Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs; Newsletter2017.06.05

Growing At Risk Medicinal Herbs


Cool nights at last. The persistent warm weather has finally loosened its grip and a climate resembling normal is prevailing. The days are still fine and mild, but the nights are cool, which is important for some of our nursery practices.

The ground dried quickly after rain, earlier this month, indicating poor levels of sub soil moisture. Climatic conditions are currently indicating a cold, but short, late winter. Day temperatures have been in the low to mid-twenties. Nights are between high single figures up to early teens.

In the Shade House

Orders for the dormant roots of Golden Seal, Bloodroot, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Horny Goats Weed and Golden Root will close mid-June for delivery during July. Bare-rooted trees need to be ordered by early July for August delivery.

Prolonged warm weather has further delayed Wasabi plants. Expect Wasabi to be ready early July. Make use of the Wait List function for email notification.

Recently returning to stock are Ayahuasca, Horseradish, Calendula, African Marigold, Herb Robert, Catnip and Ladies Mantle. Asafetida should be ready late July, as should the next batch of White Sage.

Looking exceptionally good in the shade house are Damiana, Betony, Curry Leaf Tree, Chickweed, Patchouli, Calea, Sambung and Yerba Mate.

In The Seed Room

The end of May indicates the end of propagation by cutting. Warm days (and warm soil) combined with cool nights of May are ideal for vegetative propagation of woodier plants such as Yerba Mate, Holy Basil, Ayahuasca and American Elderberry. In late June Siberian Ginseng will be propagated as hardwood cuttings.

Seed sown recently includes Oregon Grape, Sagebrush, Cape Gooseberry, Woodruff, Sweet Violet, Edelweiss, Tea, Dong Quai and Burdock.

Seed returning to stock includes Clary Sage, Sweet Annie and Sheep Sorrel. Wasabi seed should be ready late June together with the seed for Rooibos – use Wait List function for email notification.

Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs

There is so much that could be said about this book of outstanding merit. Suffice to say it is a must-have for the growers of Golden Seal, Kava, Bloodroot, False Unicorn, American Wild Yam and other difficult to grow species endangered in the native habitat.

Available again, finally. Now as a second edition.

Specials for June

June plant and seed specials will be notified next week. African Marigold plants will be continued from last month as stock sold out very quickly. Seed for Golden Seal is currently on sale – still time to sow for spring germination.

Nursery Cuttings

● Golden Seal plant as a dormant root, order now for July delivery
Golden Seal seed, on special, sow now for germination in spring
Herb Robert plant, transplant in warmer areas
Bloodroot plant as a dormant root, order now for July delivery
Rooibos seed, rare, Wait List for email notification
 Asafetida plants, rare, Wait List for email notification
Wasabi seed, available late June, Wait List for email notification
Horseradish plant, transplant now in warm climates
● Dong Quai seed, sow now in all areas
African Marigold plant, vigorous, colourful and robust
 Clary Sage seed, good germination
Black Cohosh,plant as dormant root, order now for July delivery
Sweet Annie seed, from the season finishing, sow early spring
Calendula plant, cheerful and medicinal
Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs, exceptionally informative book back in print


Siberian Ginseng and Chickweed; Featured May 2017

Featured for May

May is mid-autumn, by the horticultural calendar, and the life cycle of each plant has now determined the performance for the winter period. Chickweed is joyfully expanding over the ground in the preferred season of growth in our sub-tropical climate, while Siberian Ginseng is busily building energy reserves in preparation for winter dormancy.



Siberian Ginseng

Made famous by Russian athletes for decreasing recover time after physical exertion. Now broadly used to treat exhaustion of all types, including physical, emotional and sexual.

Native to Siberia, this species shows remarkable adaptability, thriving in all climates and most positions. Habit changes with climate and position. In full sun in the sub-tropics (photo above) habit is large, generous and expansive. When grown in shade in the same climate, the habit is compact, reserved and (almost) demure.

Medicinal action is that of an adaptogen, balancing out any existing imbalances in the organism. Plants with adaptogenic properties generally have a common name which refers to Ginseng. Korean or Asian Ginseng is the best known adaptogen, others include Maca (Peruvian Ginseng), Ashwaganda (Indian Ginseng), Golden Root and Jiaogulan.

Although it is the root harvested for making plant medicine, the leaves also have the same medicinal properties, albeit much diluted in comparison.

