Tag Archives: England

New Historical Romance-Tempting Mr. Jordan by Marin McGinnis


Fellow Wild Rose Press Author Marin McGinnis is sharing her exciting new release–Tempting Mr. Jordan.

temptingmrjordan-historical-romance

Blurb:

After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.

Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.

But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.

dark red rose budExcerpt:

Cranberry Cove reminded Julia of home, her family’s estate in Durham, where ton rules were abandoned in favor of lazy days riding, reading, caring for her pets, or playing the piano. It occurred to her that she had not played in weeks. Her fingers itched to touch a keyboard, and she flexed her hands inside her calfskin gloves. She vowed to play soon. She thought she had seen a harpsichord in the drawing room of Maria’s enormous house.

Reaching the end of the little lane on which Maria lived, she took a right onto Main Street. It consisted of several houses similar to the one in which she was staying, so she turned left onto Maple Street, which was much more interesting. There was a green grocer, a bookseller, a milliner, a tailor, a blacksmith—everything one could want in a village. The streets were clean—much cleaner than London—and the air was crisp and fresh, even if it smelled ever so slightly of fish.

Julia was staring into the newspaper office—a badly written but oddly gripping tale about missing lobster traps was plastered to the window—when she was nearly knocked off her feet.

161147008“Oh, I beg your pardon!” She managed to right herself, wondering why she should be the one to apologize. She looked up into the hooded eyes of Geoffrey Jordan, who held a book in one hand. “Mr. Jordan!”

“Lady Julia.” He reached out to steady her, the touch of his hand on her arm causing a charge to shoot up her spine. “Please forgive me. Are you hurt?”

“Are you in the habit of running over tourists on your streets?” She freed her arm, flustered by her own reaction, and busied herself with adjusting her hat. When she regarded Mr. Jordan again, he was smirking.

“No, just the ones who stop in the middle of the street,” he said.

Julia opened her mouth to retort, but he held up a finger to silence her. “Nevertheless, I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. And the scintillating prose of our local newspaper could halt anyone in her tracks.”

red roseShe laughed. “It is not The Times, to be sure.”

His lips quirked up at the tips in something approaching a smile. Julia thought she hadn’t seen him do that before and found it oddly entrancing. “Where are you headed, Lady Julia?”

She forced herself to look away from his lips. “Um. Nowhere in particular. I was in need of a walk after luncheon, so I thought I would explore a bit.”

“The Universalist church, just around the corner, is particularly beautiful, and you will need to sample lobster from the establishment run by the Maclays, on the pier. It will melt in your mouth.”

The way he looked at her as he made the remark made her own mouth dry. Her cheeks burned.

“Um. Yes. That sounds lovely.” She gazed down at her feet until she collected herself. Raising her head, she found herself caught in his sights. She swallowed nervously. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Jordan, I really must get back. Constance will be wondering where I’ve got to.” She brushed past him, her shoulder tingling at the contact with his arm.

roses“Lady Julia?” His tone was vaguely amused.

She stopped and turned to face him. “Yes, Mr. Jordan?”

His thin lips turned up at the corners again, and he pointed behind him. “I believe your house is that way.”

“Oh. Yes. Of course.” She willed herself not to stumble as she passed him, at least not until she’d cleared the corner.

Buy Links:

The Wild Rose PressAmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesKobo, and Bookstrand.

Social Media Links

Website: http://marinmcginnis.com

Blog: http://marinmcginnis.com/blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarinMcG

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarinMcGinnis  (@MarinMcGinnis)

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12256384.Marin_McGinnis

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00S03YY60

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marinmcginnis/

marinmcginnisAuthor Bio:

A northeast Ohio native, Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page. She’s dabbled with writing for a long time, but didn’t start writing in earnest until she discovered historical romance about a decade ago. Marin has three historical romance titles published with The Wild Rose Press, and is a member of RWA and its Northeast Ohio, Hearts Through History, and Kiss of Death chapters. She will serve as President of the Northeast Ohio RWA chapter in 2017. Marin lives in a drafty 100 year old house with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete.

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” ~ Jane Austen


Apple BlossomsWith a foot of snow on the ground and near zero temps, this seems an apt time for an excerpt from my new herbal, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. The kindle version is out now; daughter Elise is formatting the print book. Lots of images to fit in. And now–apples. Bet you didn’t know they belonged in an herbal.

The history and lore behind apples is fascinating. And we all know what Johnny Appleseed thought vital to plant in America. The thing that most struck me in reading about apples, is how the history of the apple is closely linked with the history of man. From the earliest times, wherever people went, the apple went, and is associated with peace and a gentler life. If folk settled down, built a cottage and planted apple trees, that spoke to domesticity and disinterest in warfare. Maybe more people should plant them today. I do. And then all hold hands and sing the Johnny Appleseed Blessing to help bring about world peace.

AppleBack to apples. These early cultivars weren’t the sweet fruit we know today, but much smaller and tarter. In the Middle Ages, most apples were made into cider. By Shakespeare’s day, the new varieties were referred to as ‘dessert apples’ and served accompanied by caraway. Apples were probably introduced into Britain by the Romans and have a long history of use there. In the Scottish Highlands, the crabapple tree is the badge of the Lamont clan.

