It’s always a delight to share my garden photos! Spring has come early to the Midwest. Trees and perennials are already flowering. My bleeding heart, which is on the north side of the house beside ferns that have been moved from yard to yard since I got them from my grandfather thirty years ago, is not quite blooming, so I’m sharing last year’s photos.
The Royal Horticultural Society is an old group of plant lovers who sought out new and unusual flora. In the 18th century, rare and unique plants were being shipped to the UK from China and Japan. Robert Fortune was sent to find and bring back Asian specimens. He is credited with introducing bleeding heart in 1847. The plant name for what is commonly known as bleeding heart is Dicentras
The informal herbal and perennial gardens of the Victorian era were perfect places for bleeding heart. The beauties flourished beneath the branches of elms, alders, maples or other shade trees. The traditional English cottage garden has also been a favorite planting place for the bleeding heart. The plant’s habit of blooming all summer with fall and winter dormancy, make it an important part of both spring and early summer gardens.
Native Americans used the wild bleeding heart medicinally. Wild Dicentras carpeted forest floors in the Pacific Northwest. It was used as a tincture or compress to relieve pain. The wild plants are lower growing and smaller than Dicentras spectabilis, but are identical in foliage type and have the classic heart-shaped flowers.
I hope you enjoy my photos today!
My April book The Wedding Journey is now available for order on amazon and the Kindle release will be available on the first.
I’m giving away ALL THREE SIGNED BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY to one person who leaves a comment today.
Spring, plants, fresh grass, the smell of good earth and food gathering, and the reminder that the earth refreshes itself every year. I once did a series on preparedness and different plants that one could eat, use for medicine and that sort of thing — in truth, one can never be prepared enough in my consideration. That said, let me take the time to say that there is much to be considered when talking about herbs, plants, food and medicine. If ever the “powers that be” try to starve a section of the population — pull up that series again.
Much of what I’m going to blog about today comes from the book by Fances Densmore, HOW INDIANS USE WILD PLANTS FOR FOOD, MEDICINE, & CRAFTS. But let me start by quoting this section, because I found it fascinating: From page 323 (the book starts on page 285):
“In the old days the Indians had few diseases, and so there was not a demand for a large variety of medicines. A medicine man usually treated one special disease and treated it successfully. He did this in accordance with his dream. A medicine man would not try to dream of all herbs and treat all diseases, for then he could not expect to succeed in all nor to fulfill property the dream of any one herb or animal. He would depend on too many and fail in all. That is one reason why our medicine men lost their power when so many diseases cam among us with the advent of the white man.” This was said by a Sioux and is quoted in the book.
And one more quote from the book: “It is a teaching of the Midewiwin that every tree, bush, and plant has a use.”
This is the legend of Winabojo and the Birch Tree. Winabojo was a human being who was mysterious and had many powers. As the legend goes, Winabojo was taken by the Thunderbird to his nest, where Winabojo became a play object of the Thunderbird’s children. However, the Thunderbirds didn’t realize their power and Winabojo became afraid that they would kill him with their play. In order to escape them, he hid inside a fallen birch tree. It saved his life because the Thunderbirds could not get to him so long as he hid beneath the “king-child,” so called because the birch tree is their own child. Winabojo stayed there until the Thunderbirds drifted away and Winabojo said, “As long as the world stands this tree will be a protection and benefit to the human race. If they want to possess anything, they must wrap it in birch bark and it will not decay. The bark of this tree will be useful in many ways, and when people want to take the bark from the tree, they must offer tobacco to express their gratitude.” — From the book, HOW INDIANS USE WILD PLANTS FOR FOOD, MEDICINE & CRAFTS. Now here’s the interesting part: Did you know that it is the birch tree that will stand off lightning during a storm? If you stand beneath a birch tree during a storm, you will not be struck by lightning. And did you know that the little “pictures” on the bark of the tree are pictures of the little thunderbirds? Some localities contain more distinct pictures of these children — but the next time you see a birch tree, look for these pictures right there on the bark of the tree.
Over to the left here is Indian hemp or dogbane. In the old days dogbane was used to ward off evil spells or “bad medicine.” It was also used as a remedy for headaches.
