Herb of 2008: Calendula

Herb of 2008: Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

However you refer to it:

  • Calendula
  • Mary’s Gold
  • pot marigold
  • poor man’s saffron

…intriguing legends and herbal history surround this plant.

Calendula offers beauty with flowers varying colors and shapes.

This herb also beautifully multi-tasks, offering many uses:

  1. as a lovely addition to tussie-mussies
  2. for exceptional color and flavor in cooking
  3. blending brightly into a handmade potpourri from the garden trims
  4. and use in medicine, through the ages

Part of the fun of knowing about the chosen “Herb of the Year,” is learning more about it herbal legend, lore and many uses.

Here is an online guide by the Herb Society of America, designed to provide an overview of the cultivation, chemistry, botany, history, folklore and uses of Calendula.


Lemon Balm is Official Herb of 2007

Lemon Balm  Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) is a lemon-scented member of the mint family. A native to southern Europe, it is a perennial that will over-winter in hardiness zones 4 to 5.  

As it grows, the lemon balm plant develops multiple branches, growing to a height of about two feet. Leaves are often 2 to 3 inches long, oval to almost heart shaped, shiny and wrinkled texture with scalloped edges. Small light blue to white flowers appear in late spring through midsummer.


Lemon balm has a delicate lemon scent and flavor. It is often used as a culinary, cosmetic and medicinal herb.


Fresh sprigs are used as garnishes for cold drinks and on salads and main dishes.


Fresh or dried leaves make a refreshing iced or hot tea.


Dried leaves are used as an ingredient in potpourri.


Lemon balm essential oil is used in aromatherapy and in creating perfumes.



And more Home Gardening Info


More Horticultural and Plant Use Info


Medicinal Uses for Lemon Balm


History, Cultivation and Medical Uses


My favorite lemon balm recipe and an herbal leaflet for you.

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Final Part of VII

Potpourri        Displaying and Enjoying Your Decorative Potpourri


Best shown off in open containers, dry-method potpourris may be both an aromatic and a decorative touch to your surroundings. When properly blended, these fragrant mixtures retain delicate colors and scents of the plant materials used. As such an accessory, coordinate the container with the room, furnishings, and overall scheme. Suitable containers for displaying potpourri are virtually limitless, and many are already somewhere in your home!  Some ideas: baskets, bottles, bowls, jars, pottery, shells, vases.

Inspirations for creative displays: layer potpourri in varied bands in glass jars; place potpourri in a silk flower-filled vase; incorporate miniatures to create a theme or scene in a chosen container.      

Make small sachets with the potpourri blend: as lovely enclosures in gifts and cards, these make them more special; also tuck under furniture cushions. 

Spicy Potpourri: add dried apples and/or orange slices, or decorative (non-edible) gingerbread cutouts to your potpourri blend.

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part VI of VII

Potpourri     Special Hints for Making Potpourri:


*Do NOT use any plastic bowls, jars, or utensils, as they absorb and retain odors.

*Do NOT use wooden spoons, as they absorb oils and fragrance.

*Do NOT use kitchen equipment to mix potpourri, returning it to kitchen afterward,.for safety.

*Use amber or dark glass jars for storing potpourri, while aging.

*Using two small bottles (up to about 4oz size), add high quality grain alcohol, using one to clean the eye droppers, to remove any traces of oil.

*If using essential oils (not fragrance oils), when the alcohol is changed in the small jars used for previously for cleaning, adjust alcohol with addition of desired essential oil, to make a cologne! .


CAUTION:  Orris root and orris root powder are commonly-used fixatives in potpourri formulas. Orris root, and the very finely powdered orris root may cause allergic reactions. Great caution in handling this material in blending, as well as the finished potpourri is recommended.

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part V of VII

Potpourri     Creating Potpourri Blends


A potpourri may also be created beginning with a base blend, a complete potpourri in its own right, with a predominating scent (ie, citrus, floral, herb, spice, woody, etc.). In this case, botanicals are added for color and texture, for eye appeal. The formula for this type of potpourri:


“Scented Base” + Fixative + Essential Oils/Fragrance Oils + Botanicals for Color/Fragrance = Finished Potpourri



           Blending Essentials


No special or expensive equipment is necessary to make potpourri, however it is recommended the supplies you use to mix and store be dedicated just to this process:


Glass or glazed ceramic bowls for mixing potpourri blends

Glass or stainless steel measuring cups

Stainless steel spoons, for mixing 

Glass jars with tight-fitting lids to store potpourri while aging (recommend non-reactive lids)

Eyedroppers, for adding essential oils to potpourri blends

Mortar and pestle, to crush or bruise seeds

Blender, grain mill, spice grinder or coffee-type mill (thoroughly cleaned, if ever previously used)

A small sharp knife for slicing

Stainless skewers, to pierce fruit for pomanders

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part IV of VII

Potpourri      Decorative Potpourri


Blending fragrant combinations of botanicals to make one predominant scent — or mood is the goal. Always concoct potpourris in a well-ventilated place, so that you will not be overcome by the overwhelming scents! 