(Image of Cox’s Orange Pippin, an old heirloom apple)

From A Modern Herbal: “The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids. These acids are of benefit to persons of sedentary habits, who are liable to liver derangements, and they neutralize the acid products of gout and indigestion. (You don’t want a deranged liver).

A knight, his lady, and an appleApple cookery is very early English: Piers Ploughman mentions ‘all the povere peple’ who ‘baken apples broghte in his lappes’ and the ever popular apple pie was no less esteemed in Tudor times than it is today, only our ancestors had some predilections in the matter of seasonings that might not now appeal to all of us, for they put cinnamon and ginger in their pies and gave them a lavish colouring of saffron. The original  pomatum seems to date from the herbalist Gerard’s days (1545-1612), when an ointment for roughness of the skin was made from apple pulp, swine’s grease, and rosewater. The Apple will also act as an excellent dentifrice.”

(Image of a knight, his lady, and an apple)

flowering crabapple April 2011 246From The Family Herbal: “The juice is cooling, and is good externally used in eruptions on the skin, and in diseases of the eyes, where a sharp humour is troublesome.”

(Crab apple in our yard)

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~Martin Luther

What to do when you’re Elf-shot–Herbal Lore


AgrimonyAgrimony:  Used from ancient times to treat many ailments and injuries, it’s also reputed to have magical properties.

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:

“Agrimony is found in dry grassy places in most areas except the northwest of Scotland. The Gaelic name of this plant, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft on Arran in 1716, admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people.” (Apparently a common affliction). “Ferguson was guided in his treatment by a voice heard while sleeping, which instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

***Elf-shot are those persons or animals who have fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Lady's_Mantle_Alchemilla_vulgaris

Another powerful herb for protection is Lady’s Mantle, found in meadows throughout Scotland (and my garden when it’s happy).

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin

“The large leaves collect drops of morning dew and it was a widespread tradition to use this pure water for a refreshing face wash.

It was a powerful remedy for domestic animals that had fallen ill after being shot by malevolent elves. Water containing juice from the plant was both sprinkled on the sick beast and given it to drink.”

agrimony, Herb, acrimony, Herbal Plant, Herbal Medicine,More on Agrimony From A Modern Herbal:

The plant is found abundantly throughout England,. In Scotland it is more local and does not penetrate very far northward. (It also grows in America)

Agrimony has an old reputation as a popular, domestic medicinal herb, being a simple well-known to all country-folk. It belongs to the Rose order of plants, and its slender spikes of yellow flowers, which are in bloom from June to early September, and the singularly beautiful form of its much-cut-into leaves, make it one of the most graceful of our smaller herbs.

The whole plant is deep green and covered with soft hairs, and has a slightly aromatic scent; even the small root is sweet-scented, especially in spring. The spikes of flowers emit a most refreshing and spicy odour like that of apricots. The leaves when dry retain most of their fragrant odour, as well as the flowers, and Agrimony was once much sought after as a substitute or addition to tea, adding a peculiar delicacy and aroma to its flavour. Agrimony is one of the plants from the dried leaves of which in some country districts is brewed what is called ‘a spring drink,’ or ‘diet drink,’ a compound made by the infusion of several herbs and drunk in spring time as a purifier of the blood.

Agrimony, Flower HerbThe long flower-spikes of Agrimony have caused the name of ‘Church Steeples’ to be given the plant in some parts of the country. It also bears the title of ‘Cockeburr,’ ‘Sticklewort’ or ‘Stickwort,’ because its seed-vessels cling by the hooked ends of their stiff hairs to any person or animal coming into contact with the plant.”

The whole plant yields a yellow dye: when gathered in September, the colour given is pale, much like that called nankeen; later in the year the dye is of a darker hue and will dye wool of a deep yellow. As it gives a good dye at all times and is a common plant, easily cultivated, it seems to deserve the notice of dyers.

History: The name Agrimony is from Argemone, a word given by the Greeks to plants which were healing to the eyes, the name Eupatoria refers to Mithridates Eupator, a king who was a renowned concoctor of herbal remedies. The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript:

‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed, He shal sleepyn as he were deed; He shal never drede ne wakyn,Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’ (That’s darn useful to know.)

agrimonyAgrimony was one of the most famous vulnerary herbs. (Vulnerary *is a plant used in the treatment of wounds). The Anglo-Saxons, who called it Garclive, taught that it would heal wounds, snake bites, warts, etc. In the time of Chaucer, when we find its name appearing in the form of Egrimoyne, it was used with Mugwort and vinegar for ‘a bad back’ and ‘alle woundes’: and one of these old writers recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages.”

*I have to stop right here and comment. Pounded frogs and human blood mixed with Agrimony for all internal hemorrhages. Hmmm…it wonders me, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say, whose blood we’re to mix in. Probably someone else’s. And what would the proportions of pounded frog be to the herb and blood?  No exact proportions given. Just a spoonful of this and a cup of that. I suspect it would take more than a spoonful of sugar to help that medicine go down.

I also like where the author goes on to say that Agrimony “has had a great reputation for curing jaundice and other liver complaints. Gerard believed in its efficacy. He says: ‘A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers.’” Got that?  It treats naughty livers.