Interestingly, although the Bible talks about witches, many people don’t believe that they existed. But the American Indian knew that they did, and had many remedies to counter-act the spells cast by those of evil intentions.
Wild fruits and berries abounded on the Plains. There were wild strawberries, the wild cherry, red currant, chokecherry, blackberry, raspberry, Juneberries — “Take some Juneberries with you,” is a saying with the Chippewa Indians. There were wild grapes and blueberries, wild plum trees. Most fruits and berries were either eaten raw or dried and often were eaten with fat and/or pounded dried buffalo and stored in bags — this is what we know as pemmican.
And did you know that the common milkweed was used as a vegetable. The flowers were stewed after being cut up — it’s even reported that sometimes a man might eat this “preserve” before a feast, that he might be able to eat more.
We live in a land full of food, if we could only know it — and one must really, really know it well because there are also plants and fruits in nature that are poisonous and one must be able to distinguish between the two. But for the American Indian, who was trained from birth to know what was edible and what wasn’t, the world was full of mystery, food, and adventure. Is it any wonder, then, that the American Indian would venture out into the world with nothing on him but the clothes on his back and his weapons. When one knows what to look for in Nature, Nature does provide.
Did you know that my books are filled with little bits of the American Indian culture and wisdom as told to me by elders of the tribe, and also from books? At present I have six ebooks at Samhain that are sold for almost a song at this link: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/karen-kay-pa-1676.ht
My new book Dawn Comes Early takes place in Arizona Territory. When Kate Tenney first arrives she hates the dry, barren land, but nothing is what it seems at first glance. Beauty—whether we’re talking about the desert or people—often reveals itself slowly and only when we look for it. Today, I want to take you on a desert tour through Kate’s eyes.
Arizona State Flower: Saguaro
The tallest cactus in the world, the saguaro can grow to almost seventy feet. It also has a long life and doesn’t sprout arms until seventy-five years or older. Night blooming white and yellow flowers appear April through June. Pollinated by bats, the blossoms have a waxy feel, fragrant aroma and are sturdy enough to hold a bat’s weight. The flowers will turn into ruby fruit by summer.
If you fall in a cactus patch, you kin expect
to pick stickers.
This cactus grows red, yellow or purple flowers. The plant spreads along the ground and ranchers often used them as living fences. The plant kept man and livestock from crossing over.
Ranchers also burned off the spines during droughts and fed the water-filled pads to livestock. Flowers bloom April through June and produce edible fruit.
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
The last cactus to bloom in the calendar year, orange, red or yellow-green flowers appear in July or August. Indians used the spines as fishhooks .
It’s commonly believed that the Barrel Cactus holds water and can save stranded travelers from dying of thirst. This is a myth. It actually contains alkaline juice; drinking it could give you the trots and possibly hypothermia.
Surprise is a near-sighted porcupine
fallin’ in love with a cactus.
This spiny plant grows red tubular flowers and its honey-scented nectar attracts hummingbirds. The plant sheds leaves during dry spells to preserve water and grows leaves during rain.
This cactus was also used as living fences by ranchers to keep out man and beast.
Century Plant (agave)
Consider yourself lucky if you come across one of these in bloom. So called because they bloom “once a century” the plant actually lives for about twenty-five years.
It blooms only once but the flowering spike grows so large and so fast it saps the energy from the plant, which then dies.
In the book Kate has an unfortunate run-in with cactus. Anyone have a cactus tale to share?
Nothing steals my breath more than a field covered with Texas Bluebonnets. It’s simply too gorgeous for words. Each spring folks load into cars and tour buses to see the bluebonnets just like the people in the northeastern states take tours to view the spectacular fall foliage
But although I’ve lived in Texas most of my life I found out some things I never knew that I’d like to share with you.
Bluebonnets are only found growing in their natural state in Texas and no other location in the world. That means they weren’t brought in from somewhere else by the early settlers. Bluebonnets are as well known as the shamrock is to Ireland and the cherry blossoms of Japan.
Many of you may know that the bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas and has been since 1901. But did you know there are five different kinds and that choosing the state flower started a bitter dispute that wasn’t finally settled until 1971? Arguments ensued over which variety was going to be declared the proper state flower. The Texas Legislature finally settled the dispute by declaring that any and all varieties of the bluebonnet are the state flower.