Propagation by seed is challenging, but rewarding. Vegetative propagation is much easier. Semi-hardwood cuttings in late spring to early summer, or hardwood cuttings in winter. Suitable for all climates and areas in Australia.


Chickweed is our favourite forage herb. It has naturalised in our valley and now eagerly volunteers in late summer, in permanent shade, all through winter into spring. This plant is highly underrated and undervalued. In southern areas, this species would be an annual over summer.

Chickweed performs as a luscious ground cover under established perennial and evergreen shrubs and trees. It is a straight forward plant to weed if the ground space is required, with a single plant covering up to a quarter of a square metre. The foliage makes a nutritious pesto in its own right, or combined with parsley – delicious. Skin treatments and cosmetics are also made from Chickweed. In the world of herbs, Chickweed would be second only to Nettle in terms of nutritional value.

An important tonic food for all poultry and birds, particularly caged birds. Chickweed is one of the few readily edible herbs containing a richness of copper. Praised by Turkish gypsies, not only for its edible qualities, but also its potent medicinal properties, containing many of the soothing and tonic powers of Slippery Elm.

Economical to grow, producing a lot of foliage in a small area. Easy to propagate from seed and quick to establish. Suitable for all coastal, mountain and inland areas. Suitable for moist soil in partial shade to shade.



Saffron, White Sage and Annual plants

White Sage plantsClimate

Good general rain today. Most welcome for water tanks and give the pasture a drink. All last night it rained gently and steadily and looks like it will rain all day. Fantastic – this is the first wet weather since cyclone Debbie and things were starting to dry out. Moist soil may delay the start of what is promising to be a cold winter. Moist soil is also good for the BD500 application at the end of the month.

Before the rain, day temperatures were in the mid-twenties and nights in the mid-teens.

In the Shade House

Beautiful growing conditions; warm days and cool nights make happy plants.
Recently retuning to stock White Sage, Betony, Chickweed, Saffron, Alehoof, Yarrow, Sweet Violet, Mugwort and Baical Skullcap. Looking particularly good are Tansy, Lyre Leaf Sage, Chickweed, Incense Grass and Burdock.

Next month should see the return of Juniper (self-fertile), Tea and Wasabi.

In spring, all things being equal, we should see the return of Sea Buckthorn, Star Anise and Cinnamon. Will post progress photos on Facebook.

In The Seed Room

Good germination conditions prevail. There is a nice fluctuation between day and night temperatures and the moisture in the air is close to the earth. Watering schedule is being closely monitored to prevent potential over wetting of seed trays.

Recently sown include Woad, Salad Rocket, Weld, Red Clover, Continental Parsley and Radium Weed. Particularly good germination of Watercress, Clary Sage, Hyssop and Chervil from a previous sowing.

Returning to stock include Woodruff, Eyebright, Monkshood, Hop, Borage, Indigo and Siberian Ginseng. New to stock is Sagebrush – this American desert native has a shared smudging tradition with White Sage.

Annual, Bi-annual, Tri-annual and Perennial

These terms refer to the life span of a plant. An annual germinates, grows, flowers and produces seed in one growing season. A bi-annual produce a strong root system in the first growing season and flowers in the second season. A tri-annual flowers in the third season. A perennial is described as living for an extended period of time and flowers every season after it achieves maturity.

In many cases this description is not fixed. The performance of a plant can vary, depending on the climate. A plant from a cool climate, when grown in a warm climate may become bi-annual or even perennial. Conversely, a warm climate perennial grown in a cool climate may perform as an annual or bi-annual.

The point for plant growers is that this description of a plant is allocated in its native climate and, when, grown in a different climate, the performance of a plant may change.

Specials for May

Plant and seed specials for May were posted separately last week. Marigold and Coltsfoot have currently sold out, and more plants should be ready at the end of next week. Use WAIT LIST function for email notification when in stock.