Constituents: Agrimony contains a particular volatile oil, which may be obtained from the plant by distillation and also a bitter principle. It yields in addition 5 per cent of tannin, so that its use in cottage medicine for gargles and as an astringent applicant to indolent ulcers and wounds is well justified. Owing to this presence of tannin, its use has been recommended in dressing leather.

agrimony_herb_imgAgrimony is also considered a very useful agent in skin eruptions and diseases of the blood, pimples, blotches, etc. A strong decoction of the root and leaves, sweetened with honey or sugar, has been taken successfully to cure scrofulous sores, being administered two or three times a day, in doses of a wineglassful, persistently for several months. The same decoction is also often employed in rural districts as an application to ulcers.

Preparation: In North America, it is said to be used in fevers with great success, by the Indians and Canadians. In former days, it was sometimes given as a vermifuge, (*serving to expel worms and other parasites from the intestinal tract) though that use is obsolete. In the Middle Ages, it was said to have magic powers, if laid under a man’s head inducing heavy sleep till removed, but no narcotic properties are ascribed to it.

TinyFairyFrom Herb Magic.com: “AGRIMONY is an herb that is said to turn back jinxes that have already been made, roots that have already been laid, and curses that have already been cast. Combined with Slippery Elm Bark, it is said to break spells involving Slander and Lies…combined with Rue, it is said to send back the Evil Eye (Mal Occhio) even after the Eye has already taken effect. Combined with Salt, it is said to un-make Hexes and Witchcraft.”  They add, “We make no claims for AGRIMONY, and sell it as a Curio only.”

*I make no claims either and am only quoting from and commenting on what I’ve researched.

This is a terrific site: The Medieval Gardener:

Archery, Women, Medieval, Warrior, Female, Bow, Arrow, Middle Ages, Fighting, History, DressRegarding Agrimony it says: “This perennial with its tall yellow spires (to 24 inches) is a native European plant often found growing wild in the Middle Ages. Recorded in the inventories of Charlemagne’s gardens (but not in the Capitulare de Villis ) and the Anglo Saxon dictionary source of Aelfric, it was highly regarded for its general healing and magical powers and was believed by the Anglo Saxons to heal wounds, warts and snake bites. If laid under a pillow, they further believed it had magical powers to induce a deep sleep until removal. Another 14th century reference claims it for the treatment of back problems along with mugwort and vinegar. Agrimony was also used as a strewing herb and, bundled with rue, broom, maidenhair and ground ivy, was used to identify witches. Today we are aware of the tannin content of agrimony and use its lovely apricot scented dried flowers and leaves to make herbal teas as well as astringent infusions, and to attract bees in the garden.” ~ Contributed by B. F. Wedlake

Author Barbara Monajem and Her New May Day Mischief Romances–Beth Trissel


The_Magic_of_His_Touch_-_APR_2013_-_undoneI’m glad to have the very talented Barbara Monajem here to share her new romance releases with a fitting May Day Theme.  Plus she’s giving away a download of each title (kindle or nookbook) to someone who leaves her a comment. A win, win.

Barbara: I love celebrations that date back to ancient times, and May Day is no exception. My new novella duet is about one May Day custom that Beth didn’t mention in her post a few days ago. It’s a naughty custom which may never have existed; I don’t have a time machine (alas), so haven’t been able to ascertain that one way or another. (But I hope it did.) I chose it for my May Day Mischief duet because novellas in the Harlequin Undone line have to be a little bit racy. I thought rolling naked in the dew to call one’s true love to one’s side qualified perfectly. What do you think?

dew on grassBeth: Wow, this one got past me in my research. Definitely grabs the imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if the custom did exist. May Day has many romantic associations, and some are on the wilder side. *Dewy grass for anyone who cares to roll in it 🙂

Barbara: Here are the blurbs and excerpts from the two novellas, The Magic of His Touch and Bewitched by His Kiss. I hope you enjoy them!

The Magic of His Touch (May Day Mischief, Book 1)

England, 1804

Tired of being paraded before every eligible bachelor, Peony Whistleby decides it’s time to find her true love—through the ancient custom of rolling naked in the dew on May Day morning. But the magic goes awry when she is caught in the act—and by an entirely unsuitable man. And yet, the way his eyes linger upon her flesh ignites a sensual craving that can only be satisfied by his touch…

***The Magic of His Touch buy links: AmazonB&NHarlequin:

Bewitched by His Kiss (May Day Mischief, Book 2)

England, 1804

Lucasta Barnes knows the folly believing in magic can lead to—and she won’t accept that her illicit tryst with a notorious rake was the result of anything more than pure lust. Or that it has bonded them together forever. Yet, she can’t deny that she yearns for just one more night in his arms…

David, Earl of Elderwood, is known as an enchanter of women, but ever since a passionate encounter with Lucasta three years ago, he desires only her. How can he convince his thoroughly practical paramour that love is the greatest magic of all?

***Bewitched by His Kiss buy links:

AmazonBarnes and NobleHarlequin:

The_Magic_of_His_Touch_-_APR_2013_-_undoneExcerpt from The Magic of His Touch

“Get up! Get dressed!”

Peony froze in mid-roll. A strange man bounded toward her, gesturing, his voice low but urgent. She scrambled to her feet, a shriek catching in her throat.

“I won’t hurt you,” he said, but he kept on coming. Her heart clambering into her gullet, she tried to cover herself with her hands.