The “lupinus texensis” variety is the most common and the one most visitors see when they come to Texas. It has pointed leaflets and the flowering stalk is a breathtaking blue with a white tip. But less common ones grow in pink, rosy purple and royal blue and there’s even a solid white bluebonnet.
Bluebonnets typically bloom in the spring from March through April and sometimes into early May. The profusion is dictated by the amount of rain and germination in the fall, long before they pop their heads out of the soil. In times of drought the amount of bluebonnets is considerably less. Although bluebonnets need heat to germinate the seed, cool weather is crucial to develop the complicated root structure.
Bluebonnets are very difficult to grow in gardens and pots. They cannot tolerate poorly drained, clay based soils. And they need lots of direct sunlight. Guess that’s one reason they grow so well here in Texas. We have oodles of sunshine.
Other common names for the flowers are buffalo clover, wolf flower and el conejo (Spanish for “the rabbit”.)
Usually found blooming amid patches of bluebonnets are Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, and coreopsis.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not illegal to pick them.
In 1982 the state legislature named Burnet (SW of Austin) the official Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. Each April the town holds a Bluebonnet Festival which includes street dancing, concerts, a carnival, 5K run, pet parade and wiener dog races. Sounds like fun.
So, I hope you enjoyed this look at the bluebonnet. We’re very proud it chose this state in which to shower us with its beauty.
Don’t forget about our special event next week starting Monday, March 26th and ending Friday, March 30.
We have these every so often when the Fillies skip town or go on a vacation. We have to fill the week with something so why not add splashes of bright color here in the Junction.
And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do. Each day we’re going to tell you about some kind of plant or flower that the pioneers most likely would’ve seen when they loaded everything in a covered wagon and set out across the prairie.
These two talented successful ladies write western romance together. We wanted to know their secret. Here is what they said.
Linda: Every now and then, a project comes along and it’s like a gift. The characters speak to you, the words flow. This was one of those projects, for me. I can still hear the characters’ voices in my head, clear as day. And working with Lori was a huge plus!
Lori: That’s for sure. I’ve never been involved in a project with another author who was easier to work with. It helped that we were already friends (and we still are!). It was also a plus that we have the same working style. Pantsers all the way.
Linda: Hey, Lori! What side of town is the river on?
Lori: Can I plead the fifth? No? Okay, it’s on the left side.
Linda: Nope, that’s wrong. Riding into town from the north, the river is on the right/West side of town. Yep, we saw the town in a mirror image, and didn’t discover it until about midway through writing the series. We ended up taking out some specifics that made it OH so clear that we weren’t seeing the same thing.
Lori: But all in all, that was minor. Everything else we saw as one. Everyone else we heard as one. I’ve never written books where I could hear the characters speaking so clearly. But the really weird thing was that I could hear HER characters.
Linda: The strangest thing about this series, for me, is that Lori’s characters — especially the heroes — were as crystal clear to me as my own. And they were from the beginning. We could have dialogue with NO tags, and I could tell you who was speaking.
Lori: We should try that as a parlor game. I felt the same way. I’ve had readers ask me if I wrote all the books because they couldn’t believe that two different authors could write such consistent characters across six books. But, no, Linda wrote hers; I wrote mine. We did read each others’ books and offer suggestions, though I don’t really remember suggesting much if anything.
Linda: Whenever you’re writing a series with someone else, time and other existing contracts are always issues. I actually wrote Sullivan, book 2, and sent the rough draft to Lori before she wrote Reese, book 1. We continued that way throughout, with me writing the last book before she wrote Nate. I always saw her rough draft before I finished my books, so I could add in details I didn’t know when I wrote that first draft.
Lori: This worked out for the best since I knew where I was headed before I started the book. I’d already been there while reading Linda’s book. A happy accident that turned into the best way of doing things. If we ever write more Rock Creek books, I’d want to do them exactly the same way.
Linda: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally have all six books available for purchase again! Love these guys, all six of them. 🙂
Lori: Me too. They’re like family. 🙂
We miss westerns. Do you? Are there any other kinds of romance novels you can’t get enough of? Or that there don’t seem to be enough of? Like Pirates! We miss Pirates.
We’re giving away one copy of each of these newly released e-books. Leave a comment to get your name in the ten gallon hat.