1. Start your own Herbal. There are some great books out there, but recording your own experiences/uses/collected lore for herbs is invaluable. Draw, press or take photos of the plants you include.
2. Learn about plants by seeing them with your own eyes. Visit botanical gardens, nurseries, garden centres and parks to see the plants in situ and (hopefully) correctly labelled. The human brain has an amazing memory for plants, it is a survival skill to be able to identify them. When you walk through a park or garden, notice the plants and identify those you know to re-establish this memory.
3. Grow things. Be as ambitious as your space, money and time allow. Collect plants that are hard to find, appeal to you and suit your climate. Go beyond culinary herbs. Be aware of where you plant things in the garden, both directionally and symbolically. Plants you have grown are constantly receiving offerings of your time, energy and resources and are therefore more likely to be willing to assist you.
4. Plants will die. Even the most experienced gardener will lose plants. Accept it. Don’t just buy a few seedlings and then decide you lack a green thumb because they all died. Some herbs are annuals, that means they only live for a season, some plants are deciduous, some will simply not be suited to your climate or area and fail to thrive. Be patient and persistent and become a student of gardening as well has herbcraft.
5. Work in depth with a particular herb or tree to discover its secrets. Read everything you can about it, research folklore and planetary correspondences, consume it raw, dried, as a tea and a tincture. Prepare a spagyric essence from it. Burn it as incense. Infuse oil with it. Grow it, talk to it, dream about it. Watch how it changes through the seasons, collect its seeds, smell its flowers. Do this until you know it inside out, and then begin again with another.
6. Substituting herbs is tricky business. No, you can not replace all flowers with lavender or all herbs with rosemary. That is lazy nonsense. Put some actual effort into getting the herbs you need for a spell, and if you genuinely can’t acquire them find something botanically related, energetically similar or at very least ruled by the same planet.
7. Treat herbs and trees as spirits, with respect and humility. Ask before your take, leave offerings, communicate, bond with them and you will be rewarded with gifts and wisdom and powerful ingredients for your spells.
8. Poisonous herbs and strong entheogens are for advanced practitioners. Don’t just start growing or using them because you want to be taken seriously. Some of these plants are tricksters, they can be very seductive. They are quite capable of controlling you. Be wary.
9. When harvesting for magical use, think not only what the plant is but where it is growing. A tree on a university campus will have different properties to the same kind found in a graveyard. A herb growing at the crossroads is different to one found by a stream.
10. Expand your learning and awareness beyond trees and herbs. Learn the lore of mosses, lichens, fungi and seaweeds. Parasitic and carnivorous plants. Get to know the plants that grow locally, even if they are far removed from those found in your books.
11. Check your sources when it comes to lore. If a book tells you lavender is good for love spells, question it. Try to discover where the information came from, look up the older herbals, read books of plant folklore, investigate planetary and elemental correspondences based on the nature and virtues of the plant, not just what Cunningham says.
12. Develop relationships not only with individual trees and herbs, but with particular species. Plants can be spirit guides in the way that animals can. There is an oak tree, and then there is Oak. They can teach, guide and protect. Having a handful of plant allies you know intimately and fashioning your tools from their wood, planting them around your house and visiting them in the wild will make your connection to those spirits all the stronger.
I’d taken these photos at Lal Bagh ages ago but never quite got around to posting them. And what with all the shopping frenzy over the weekend, I thought it’d would be refreshing to gaze upon some greenery instead. The nursery at Lal Bagh is possibly my favourite place in Bangalore, and what with house hunting all throughout November I haven’t had the time to pop in there recently. Which makes me a bit sad! But I’m shifting to my lovely new place in a few days and I’m planning to do it up with all the plants, so I thought I’d share some indoor gardening tips I’ve picked up as a novice gardener this year.
1. Plants tend to be very attached to particular spots. It can take a bit of time to find the perfect spot for a plant, because different plants have different sunlight and temperature needs. So once you’ve found the right place for a plant, don’t move it around!
2. Most flowering plants need bright, direct sunlight. When I first got my Penta, I tried keeping it in front of a window thinking that would be sufficient. It wasn’t. As I discovered, the Penta only flowers when it gets the full blast of midday sunlight. I’ve recently had to shift it to the bottom of my balcony, where the light isn’t that strong, and while it’s giving out new leaves just fine, it’s not flowering as much. Flowers need light to grow!
3. Ferns - Ferns will not survive in air conditioning, so if you have an an aircon, don’t go for an indoor fern because it will die. Maidenhair ferns love all the sunlight they can get, Boston ferns like diffuse light. Both need copious amounts of water. I couldn’t rescue my Boston fern in time, but when my Maidenhair fern started dying dramatically in the AC, I put it in out in the balcony and since then it’s been growing at a prodigious rate. I mostly just dump a bottle of water every day on both my Maidenhair fern and Penta and they seem to like that a lot.