“Who— What—” She couldn’t get a word out.

“Don’t stand there like an idiot, girl! I already know what you look like naked.” A blush crowded up her neck and burned her cheeks. “Get your clothes on, and be quick about it.” With brisk, shooing motions he herded her toward the hawthorn where she’d left her shift and gown.

Anger swelled up, overcoming her fear. How dare he order her about? “Go away,” she said, hating how her voice trembled as she fled before him. “What are you doing here? You have no right.” A little way round the circle of meadow, she spied a horse, cropping the grass at the edge of the wood.

richard-armitag“You should be thankful I’m here,” he said, stopping several feet away when she reached the hawthorn. “I don’t know what foolishness you’re up to, but clearly your lover isn’t coming, and—”

“No, because you spoiled everything,” she said. Her hair had fallen out of its ribbon and stuck wetly to her face. She clawed it away, wanting to hit him. Her chance at finding love was gone. “Go away!

He folded his arms and just stood there, scowling—and looking at her as if, underneath that frown, he was enjoying himself. “Not until you put your clothes on and be off home where you belong.”

Another flush overwhelmed her, this time of shame and misery, as she realized what he meant. He thought she’d come out here to tryst with some likely village lad, as if she were a scullery maid. And who was he, anyway? She’d never seen him before. He was dressed like a gentleman and spoke like one, too, but he didn’t belong here.

“Who gave you the right to order me about?” she demanded. “This is private land.”

His eyes widened. “You silly little fool, I’m trying to protect you. I traveled here with a friend. To him, a naked woman is a blatant invitation. You’re lucky it’s I who came upon you and not he.”

She grabbed her shift and turned it right side out. “Stop staring at me.”

“You’re a beautiful girl without any clothes on,” he said. “I wouldn’t be much of a man if I didn’t stare.”

Bewitched_by_His_Kiss_-_MAY_2013_-_undoneExcerpt from Bewitched by His Kiss:

Setup: It’s late at night, and Lucasta, our heroine, fears that her cousin Peony has gone rolling naked in the dew again. She bumps into Lord Elderwood on the way out to check on her.

“Shall we go verify that Peony is safe?” Lord Elderwood’s voice was a silky dare.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lucasta retorted. “Alexis is a gentleman through and through.” Unlike Elderwood, who would take advantage of a woman with or without clothing. She remembered leaving the future to fate and shivered. No, this meeting was pure chance. Nothing else.

That didn’t stop every nerve in her body from coming alive and afire.

The path through the wood appeared like magic. No, not magic—just luck that they’d found it easily in the dark. She hastened onward. “But for her safety, I must make certain he is with her.”

Elderwood laughed. From ahead came a startled squeak, stifled immediately. Urgent whispers stretched toward them, ghostly and unintelligible. Peony was talking to someone, but she didn’t sound frightened, and she hadn’t had time to disrobe. It must truly be Alexis, thank heavens. He was a reassuring sort of man. He would convince her to keep her clothes on. He would make sure she returned to the house safely.

Elderwood laughed again. “Come now, my love. Tell the truth. Don’t you want to know what Alexis is doing with your cousin?”

“Damn you,” she said too loudly, whirling back toward the orchard. She lowered her voice. “Stop laughing, for God’s sake. Have you no discretion?”

A muffled snort came from directly behind her. He must be close enough to touch her and intending to do so.

“Stupid question,” she muttered. She was at his mercy, or rather at the mercy of her own rampaging desires. She hurried forward, clutching the pistol close so he couldn’t get it, but suddenly the path petered into nothing. She must have mistaken the way in the dark; she dodged the other direction, around a massive oak she’d passed on the way in.

birch_treesBlocked again, this time by a wall of undergrowth and a closed rank of trees. She whirled again and stumbled.

Lord Elderwood caught her. “Dear, dear,” he said. “Are we lost?”

“Where did the path go?” she burst out. “It was right here. I’m sure of it.”

“And now it isn’t,” Elderwood said, one arm strong around her, the other plucking the muff pistol from her hand.

She moaned. “That makes no sense at all.”

He took her chin in his hands and tipped it up. His eyes seemed to glow in the darkness. “It does, if you believe in magic.”

Beth: Thanks so much for sharing these tantalizing snippets, Barbara. Both these stories look super and a lot of fun. *I couldn’t resist adding the image of Richard Armitage who seems suited for the part.

***Winner announced on Monday evening, so you have several days to leave a comment.

***Catch Barbara on her website at: http://www.barbaramonajem.com/

Herb Gardens of Colonial America and Williamsburg–Beth Trissel


monticello in spring


“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” ~Thomas Jefferson

As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.  ~John Adams

painted lady butterfly on catmint

I love old-fashioned gardens, particularly those with herbs. I grow many heirloom flowers and herbs, even included a lovely garden in my Colonial American historical romance novel set during the American Revolution, Enemy of the King. (For the post I did on the garden in the novel click here.)

apricot hollyhocks croppedHerbs and old-time flowers are in all my stories, more or less,  but back to the plants. (Image from our garden.  Photo by daughter Elise, as are all others taken of our garden from last year before the big wind tore through and knocked everything down. I’ll have to discover whether any of these heirloom apricot hollyhocks survived later this spring.)