Nursery Cuttings

● White Sage plant, robust plants ready to transplant in most areas
Continental Parsley seed, good germination and enjoys cool soils
Chickweed plant, spread some joy – suits coastal areas in winter
Watercress seed, sow seed now for spring tonic vegetable
Saffron plant, will flower in next 2-3 weeks
 Chervil seed, cool climate culinary plant, companion to parsley
incense Grass plant, cool climate species, heavenly aroma.
Cardoon seed, currently available as a special
● Baical Skullcap plant, medicinal plant from Lake Baical in Russia
Eyebright seed, retuning to stock
 Burdock plant, cold climate vegetable, part of Essiac formula
Lyre Leaf Sage plant, attractive, ornamental and strongly medicinal
Monkshood seed, returning to stock, cold climate species
Wasabi plant, available in June, use WAIT LIST for email notification
Sagebrush seed, new to stock, smudging plant

Kava, Ayahuasca and Bloodroot; 2017.02.21 Newsletter

rare herbs information


Still hot, still dry. Recent storms have delivered 45mm, but this rain has simply greened the grass and temporarily added humidity to the weather mix. This moisture will quickly drop down the soil profile, as there is no sub-soil moisture to hold it up. The monsoon finally established over northern Australia about 2 weeks ago, so prospects of continuing moisture events have improved in the short term. It has been a long, hot summer and we, and nature, are exhausted by the relentless demands of the sun.

Daytime temperatures are in the mid thirties. Night temperatures are in the high teens to low twenties.

In the Shade House

Despite what has been said about the ambient climate, these hot and dry conditions are ideal for growing plants, provided there is sufficient water available. Usually at this time of year we implement practices to ameliorate the overwhelming humidity. It is much easier to add water to the nursery than to offset the effects of wet soil and air heavy with moisture.

Species enjoying this summer include Meadowsweet, Acerola Cherry, Aloe Candelabra, Damiana, Costmary, Rangoon Creeper and Samphire.

Recently returning to stock are Kava, Allspice, Ayahuasca, Chacruna, Pandan, Thai Coriander, Drumstick Tree, Tamarind, Chocolate Tree and Toothache Plant.

Cinnamon; plants are slow and will not be ready for this season – will carry stock over to next spring.

Looking particularly good at present are Ginger, Turmeric, Galangal, Coffee, Vanilla, Chicory, Yerba Mate and Kenchur.

In The Seed Room

Seed sowing is underway. Species selected will not dampen off in the warm seasonal conditions. Species sown include; Agrimony, Andrographis, Dandelion, Japanese Indigo, Epazote, Sweet Annie, Pyrethrum, Golden Rod, Thai Coriander and Woad.

As the night temperatures cool, we will sow Dong Quai, Herb Robert, Valerian, Cardoon, Queen Annes Lace, Borage and Chickweed.

Collected seed from Ashwaganda, this week. Seed will be roughly cleaned and sown in community trays. This Ashwaganda is the Vedic form.

Reminder: Saffron corms need to be planted by the end of March

Seed species returning to stock include Golden Rod, Bloodroot (bulk seed now available), Siberian Motherwort, Japanese Indigo, Caraway, Cowslip and Burning Bush.

Plants propagated during the last few weeks include; Calea, St Johns Wort, Patchouli, Sambung, Vetiver and Bergamot.

Non-Toxic Herbicide Update

The action of this herbicide is not systemic but contact, burning off the plant foliage rather than killing the root. This desiccation process is supposed to also kill the weed root, but will need to wait a couple more weeks to confirm. A uniform spray coverage of the foliage is required and results are very quick. The product is inert, except when in contact with the leaf surface. This makes it the ideal herbicide for paths and courtyards.

Nature Journal

Batches of finch fledging learning to fly and staying close to hedgerows – always makes me smile. Sydney Waxbills and Double Bars. Some Zebra Finches in the shade house the other day. Have not seen these on the farm for about 10 years.

Wrens made a brief appearance, for a week, at the beginning of February.

Wonga Pigeons are nesting in the Leopard Tree. Wompoo Pigeons have changed nesting tree from the Rubber Tree on the driveway to the Liquidamber beside the house. Turtleneck Doves patrol the driveway and car park in increasing numbers. Emerald Wing Pigeons have taken residence on an open section of the access road.

Nursery Cuttings

● Kava plant, now in stock
Bloodroot seed, freshly harvested seed, bulk available
Drumstick Tree plant, again available, good size plants
Golden Rod seed, sow early autumn
Tamarind plant, handsome plants ready for transplant
 Chickweed seed, autumn sowing in all areas
● Ayahuasca plant, recently returned to stock, hardy
Caraway seed, suitable to sow in cooler areas
● Toothache Plant , strong and vigorous plants
● Herb Robert seed, sow now in temperate areas
 Chocolate Tree, plants returning to stock, good size, limited numbers
Japanese Indigo seed, again in stock, sow in warmer areas
Rangoon Creeper plant, hardy perennial
Valerian seed, suitable to sow in warm conditions
Pandan plant, Lovely compact plants
Borage seed, reliable germination when autumn sown
Acerola Cherry plant, suitable for dry areas
Saffron corms, sow before end of March .


