Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Flower power

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

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.

Polyculture and companion planting: flowers amongst the vegetables

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.

Cardinal, Argynnis pandora

The sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and purple coneflowers (both Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia) have been attracting many bees.

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

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.

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)

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.

Chamomile flowers (Chamomilla recutita)

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around attempts by the pharmaceutical industry and other ‘authorities’ to appropriate all matters concerning your health, it’s become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions and experience of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for ‘professional’ medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice or treatment recommendations, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

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