Not only were the colonists acquiring native plants and the knowledge of their uses from American Indians, but they brought cherished plants with them from The Old World (seeds, rootstock).  By the mid to latter 1700′s, the variety of herbs and vegetables grown encompassed all those known to the Western World–or potentially could have.

The colonial kitchen garden was planted outside the back door, so these vital herbs were at the ready.  In addition to using the herbs fresh, many plants were bound together in bunches and hung upside down to dry from the kitchen rafters.  Dried roots were stored for later use. Tinctures and decoctions made from plant leaves and stems were administered in liquid form.

“Throughout colonial New England, on rural farms and in small villages, the dooryard was the focal point for many daily projects. Generally sited to receive the warm southern sun, and protected by the barn and other outbuildings from bitter northwest winds, this area was used for such activities as washing clothes, making soap and candles, chopping wood and processing meat.

The colonial woman’s dooryard garden, along with her larger vegetable gardens, was expected to provide many of the foods, flavorings, medicines and chemicals necessary for a largely self-sufficient household with little cash. Plants such as madder and woad were used to dye cloth, southernwood and pennyroyal served as insect repellents, basil and sage improved and sometimes masked the flavors of food. Since most households were isolated from medical care, herbs such as yarrow, angelica, feverfew and valerian were used to treat common ailments or aided in childbirth.”~

*For more on planting your own dooryard garden refer to the informative link above.~

I’ve read of tansy grown outside the back door to repel ants from coming into colonial homes.  Tansy is an attractive, robust herb with gold button flowers.  Be warned that it needs space, forming dense clumps. The sap attracts ants so maybe the idea is the ants cluster around the tansy and stay out of the house. Imagine the rich blend of fragrances in a colonial kitchen, the spicy scent of  dried herbs mingled with wood smoke from the hearth, the stew simmering in a big iron kettle and savory meat roasting over the flames. Delightful.  Also mentioned in my Colonial American romance novel as well as some herbal cures and treatments.

From: The Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg:

Colonists often mentioned what plants they were growing when they wrote to friends and relatives back home in Europe. Many of these letters survive and have served as a guide to planting the reconstructed gardens. Archaeologists have found seeds from some of the original plants in Williamsburg, and can do soil analysis to tell exactly what type of plant was grown in a particular spot. While most of the trees, shrubs and plants seen today in Williamsburg are authentic to the Colonial period, astute observers will notice an abundance of crepe myrtles, pruned as trees in the Southern tradition. That’s because John D. Rockefeller, who financed the restoration, loved crepe myrtles and wanted them in the restored city. And since he was paying the bills …”

“Many of Williamsburg’s gardens reflect the Dutch-English patterns, popular during the reign of William and Mary. This garden style, characterized by geometric symmetry within an enclosed space, was common in England in the late 17th and early 18th century. The emerging trend toward naturalistic gardens in contemporary England did not appeal to the settlers in Virginia, where a natural landscape did not need to be re-created. To them, a garden was nature tamed, trimmed and enclosed. Like many travelers, the colonists attempted to reproduce the homes they had left behind. Frequently they brought seeds of favorite plants and bulbs to rebuild a version of their old gardens. Garden paths were made of gravel, crushed oyster shells and bits of broken brick. Walkways paved with brick would have been too expensive.

Some favorite kitchen and medicinal herbs from Colonial America:

Basil, also called St. Josephwort, was grown for commercial use in Virginia before the American Revolution.

Used as a flavoring,  particularly in salads and soups, pea soup, the clove fragrance of basil improved the taste of foods.  Also a strewing herb.  And the leaves were dried for use in snuff  to relieve headaches and colds.  I love the fragrance and flavor of basil.  Several vintage varieties of basil are emerging from the newly seeded pots I sowed in the greenhouse a week ago. 

BEE BALM: 

(Image by daughter Elise)

Used for bee stings. Bee Balm is a member of the mint family. It is native to North America but colonists soon sent seeds to Europe for their friends to plant and enjoy. Tea brewed from its leaves was called Oswego tea and used as a substitute for china tea after the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

I am a big fan of bee balm, growing it with more or less success depending on the season.  The flowers really do attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  I set out new plants every year and have done so again this spring with high hopes that they will spread as they have done in the past but not so much in recent years. Too much drought, I suspect, even though I try to water.

CARAWAY: 

The roots were cooked and eaten like carrots, and the seeds chewed or added to cheese, fruit and baked goods.  Caraway seed is an aid to digestion. I’m not a fan of caraway.  No, not even a little bit, but included it for those of you who are, plus it’s historical.

(Image of colonial kitchen)

CATNIP:  

A tea brewed from the leaves was used to treat stomach ache and head colds. Catnip was also steeped in wine and imbibed that way. If a woman wanted to increase her fertility she might soak in a catnip sitz bath. Catnip will take over the garden if you let it, but I like the scent, and the plant, though kind of weedy, is appealing in full flower. Very cheery.

Of course, cats are big fans of catnip.They get quite intoxicated by the scent. Although this kitty seems rather relaxed. I have cats who literally roll on the catnip in the garden and nibble it. They also like the related herb catmint, pictured down below. I’ve grown catmint for years and the same plants are still there blooming faithfully each year, about late spring.       