Saffron and Gotu Kola; Featured February 2017

February is a time to think about autumn plantings. The cooling months are a good time to establish perennials for a quick start in the spring.
Gotu Kola is a multi-purpose plant that can be readily cultivated in most regions of Australia. Saffron flowers are beautiful and a spice but corms need to be planted by the end of March. Saffron corms can be planted in containers.

autumn planting

These plump and vigorous corms produce beautiful and fragile flowers for 3-4 weeks a year. When grown in a garden, the climatic requirements limit the areas in Australia for successful cultivation, however, the nature of container culture (as part of a balcony garden) makes growing saffron in coastal areas viable.

Saffron likes hot dry summers and cold moist winters – a Mediterranean climate. These conditions can be easy easily replicated in balcony garden, where pots can be sheltered from rain. Corms closely planted in a dedicated pot will (mostly) flower in the season of transplanting, and each season more and more flowers will be produced. In about year 3 or 4, the now numerous corms are lifted, divided and replanted.

When grown in ground, the most suitable areas on the eastern seaboard are inland from the coast and the tablelands. Most areas of SA and WA would successfully cultivate Saffron.

A wide are of other herbs are suitable to grow in containers.

Herbs that prefer a Mediterranean climate include, Liquorice, Acerola Cherry, Celandine, Costmary, Ladies Mantle, Mandrake, Meadowsweet, Rue, White Sage, Tansy and Yarrow.

autumn planting

Bitter taste and easy to grow, Gotu Kola is of the Ayurvedic tradition. A powerful plant tonic and food, Gotu Kola is also known as Pennywort and Arthritis Plant and has the botanical name of Centella asiatica. This is a must have plant for all gardens, including those on balconies.

Native to a sub-tropical climate, this tough ground cover will thrive in cooler areas, provided shelter from hard frosts is available. Moist soil, in shade to full sun, will be joyously colonised by this prodigiously useful species.

Texture and taste of the leaf change with growing position. Plants grown under shade have long stems and a large leaf of pale colour, the taste being mild with a hint of pepper. Leaves from under the sun are smaller and darker, with a short stem with a pleasant and bitter taste with some pepper to finish. Isabell wrote that the medicinal benefit begins at 5-6 leaves a day. Leaves are eaten as a vegetable or as salad.

Other herbs native to the sub-tropic climate include Tulsi, Turmeric, Ginger, Coffee, Jiaogulan, Miracle Fruit, Shatavari, Yacon, Patchouli,Perilla, Brahmi, Yerba Mate, Sambung, Rice Paddy Herb and Ashwaganda.

Saffron, Bael and Star Anise; 2017.01.31 Newsletter


Hot and dry conditions prevail. It has been a long time between drinks and the ground is parched – no real rain since the beginning of December. The prolonged dry has depleted the sub soil of moisture and the softer grass species have begun to cure. These conditions look set to continue for at least the next week and may be to the second part of February.

Daytime temperatures are currently in the mid-thirties, nights are in the low twenties.

In the Shade House

The warm climate plants really crackle in these conditions. Galangal, Ginger and Turmeric are going off. The same for Indigo, Neem. Gotu Kola, Myrobalan, Vanilla and Liquorice.

Plants returning to stock over the previous month include Galanagal, Vegetable Pepper, Betel Pepper, Costmary, Calea, Japanese Honeysuckle, Japanese Indigo, Boneset, Hop, Myrobalan, Barberry, Vanilla, Samphire, Bael and Liquorice.

Rangoon Creeper returns to our list. Demand for this ornamental species reduced about 10 years ago, but enquiry is now on the increase.

Betel Pepper / Vegetable Pepper: this is an attempt to clarify the confusion caused by these common names. When in doubt as to the actual plant a common name describes, look to the botanical name for clarification. If you are looking for the plant that produces leaves for wrapping food, the species is Piper sarmentosum. If you are looking for the plant whose leaf is used ceremonially and to wrap Betel nuts and lime to produce quid, then the species is Piper Betel.

Kava and Cinnamon are slow to be ready this season. Looking like the end of February, at this time. Those on the Wait List will receive email notification of return to stock.

In The Seed Room

Too warm in our locality to sow seed at this time of year. We are preparing for the cold, moist stratification of some cold climate species. The seed to be conditioned by this method includes Schisandra, Sweet Cicely, Ramsons, Tasmanian Pepper and Turkey Rhubarb.

