Gardener’s Magic: Five Practical (Magic) Tips for Bookish Gardeners

In honor of Gifts of the Garden Month, each week in May I will be highlighting the gifts of books and gardens. My two favorite worlds collide! Join me each Thursday to celebrate the wonders of pages and flowers.

Books make me grateful for far off worlds. Gardens make me grateful for the one I live in. They say to plant a garden is to believe in the future. To read books is to be prepared for it. Doing both? Well, it sounds to me like a recipe for success.

My first herb garden was an old tin wash tub with holes drilled in the bottom. I filled it with basil and mint and rosemary and several other herbs I knew little to nothing about except that they smelled divine. It didn’t do particularly well, probably the plants were too crowded and the tub too small and I likely forgot to water it a few days of the scorching Georgia summer. Still, every summer after that, I planted pots of flowers and herbs. I didn’t get really successful until this year, but it took every failed attempt for me to learn how to make the beautiful garden I have this year. And I’m still learning.

This month is Gifts of the Garden Month, and to celebrate, I went to my shelves and picked out books that made me think of my garden, some obvious and others more subtle, and I’m excited to share them with you over the next few weeks.

img_5020This week’s pick is Gardener’s Magic and Other Old Wives’ Lore by Bridget Boland. I can’t remember where I got this little antique book, but the medieval illustrations are so charming and the wisdom is so fun that it became an instant favorite.

While I wouldn’t call myself a practicing witch, I am a little superstitious and, being an avid fantasy and magical realism reader, I am quite credulous. I keep all used matches in a jar and only get rid of them by burning them together in a fire. I talk to my plants and cats as if they know what I’m saying (and are interested). I like to find ways to incorporate a little magic in my life. This book fits the bill.

I’d like to share with you some of my favorite pieces of practical magic from Gardener’s Magic.

  • Parsley should only be grown from seed and never moved, because if you transplant your parsley, you run the risk of transplanting your spouse. Parlsey takes forever to germinate as seeds because it has to go to the devil nine times before it can grow.
  • No two colored animals should be allowed in the garden, as they bring bad luck, but two-colored birds don’t count. I wish someone would my sister’s black-and-white cat about this rule, so he will stop using the lavender bed as a litter box.
  • If you see a spider spinning a web in your garden, someone is plotting against you. In my case, I discovered a black widow in the strawberries when I noticed a web on the leaves, but I think she was my only nemesis. After she satisfied her aims by nearly making me black out from fear, she went on her way and I haven’t seen her, or evidence of anyone else plotting against me, since.
  • If you want to see ghosts, carry lavender. Its scent is so strong, and so often connected to people’s memories, that the spirits will manifest themselves when they smell it.
  • If you’re a lady of high birth, you’re like subject to a nervous condition. If so, steep some lavender in water and you’ll find yourself merry in no time. Alternately, students might put lavender in a cap in order to comfort the brain while studying.

I’ve always been a big fan of old wives’ tales. They can be funny or inventive or on the cusp of scientific discovery, or, as with most, just plain silly. Still, a lot of old wives’ tales went a long way to eventually prove scientific fact, which might not have otherwise been discovered if one curious soul, hearing a mother repeat a bit of folkloric wisdom, decided to see if it was really true.

img_4643Every Thursday morning, I go out to my garden and flower beds to pick weeds and trim dead bits and check to make sure the birds haven’t gotten away with all my strawberries or tomatoes or the snails haven’t made art in my vegetable leaves. It’s a calming and ritualistic task, and as I work, I can see how people thought it all had to do with magic. It’s wondrous to put tiny little seeds into the soil and watch them, day by day, grow into something large and magnificent and fruiting or flowering. It’s incredible and makes me really grateful and in awe of nature, and all her majesty.

I’m wishing you some flowers today, dear reader, and no pests in your gardens. Put a little lavender in your hat today to soothe that tried brain, and I’ll see you soon. Until next time, dear reader!


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