Gardening Folk Lore

Achillea

A carpenter's dream is not a large tool but a member of the aster family, known as the achillea. It is said to instantly heal all wounds caused by carpenter's tools.

I would reckon that this folklore goes back to long before electric tools. I can't imagine a simple flower healing a leg severed by a chain saw.

Beans

Do you remember the ditty we all sang as a child? Beans, beans, are good for your heart, you know the rest.

Well, from the stories that I've come across this may not necessarily be true. The sweet-smelling bean flower was associated with death and ghosts. The souls of the dead are said to dwell in a bean field. With this thought in mind, do not sleep in a bean field in Leicestershire for it is said to cause insanity.

Haven't you ever seen 'Children Of The Beanfield'? But if you find that you must sleep in a bean field, put a bean in your mouth before you enter and spit it at the first witch that you see!

Bulrush (Cat Tails)

The Irish say that bulrushes (or cat-tails) are brown at the top because they were cursed by St. Patrick.

They are collected on St. Bride's Eve (January 31) and hung over doorways in Ireland. Again, if their patron saint cursed them, why do they receive this treatment?

Plus, in Cheshire, rushes were used to get rid of warts while in Devon they used them to cure thrush in babies.

Caraway

And how about a new use for caraway seeds. Forget your baking, girls!

Put a few caraway seeds in your man's pocket for it is said to prevent him from straying.

Chicory

Here's a good one for all the wannabe thieves of the world. Cut a piece of chicory in silence (with a golden knife, of course) on St. James' Day (that would be July 25th for any heathen thieves out there).

This is said to render the person invisible but beware for if a word is spoken by the cutter at any point, he or she will die!

Clover

Now I've always heard that four leaf clovers were a sign of good luck but what I didn't realize was that they are also said to give the possessor the power to detect witches, to see fairies and be protected from all evil.

I always carry a 4-leaf clover in my wallet but, unfortunately, I've encountered more than one witch in my lifetime, have never seen a fairy and you just have to turn on the news to encounter evil of all sorts.

Daffodils

In some parts of England it is thought to be unlucky to have daffodils in the house. If so, then why is it that daffodils and spring-time go hand-in-hand?

Throughout England the land is yellow, yellow everywhere in April. Who planted all those flowers if they are so unlucky? Or are they okay if they are kept outside?

Hawthorn

Unless you wish to be taken into the unknown and mystic fairy world, you shouldn't sit under a hawthorn tree in May. It is said that if you do, the fairies will gain power over you.

On May Day, if you fasten a hawthorn on a cowshed you will be assured of an enormous milk supply. In Lancashire, a hawthorn spray hung over a door indicated scorn; rowan — affection; holly — folly; briar — a liar; and plum in bloom — married soon.

Hazel

Hazel was and still is the choice for water diviners as it is believed that the forked stick of hazel trembles when water is nearby. Plus, I should think the hazel would be a better choice than the metal rods that you can buy for outrageous prices at souvenir shops.

Until the 16th century a hazel branch was also used to detect thieves. A hazel band worn across the breast of your horse would protect him from fairies. It was said to have worked on horses, but I wonder about the effect with humans?

A double hazel nut carried in your pocket could prevent toothaches; leaves eaten by cows would bring an increase in milk; small hazel twigs will protect a house from lightning and they can save a person from shipwreck if worn at sea.

Hemlock

If hemlock is so very poisonous, why then do deer nibble on low hemlock boughs during the winter? I remember eating venison that was very gamey tasting and was told that it was because the deer had to resort to eating hemlock during the long, snowy winters.

On a similar note, in times past criminals who were to be executed were often forced to drink a 'tea' made from hemlock.

Horse Chestnuts

We all have come to know and love the horse chestnut. Its hard, shiny seeds are used by children for the game of Conkers. But did you also know that if you steal or beg a seed and then carry it on you, it was considered a charm to ward off rheumatism?

Ivy

Ivy was originally thought to be a feminine symbol because of its clinging habit.

If it grew on the walls of a house, the occupants were considered safe from witches but if it withered away and died, that meant impending disaster.

Corns were cured by binding them with ivy leaves soaked in vinegar and at the time of the Great Plague of London in 1665, a vinegar made from ivy berries was thought to be a fantastic remedy.

Juniper

Smoke from a juniper fire was thought to keep the demons away and was continually burned during outbreaks of plague.

To dream of a juniper tree was considered quite unlucky but, funnily enough, if you dreamed of its berries it was thought to be the foretelling of a coming success or the birth of an heir.

Lady Smock and Lady Mantle

Lady Smock was a traditional plant of the fairies and was considered unlucky to have in the house.

Lady Mantle was used to induce sleep and dewdrops gathered from its folded leaves were highly sought after as a beauty lotion. I'll have to see if I buy that down at my local Body Shop!

