree is already extinct and the FDA has banned its use in flavoring root beer because of concerns of, not just the extinction of the plant, but of liver cancer if consumed long-term.
And among the interesting information about this tree I found that the Plymouth colonies were founded, in part, on speculation of Sassafras exports.
Each of these plants has an equivalent (sometimes hundreds of varieties) domestic version of their wild selves. But these are the true originals. Many other examples are out there…..look for them and make comments on your findings at the end of this post.