Fresh seed of Golden Seal should be available in the next week or so.

Star Anise seed will soon be available all year. Trialling storage methods. Will keep you advised.

Seed returning to stock over the Christmas break include Costmary, Ladies Mantle, Madder, St Marys Thistle, Agrimony, Bo-Tree, Skullcap. Baikal Skullcap, Dong Quai, Golden Rod and Saffron corms.

New species added to seed list are Citronella Balm, Coffee Chicory and Chinese Woad.

February is generally a good month in all areas of Australia to propagate by cutting. We will be cutting Chaste Tree, Mother of Herb. Henna, Cows Udder, American Elderberry and Sambung.

Nature Journal

Freshwater tortoise laid eggs in stock garden, about 20m from creek. Previously only seen sheltering on high ground, out of creek, during large wet season fresh.

Lots of parrots about, most notable (noisy) are the Rainbow Lorikeets, from the coast, here for the flower nectar.

Currently in flower are the Leopard Tree, Mimosa, Brazilian Cherry, White Cedar and Native Frangipani.

Nursery Cuttings

● Japanese Indigo plant, transplant now for autumn harvest
Saffron corms, reliable – sow by end of March
Neem plant, strong growing and attractive
Golden Seal seed, fresh seed available during February
● Myrobalan plant, attractive and rare
 Dong Quai seed, fresh seed for autumn sowing
● Galangal plant, suits warmer growing conditions
Madder seed, recently returned to stock
● Vegetable Pepper plant, culinary and shade loving
● Baical Skullcap seed, suits late summer sowing
 Samphire plant, for the kitchen garden, volunteers freely
Costmary seed, sow in the early autumn
Bael plant, good time to transplant
Bo-Tree seed, sow onto warm soil
Betel Pepper plant, rare ceremonial plant
Agrimony seed, good germination
Turmeric plant, establishes well in warm conditions
Star Anise seed, shortly available, join Wait List


Ashitaba, Golden Seal and Bloodroot; 2016.06.07, Newsletter


Strong winds persist after a substantial amount of rain at the end of last week. This east coast low is now travelling south to Tasmania, causing havoc in its wake. We escaped relatively unscathed, but if it had been slower moving it would have been a different story.

Predictions are now for a wet, and mild winter in SE Qld.

Daytime temperature s now in the low twenties while nights are in the low teens.

In the Shade House

Plants growth is slowing to winter rates. Over the colder months our approach is to maintain plant quality. Most of our propagation for next season has finished and plants now grow on, ever so steadily, to be ready in the spring.

New plants into stock include Ashitaba. Borage seed has germinated well and there will be plenty of plants for the early spring. A note on Indian Borage. We receive a lot of enquiry for this plant, which we call Mother of Herbs.

Looking particularly good in the shade house are Evening Primrose, Herb Robert, St Marys Thistle, Mother of Herbs.

Dormant tree and herb orders close this month. If you wish to order any of these plants to transplant for next season, then now is the time to do so. List is in Nursery Cuttings, below

In The Seed Room

Still sowing some species that require cold soil to germinate, such as Celandine, Astragalus, Alkanet and Chervil. Sweet Cicely seed has finished the cold moist stratification and will be sown this week.

Seed collected this week includes Holy Basil, Tulsi, Balloon Flower and Radium Weed.

Toward the end of the month is a stock take for the end of financial year. This is also a good opportunity to assess our seed requirement for the next season and refresh some lines.

Nursery Cuttings

  • Ashitaba plants, now available in stock
  • Golden Seal, dormant root
  • Mother of Herb plants, aka Indian Borage
  • Ginkgo, bare rooted and dormant
  • Blue Cohosh, bare rooted and dormant
  • Herb Robert plants, transplant in any frost free area
  • Bloodroot, dormant root
  • Evening Primrose plants, ready to transplant
  • Golden Root, dormant root
  • Sweet Cicely seed, stratify now for germ. in spring
  • Sugar Maple, bare rooted and dormant
  • Chervil seed, cold soil required for germination
  • Myoga Ginger, dormant rhizome
  • Horny Goats Weed, bare rooted and dormant
  • Black Walnut, bare rooted and dormant
  • Hawthorn, bare rooted and dormant
  • Vap Ca, dormant stolons
  • Witch Hazel, bare rooted and dormant
  • Linden, bare rooted and dormant