Chamomile:

“Camomill is put to divers and sundry uses, both for pleasure and profit, both for the sick and the sound, in bathing to comfort and strengthen the sound and to ease the pain of the diseased.”~John Parkinson

Another herb commonly grown in Colonial Williamsburg was Chamomile, a lovely herb.  I grow both the lower ground cover variety and the annual reseeding kinds, known as Roman and German chamomile. In early summer the Roman chamomile forms a mat covered with daisy like flowers and the scent is delightful.  I clip off the faded flowers for regrowth and fresh blooms, but the best show is early on.

In early America, the flowers brewed into a tea were used to treat stomach complaints and dispel cold and aches.  A sugary syrup made with the flowers was thought to treat jaundice and dropsy.  Chamomile flowers in the bath are an aid to skin irritations.  It’s known as the gentle soothing herb. Chamomile is a strewing herb and insect repellent.  It’s also just darn cheerful.  A very happy herb to grow.  Lifts the spirits just to look at it and the fragrance is appealing, soothingly nice.

Chives:  

Who doesn’t like chives?  As long as you don’t get too carried away adding the chopped stems to food.  Chives flavored dishes and the flowers added color to arrangements in early America.  Onions and garlic figured prominently in treating many colonial ailments and were thought to offer protection from evil spirits.  I grow and like chives.  The purple blossoms are pretty in late spring.  I also grow a variety called garlic chives that are white when they flower later in the season, quite pretty, and add good flavor in cooking.  They also reseed freely so bear that in mind.

DILL: 

A favorite in our garden, partly because the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies feed on the leaves and make their chrysalis on the stems, fun to watch, but also because dill smells wonderful and tastes good.  Colonial Americans grew dill to flavor stews and pickles, also for its healthful properties.  Again, another soothing herb.

They also used it to treat hiccups. But I don’t know if that works.  I don’t know that a lot of what they did worked.  It all depended on the herb and whether that plant actually possessed the properties colonists thought it did. (This image of dill in our garden is growing along with an old-fashioned poppy I got seed for from Monticello). 

HYSSOP: A popular medicinal herb in early America.  I used to grow hyssop but it died out and needs replanting.  The fragrance is potent and not altogether pleasing, but the plant is pretty.  The blooms come in pink, white or blue.  I prefer the blue color.  The colonists used hyssop tea mixed with honey and the herb ‘rue’ as an expectorant.  That doesn’t appeal to me.  I’d rather use the bruised leaves, as they did, applied with sugar to a “greene wound.”  Hyssop was thought to fight infection and to kill head lice when soaked in oil.  An oil of leaves and flowers was applied to arthritic joints.  Also used as a strewing herb.

PENNYROYAL:

Strewing herb. Flea and mosquito repellent.  I love the pungent scent of pennyroyal. After several failed attempts, pennyroyal has formed a low, fragrant mat in our garden and is spreading nicely. At least, it was, until this past winter. A few tiny patches have survived and I’m hoping it will make a comeback. It’s so very delightful. (This pic isn’t pennyroyal, but an image of a butterfly on flowering catmint as mentioned above)

MINTS: 

We have a variety of mints on a determined march to the sea in our yard and garden but we love the intoxicating scent and mint tea is a huge favorite, so we pull only a little of it out.  In colonial America, they drank spearmint to comfort the nerves.  I should also think as an aid to the stomach which the mint family is rightly known for.  In cooking, mint was boiled with fish or dried and added with pennyroyal to puddings and green peas. Also a strewing herb. And I can certainly see why! (Image of apple mint).

PARSLEY: 

I like the flat leaf variety and grow it.  Parsley was used in early America to dispel the gamey taste from wild meats, like venison. The boiled roots were thought to remove “obstructions of the liver” and to promote urine production. 

(This image of parsley in our garden shows it growing beside asparagus and black-eyed Susans.)

ROSEMARY:

A pot of this herb grows in my window, but several have made it through the winter this year with protection. Rosemary was important in colonial times and popular in Williamsburg. An oil made from the flowers was applied to restore eyesight and remove spots and scars on the skin. Compresses of the leaves and oils were used for the head and heart to relieve painful joints and muscles, or “sinews.”

Rosemary was often potted up and kept inside for the winter. The farther north you live the less likely you are to see rosemary in flower.  I seldom get the plants to that size.  Rosemary isn’t happy inside in winter here, but clings to life.

HOREHOUND: 

Used to make a cough syrup. Often used with honey and other herbs. Mixed with plaintain for snakebites. Soaked in fresh milk to repel flies. The leaves are used for flavoring beer, cough drops, honey and for making tea.  I have grown horehound and the plants definitely need room to spread.  I love horehound drops.  It does sooth the throat.

 LAVENDER:

Strewing herb and insect repellent.  Essential in English lavender water.  Recipes found their way to colonial America, as did the plants.  Lavender blossoms have long been dried and used in sachets and potpourri to freshen clothes, linens, rooms,  and to repel insects.  An excellent site on English Lavender Water and more on the herb. *Used to rinse hair.

“This light, refreshing potion is perhaps the oldest known and most frequently used lavender product. Recipes for it were exchanged by women of the Roman era, books throughout Europe and Colonial America. Ours is classic English lavender infused with fresh floral and citrus notes.”

