One of the most rewarding aspects of starting to explore polyculture and companion planting in the new raised beds have been the effects of growing flowers – both ones we’ve planted and ones that grew themselves – amongst the vegetables. It’s not just the visual impact of so much colour in the garden. All summer long, the garden has been full of butterflies and bees.
Butterflies here are numerous both in number and variety, but now, instead of rushing to capture them on camera as they pass, the yurt is surrounded by a cloud of them every sunny day. Those that were fleeting visitors or hard to photograph last year have been in such profusion that it almost didn’t even occur to me to bother.
The Cardinal (Argynnis pandora) for instance. It shows a marked preference for the Tagetes species of marigolds and has been a constant presence for the last 6 weeks at least.
The sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and purple coneflowers (both Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia) have been attracting many bees.
We have also been able to use some of the flowers medicinally. A herbal eye wash made using the flowers of the pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) and chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) proved very effective for ‘pink-eye’ or summer conjunctivitis.
Here is the recipe:
Herbal Eye Wash *
One fresh flower head of Calendula officinalis
Several fresh flower heads and a few leaves of Chamomilla recutita
One small teaspoon dried leaves of Camellia sinensis (ie. tea! – a tea bag will do nicely)
A few drops (6-8) of apple cider vinegar
Around 250ml boiling water
Put the flowers and tea into a small bowl and pour about 250ml of boiling water onto them. Cover, and allow to cool naturally. Add the apple cider vinegar. Strain, bottle and keep refrigerated if possible. It will last a couple of days unrefrigerated.
To use, soak a cotton wool pad and use both to clean crusts and discharge from eye(s) on waking or to bathe eye(s) through the day. Use a separate pad for each eye.