When mixing a potpourri from a recipe or formula, always measure and weigh botanicals, beginning with the heaviest materials: barks, roots, spices; then add the lighter, more delicate flowers and leaves for texture, by gently combining and stirring, to combine. Adding the fixative which helps to hold the fragrance, generally calculated at 15-25%, based on weight of the blend, is the next step. Using an eyedropper, add 1/2 essential oils called for in the formula, stirring and analyzing the fragrance — is more needed to achieve the desired scent? Adjust accordingly.


When blending is completed, place potpourri in a glass container with a non-reactive lid. Store potpourri in a cool, dry, dark place for two weeks. This aging process allows all the different fragrances in the potpourri to blend. Remember: you cannot ruin a potpourri blend — alter the fragrance by adding more botanicals and/or oils.

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part III of VII

Potpourri        Simmering Potpourri


Designed originally for use on woodstoves, simmering potpourris used in this way, help fragrance and add moisture to the air. Most often this type of potpourri is placed in electric simmering crockpots or candle-heated simmer pots. Usually, simmering potpourris can be reused more than once, if drained and allowed to air dry after use; add water again, to repeat process.


With a few adjustments in botanical selections, simmering potpourri is made in the same way as decorative blends. Selected mainly for fragrance: flowers, fragrant seeds, herbs, spices, essential oils are used. 

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part II of VII

Potpourri     Potpourri: A Beautiful Blend


Potpourri is a blend of fragrant botanical materials comprised of barks, flowers, gums, resins, roots, seeds, and woods, which if properly blended, and the scent is allowed to fully develop before setting out, will retain its fragrance for months. Great personal gifts for friends, home uses for potpourri are endless — scenting closets, cupboards, stationery; adding a scented touch to any room, displayed in baskets, bowls, or other containers. Some special blends repel moths.


There are two methods to prepare potpourri:


The dry method is a blend of  crisp, dry, scented botanical materials, combined for scent as well as appearance.


The moist method: includes fresh scented materials, which ferment in crocks for a period of weeks, before setting out.

Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part I of VII

Potpourri       Crafting with Botanicals: Potpourri 

Another way to enjoy the harvest of your garden, yard, and other wildcrafted findings, hand-blended potpourris add another dimension to everyday life, make your surroundings truly ‘scent-imental’…



      Herbal Legend and Lore: Fragrant Beginnings


Use of fragrance and botanical materials dates back to 6,000 BC, as evidenced by the excavated tombs in ancient Egypt, records kept recounting trade routes and practices and archeological discoveries in cities of long ago. Reserved primarily for religious rituals in the temple, aromatic annointing oils, incense, and scented unguents were created by Egyptian priests.


The oldest and most reliable account of world history, the Bible, recounts the use of herbs, spices, incense and annointing oils. The Hebrews learned the use of perfume products from the Egyptians, burning incense with their sacrifices, and using annointing oils as part of their rituals. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslums, Shintoists, incorporate scents into their ceremonies, rituals and worship.


Cleopatra (1st century, BC), used fragrance extravagantly, was skilled and knowledgeable about their allure. Famous for extravagance, Roman emperors had saffron spraying from fountains, and used as a strewing herb — imagine the fragrance! Nero (1st century, AD) had flowers raining from his state dining room ceiling, with silver pipes hidden in the walls, which sprayed perfume on guests.


Between 11th to14th centuries, the use of fragrant botanicals spread to Europe and
England. Much of this “new” knowledge and practices were brought home by the Crusaders. Regular trade routes were were established, and these fragrant materials were traded in Arabia, Assyria, China, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Persia, and
Rome. Wars broke out, in order to protect or obtain these invaluable trade routes.


Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603), enjoyed fresh-strewn herbs and retained a woman on salary, to provide in-season materials. Additionally, she hired a husband-wife “team” to prepare her distillations. Techniques of distillation and enfluerage were well-known, by this time in herbal history, and an industrious woman could establish a garden, dry materials for sachets and potpourri, distill toilet waters and essences from garden-grown fragrant materials. Essential oils were extracted from plants, more delicate flowers were steeped in oil or wine, to release their scents. Use of pure alcohol to create perfumes was not a practice yet.


Perfumed oils were used in bathing rituals, as soap was nonexistant. The ritual: after soaking in a hot bath, oils were massaged on, then scraped, along with dirt and impurities, leaving a fragrance. These fragrances acted as detergents, deodorant and insecticides!


Herbal extracts were used not only for bathing, but also home keeping – furniture and floor polishing, strewn herbs to deter pests, and as fragrant seats. Herbs chosen for these applications:  basil, chamomile, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, rue, sage, southernwood, sweet flag, tansy, thyme, woodruff, wormwood.


From the early days of herbal history, herbs were used for medicinal purposes. To prevent disease, often pomanders were made up of various herbs, such as: ambergris, benzoin, cassia, cloves, musk, and orris.

Create A Scent-imental Home Using Herbs & Flowers

Vic VioletsnRoses       Use the herbs and flowers from your garden in new ways! 

Fresh herbal arrangements add a special touch to the dinner table.

Tie sprigs onto napkins with a pretty bow or simple raffia.

Fresh cut flowers and herbal bouquets make a simple, thoughtful gift.

Save the herb stems after you strip off the leaves to be used. Let the stems dry; bundle them up and set them near the fireplace, to add an herbal aroma to your winter fires — or — use them when you grill out, for a flavorful touch.

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