Lavender

Have you ever wonder why the zoos seem to plant lavender all around the lion and tiger cages? Well, wonder no longer, the lovely scented lavender was said to make them docile.

I still think that I would rather not walk into their den with a posy of lavender.

Mandrake

This was a plant literally filled with plenty of magick. If you could manage to dig it up. That was the problem — it seems that this was a very dangerous operation, indeed.

The best solution was thought to be to tie a dog to the root, put a dish of fresh meat down a small distance away and then let the dog do the dirty deed.

The only problem here was that allegedly the horrific shriek of the plant as it was being uprooted killed the dog instantly.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe has been a famous plant dating back to the time of the first Druids. To guard against witchcraft, you cut a sprig with a new dagger after walking three times around an oak tree on Halloween. Sure enough, it works every time!

The North American Indians made a mistletoe tea and used it to treat measles, toothache and dog bites.

Moles with a Touch of Garlic

Do you have pesky moles in your garden? Well, Garlic will relieve you of the little critters as it will draw them out of the ground. OK — it draws them out, but what next? Do you have to sit there patiently with a club waiting for the pests to come out? Then, whap! Gotcha! Nah, they just leg it — sort of like mini vampires!

I have also heard that it has many healing powers including being good for the heart. But this next one was news to me: garlic is universally regarded as an aphrodisiac. Have you ever kissed someone with garlic breath? Love doesn't come to mind for me, but a dose of mouthwash and a good tooth-brushing does!

Moneywort

Moneywort is a plant that all carpenters should keep at hand, for it was said to be able to open locks and had the power to draw out nails.

Motherwort

And now that we're on to 'worts' — Motherwort must be the drink of 'the Mother-in-law from Hell'. Why? Read on.

'Drink Motherwort and live to be a source of continuous astonishment and grief to waiting heirs'.

Myrtle

Perhaps it has been forgotten that myrtle's old tradition was to always be included in a bridal bouquet as it symbolized marital bliss.

With the rate of divorce steadily on the upraise, I reckon that myrtle should be made a mandatory item on the wedding check list!

Peas

Ah, peas, I knew there must be a purpose for those gross, green veggies! In Buckinghamshire they were used for wart removal. Just touch the wart with a green pea, then wrap the pea in a bit of paper and bury it. As the pea decays, the warts disappear.

Peony

The peony was used as a cure for epilepsy, lunacy and nightmares but the root had to gathered by a dog. Then, you guessed it, poor ole Spot bites the big one.

Poppy

The poppy is the plant of sleep because of its opium content. But did you know that if held to the ear, it can bring on an earache, to the temple a headache or to the eyes even blindness? The morale of this story is smell but do not listen to the life pouring out of its red blossom. Strangely enough, it was also used to cure earaches, insomnia and toothaches.

Primrose

Primroses were widely used against witches, and children ate the flowers if they wanted to see a fairy. Hmmm I wonder if they are in the poppy family?

Want a sure-fire way of remaining young? Make a box out of rosemary wood and take an occasional sniff.

Rowan

A rowan tree had a great reputation for magick and protection. Everything from cradles to crossbeams to necklaces and thatch contained rowan to keep all safe from evil.

Rue

Rue was considered a great medicinal cure if picked in the morning, but poisonous if picked later in the day.

It was used as a cure for snakebites and it was also said that weasels ate rue before attacking a snake. Oh yes, and it was also used for convulsions and to stop people from talking in their sleep.

Sage

Sage was said to grow best for a wise person and even better in a household where a woman ruled. Paranoid men in such homes were known to cut down a sage plant so they wouldn't get ribbed by their neighbors.

It was also considered a cure for ague but only if it was eaten for seven mornings — and then before breakfast!

The plant withers very slowly, therefore it was used on graves as a sign of remembrance.

St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort has many rituals associated with it. It was used to ward off witches and ghosts. Its powers were at their greatest at midsummer and it was considered best to gather it on St. John's Eve while still covered in dew.

Now if a single girl did this, she was sure to be married within a year. If a childless wife walked naked while she did this, she would could expect to be pregnant within a year.

It was thought to be extremely dangerous to step on the growing plant, else a fairy horse may rise up and carry you off to fairyland!

Saxifrage

Fresh saxifrage root was thought to make freckles disappear and was also used as a cure for toothache. I must confess that I find it quite funny that there were so many toothache cures yet everyone had rotten or no teeth at all!

Scabious

You were to pick a scabious in West Cornwall if you wanted the Devil to appear at your bedside at night.

Sea Holly/Sea Weed

Sea holly was used to bring back an errant lover while sea weed was used to protect against fire.

Thyme

Thyme was associated with death and was also a symbol of strength. It is much loved by bees — and fairies!

Valerian

Valerian was often used as an aphrodisiac.

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