4. Monstera or Cheese Plant - This is the indoor plant you should go for if you have air conditioning. My Monstera has been thriving in my air conditioned room, unlike all the other plants (including succulents) which hated it. The only thing you have to be careful of with Monsteras is to never put them in direct sunlight. I put mine out for a few hours one day and it literally got cooked! It’s lost two of the most damaged leaves since then but grown two new ones in the cool of the AC. Monsteras are also super sensitive to over watering. I moisten the soil with a small splash of water every alternate day, which keeps it happy.
5. Repotting - This is a very helpful video with instructions for repotting plants, and the one I used the first time I repotted anything! Just remember to be extra gentle with your plants right after repotting, because it’s a bit of a traumatic event for them. I generally give my plants a little plant food after repotting to settle them down in their new home.
6. Plant food - Plant food is a real thing that actually works. You can get it at plant nurseries - it’s usually a NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) fertilizer that comes as a water soluble powder or already dissolved in a liquid medium. I prefer the powdered variety mostly because a little goes a long way. You can even get different types of plant food with different proportions of NPK depending on whether you have flowering or leafy plants.
7. Pruning - All plants need to be pruned regularly. Pruning is nothing but cutting off old, withered leaves so that new ones have space to grow. Just don’t prune your plants for a couple of weeks after repotting, because that’s a very delicate time for them.
8. Drainage - Unless you have an air plant, always, always use planters with drainage holes. A lot of planters these days come without one because drainage holes leak water from the bottom and that can be messy. Without a drainage hole though, water will accumulate at the roots and cause them to rot, no matter how little you’re watering! If you’re worried about making a mess while watering, get planters with a saucer at the bottom instead.
9. Succulents - All my succulents so far have died, and I’ve no idea what to do with them. I’m stumped. Do they like sunlight? Do they hate it? What about water? I couldn’t tell you because I simply don’t know. All I know is that lifestyle blogs promote them as super easy to maintain and that’s an outright lie. Succulents are not easy to maintain. They’re a mystery wrapped in a conundrum and I don’t recommend them for novice gardeners.
10. Plants are living creatures, but unlike animals, they have no way of telling you if they like their living conditions other than starting to die if the conditions aren’t optimal. Right now, houseplants are a super trendy thing and everyone wants them, but remember that plants are a responsibility and they will take up your time. Just like pets, plants need everyday care and nurturing, and if you aren’t up for that, don’t get a house plant because you’re going to feel sad when they wither and die. Conversely, a dying plant can be rescued if you can figure out the right conditions for it. I’m not trying bring everyone down here! But when I got my first plants, I’d no idea that I’d get this attached to them and end up putting in so much care and effort towards their wellbeing! They do have a way of snaking their little baby tendrils right into your heart.
Silk embroidery from the period of the Arts and Crafts movement in England, illustrating the nursery rhyme ‘My Lady’s Garden’. The design is
attributed to artist and illustrator Walter Crane. Needlework artist not
known. Ca. late 1880s?
My latest obsession is the pretty succulent. They are beautiful plants and come in so many varieties and great colours. They are very hardy and need little watering (once every two weeks or once a month depending on your climate and environment) so they make a very good plant for indoors and anyone who doesn’t have a green thumb.
The great thing about these guys is you can actually grow heaps of succulents from the one plant. It’s called propagating and I’ll run you through just how to do it!
Choose the succulent. Head to your local garden nursery or local market to pick one.
Once you’ve got your little friend home. Start by carefully removing the lower leaves. Pull off as many as you would like to propagate. Most people usually remove all the leaves from the lower level. That way you have a few if any don’t make it. Hold the leaf firmly and wiggle it until you can feel it pull away. Make sure you get the whole leaf and don’t tear it otherwise it won’t grow a new plant.
Your leaves should look something like this If you have correctly pulled them off in one piece.
Now we wait. This step is the most important!! The leaves need to dry out & callous over before we plant them or else they will absorb too much moisture,rot and die. This usually takes a few days to a week.
Once you feel the ends have dried over, place them in a pot or tray ontop of well drained succulent & cactus soil mixture (you can buy this in a bag from your local hardware/ garden nursery I got mine from Bunnings). Some people dip the ends of the leaves in a plant cutting mixture (contains stimulating root hormones). This speeds up the growth process. You can try this but not essential.
Leave them inside where they can get indirect sunlight. After a few weeks you will notice roots shooting out the ends of the leaves. Then very small succulents will begin to form. Lightly water once you see these. During the process if the soil is dry add water to keep the area moist. Remember too much water is not good. Succulents aren’t big fans.
Congratulations you've successfully growth succulents! Once they get to this size (see image below) or even like the above image. You can carefully remove the new succulents and plant them in their very own pot (remember to use a succulent cactus soil mixture) and watch them blossom! Pretty cool hey!
Now you can start getting creative and making gorgeous features out of your succulents. Mix them with other plants just like this.