I definitely want a bottle or two. I love lavender, am forever planting new varieties trying to get some to survive our winters.  We have heavy soil, so am amending that and someone suggested growing the lavender in among stones that hold heat to warm the plants.  *Images of lavender in our garden.  The wooden stakes we use not only help support sagging plants but also discourage large farm dogs from sitting on them.  So we use a lot of stakes and large sticks fallen from various trees.  Also called ‘marking sticks’ so we remember where we’ve planted a row of seeds or new seedling.

fuzzy sage with blue larkspurSAGE:

“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” ~ Old English proverb

A favorite in our garden, sage has been grown for untold ages, as have all these herbs.  Sage was a culinary favorite in colonial America, and soon gained popularity with Native Americans, and was an important  medicinal herb for a plethora of illnesses.  As a spring tonic to cleanse the body, colonists fasted on sage with butter and parsley. Sage brewed into an ale was given to women to aid in delivery.  Sage has may other uses, as a tea sweetened with honey for sore throat or as a gargle.  Sage reduces perspiration and was used for fevers. And so on. (Image of fuzzy sage and larkspur in our garden)

THYME:

I love thyme.  We grow many varieties.  The species of thyme grown by the colonists was an upright, wild variety that survived the cold winters.  I need to find this one. The best I can do is the English thyme which seems to be hardier than the French. Some of the creeping thymes do well here. Colonists used thyme for melancholy, spleenic conditions, flatulence and toothache. (One of several kinds of creeping thyme we grow in our garden).

A wonderful sounding book that I would like to get is Flowers and Herbs of Early America~
It’s a beautiful big hardback book and rather pricey so we shall see. Recommended by the Colonial Williamsburg Historical Society–available at the Amazon link above.

This past summer I purchased two lovely hardback books while visiting in Colonial Williamsburg:The Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg by Kent Brinkley and Gordon Chappell. And, Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way by Wesley Greene.

18th century methods for producing herbal remedies:

Tincture: herb is soaked in alcohol, strained and used.

Decoction: This method was used for tougher parts of the herb plants, the roots, stem and bark. The herb is boiled in water until water is reduced by 1/2 to 1/3.

Infusion: Immersing the herb in water as in tea.

Distilled: Infusing the herb with water, boiling same and catching the condensed steam. Makes a condensed form of an infusion.

From COLONIAL USE OF HERBS:

We contemporaries must understand the basis on which decisions were made in early America. Colonists based portions of their world view on teachings of early Greek writers. Theories about alchemy and astrology and concepts such as the four cardinal humors influenced many of the colonists’ agricultural, dietary and medical practices. The four cardinal humors were the body fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. The conditions and proportions of these affected the physical and mental health of the individual.

There were thought to be four basic human temperaments:

  • Yellow bile or choler – hot and dry, characterized by a fiery nature and a bilious complexion.
  • Phlegmatic (phlegm) – cold and moist, characterized by apathy and a pale complexion.
  • Melancholic (black bile or choler) – cold and dry, characterized by depression and sullenness.
  • Sanguine (blood) – hot and moist, characterized by great appetites and capacities, and a ruddy complexion.

The educated colonist would study an herbal, a book containing the names and descriptions of herbs, or plants in general, with their properties and virtues. The earliest herbal written in the English language was published in London in 1525. Additionally, much knowledge was passed along from parent to child, since many colonists were illiterate.

Most herbals listed the qualities of temperature of each plant – hot, cold, dry and moist – paralleling the four elements – fire, air, earth and water. These characteristics were said to be reflected in the human temperament.

In almost all individuals one humor was thought to dominate the personality. There were certain potential health disorders or imbalances associated with each humor. For example, the sanguine person was believed to be amusing and good-natured, but prone to overindulgence. Diarrhea or gout could be a problem for such an individual, so cool, dry herbs like burdock or figwort were used to cleanse the system.

Overly cooling foods were given when a patient had a fever, but those same foods were considered unsafe if consumed by a well person. Foods had to be combined to produce the proper combination for a healthy person.Melons were chilling, so they were served with ginger or pepper, warming spices. Lettuce was cold and moist, so hot and dry pepper, hot and moist olive oil and cold and dry vinegar dressed it. Vinegar, itself, was considered cooling, so it had to be enhanced with peppercorns, coriander seeds or other warmers. Otherwise, vinegar would “make leane” and cause melancholy.

young girls in colonial garb at historic farmAnother old idea of the period was the “Doctrine of Signatures” or “Law of Similars”. This was the notion that a plant looked like the human organ or symptom of the disease it could benefit. Plants containing a milky juice, like lettuce, were thought to “propogate milk in nursing mothers”. The walnut, which looks somewhat like a brain, when properly prepared and laid upon the crown of the head, was said to comfort “the brain and head mightily”.

The use of herbs and plants in the colonial household was carefully decided based on the knowledge and observations of the time.

 A very interesting article on  Apothecary Herbal Healing“Before pharmacists, there were apothecaries. During the Colonial period in America, apothecaries dispensed medicines, including herbal remedies. Apothecaries functioned as pharmacists and doctors. Their skills with herbs made apothecaries reliable resources for people seeking healing from any ailment. 

herbs_pennyroyalApothecary gardens  (link to a site that tells how to plant one) provided herbs to aid healing. The art of apothecary continues in the modern era. Herbalists grow their own herbs and treat ailments just as their colonial foremothers-and fathers. The term, apothecary, came to be used for the store where the apothecary operated. Apothecaries are the ancestors of modern pharmacies or drug stores.”~

***In conclusion, herbal treatments may or may not have been administered based on an actual knowledge of how that plant’s properties affected a particular condition.  Some remedies were tried and true while superstition influenced other supposed treatments and cures.

For more on Colonial Herbs and their uses visit: http://www.chaddsfordhistory.org/history/herbs4.htm

 

*Pics are from our garden,  Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, and Mt. Vernon. All images are royalty free.

Poison Hemlock and Some of its Victims, Real and Fictional–Beth Trissel


poisonous hemlock

True Hemlock (Conium) is a member of the great order Umbelliferae, the same family of plants to which the parsley, fennel, parsnip and carrot belong, and can be confused with Queen Ann’s Lace, another name for wild carrots. Which is why you mustn’t eat them. Fatal mistakes can be made. Hemlock grows wild in much of England and Wales, has a scattered distribution in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and has been introduced to America. So it’s here in Virginia. Every part of this plant, especially the fresh leaves and fruit, contains a volatile, oily alkaloid, which is so poisonous that a few drops prove fatal to a small animal.

Death of a Tacoma Woman from Hemlock: “BELLINGHAM, Wash. Posted on May 10, 2010–If the April 1 death of a Tacoma woman was due to hemlock poisoning, it would be the first such fatality in 11 years in the state, the Washington Poison Center said. Sakha Keo, 55, apparently put hemlock in a salad she ate, thinking it was something else, said Annie Waisanen, a Pierce County medical investigator.”

A modern herbalFrom A Modern Herbal:

“The Ancients were familiar with the plant, which is mentioned in early Greek literature, and fully recognized its poisonous nature. The juice of hemlock was frequently administered to criminals, and this was the fatal poison which Socrates was condemned to drink.” *Although he wasn’t a criminal, just riled the wrong people. So he suffered what must have been a very unpleasant death.

“Hemlock was used in Anglo-Saxon medicine, and is mentioned as early as the tenth century. The fresh green Hemlock is employed in the preparation of Juice of Conium. As a medicine, Conium is sedative and antispasmodic, and in sufficient doses acts as a paralyser to the centers of motion. In its action it is, therefore, directly antagonistic to that of Strychnine, and hence it has been recommended as an antidote to Strychnine poisoning, and in other poisons of the same class, and in tetanus, hydrophobia…In Medieval days, Hemlock mixed with betony and fennel seed was considered a cure for the bite of a mad dog.

AgathaChristiesPoirotFiveLittle pigsThe drug has to be administered with care, as narcotic poisoning may result from internal use, and overdoses produce paralysis. In poisonous doses it produces complete paralysis with loss of speech, the respiratory function is at first depressed and ultimately ceases altogether and death results from asphyxia. The mind remains unaffected to the last.

(*How awful!)  Like many other poisonous plants, when cut and dried, Hemlock loses much of its poisonous properties, which are volatile and easily dissipated. Cooking destroys it.” (*This is not true for all poisonous plants).

In Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, Five Little Pigs, Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve a crime that was committed 16 years ago–the death of Amyas Crale, a famous painter who was poisoned by hemlock.

MidsomerMurdersDVD_In Midsomer Murders, Season 8, Episode 3

“When one of the world’s rarest orchids is smuggled illegally into Midsomer Malham, it triggers a catalogue of passion, jealousy and death. First a retired classics teacher and secret sexual siren is poisoned with hemlock, then compulsive collector Henry Plummer is strangled and his beloved orchids destroyed. Barnaby and Scott must find the delicate yellow Roth plant and root out who is prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds, and commit murder, just to get their hands on it.”

‘Gardening is not a rational act.’~Margaret Atwood–Beth Trissel


Given our most trying weather of late, I agree with that sentiment, but will never give up. I just reassess.  The picture of me on the right of this blog was taken beneath our lovely apricot tree that fell during last week’s fierce windstorm. Many trees and plants went down in that blast. Next spring a new apricot will go into the ground.
It is ever my wish to have a garden like Mr. McGregor‘s, but I must remember that his was in England and did not undergo the brutal trials that have beset  mine. Weather in the Shenandoah Valley swings between the extremes of north and south in the most erratic manner, and is very hard on plants.  Try as I might, only the strong survive.  And sometimes, not even them.
Most of you know me as a writer, and so I am, but I’m a gardener first. My thoughts ever turn to how the plants fare and I grieve when they suffer. Every spring I truly believe this year I will triumph, this year I will not be undone by the vagaries of nature, and each year I have my moments of glory and disappointment. But there’s always next season. And I still hold out hope for a splendid fall. For now, I’m salvaging what  I can.
‘A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.’  ~Luis Barragan
‘A good garden may have some weeds.’ ~Thomas Fuller
‘A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.’
 ‘A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.’ ~Doug Larson
‘All gardening is landscape painting.’ ~William Kent
‘But if each man could have his own house, a large garden to cultivate and healthy surroundings – then, I thought, there will be for them a better opportunity of a happy family life.’ ~George Cadbury

‘Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.’  ~Luther Burbank

‘Garden as though you will live forever.’  ~William Kent

‘God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.’ ~Francis Bacon

***Pre-storm photographs taken by my daughter Elise