Urban Gardening: The Garden In January

As every month, here is a new post showing images of our urban magical garden. After a very rainy December (which, even if it makes no sense, it is actually unusual for us), January has woken up sunny and warm, and the plants are just loving it.

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January is a time for planting seeds for us – these two in the picture above is a mixture of sun-tolerant wildflowers, that we plant twice a year to keep bees and other beneficial insects coming to our garden. A very easy and affordable way to make your urban garden happy! These were transplanted together in a bigger pot, where they will grow undisturbed until the end of the summer.

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Above and below, the gorgeous flowers of the Canarian Bellflower, which we grew from a wildharvested cutting three years ago, and that is doing wonderfully in our weather. The flowers are huge, and smell like heaven, similar to the scent of Gardenias – of course, we are carefully saving the flowers as they wilt to be added in Love spells.

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Despite the colder temperatures, this Lavender is blooming in full force. A herb of blessing, cleansing and protection that brings peace to the Spirit.

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A “volunteer” Mallow Plant, always a sign of winter in our landscape. This plant grows everywhere in our area, so the seeds come with the soil we wildharvest. If they’re not disturbing other plants’ growth, I don’t cut them off, since their life cycle is just for the season, and they will be very useful for Love and Protection work.

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Common Sage blooming. Hopefully these flowers will give us a few seeds for next year, although we have had more luck propagating them from woody cuttings. One of the most powerful healing plants of our Curanderismo tradition, for the body and the Spirit.

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And finally, the first bloom of one of our Aloe Africana, which we wildharvested as a tiny plant a couple of years ago. I don’t know if this has any scientific base, but in our Curanderismo tradition, an Aloe plant is not mature enough to be used for healing until it has bloomed for the first time. I can’t wait for the gorgeus orange and red petals to appear.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In October

This post is a compilation of all the garden pictures that haven’t been posted already, all of them taken through the month of October. I like to keep a good archive of photographs for gardening documentation and for future articles, but a lot of them never get published because other posts and images take priority. As the month ends, I am gathering them together with a few magical tips, so all readers can enjoy the beauty – and may it inspire you to create your own urban garden!

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The Mastic trees keep flowering, and all the flying insects in the neighbourhood keep loving it daily. It does not seem to be going into seed, but it may be too soon to know.

The Mastic Tree (Pistacia Lentiscus) is an extremely holy and powerful tree, full of properties – specially the resin, which can be used in many ways, from toothpaste to varnish, from incense to food flavouring, from perfume to medicine. This is actually one of the several plants that could be the main ingredient in the Bible’s Balm Of Gilead.

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The linden trees keep flowering too, and we are picking flowers for tea almost daily.  Linden (Tilia Genus) not only makes the best sedative tea (mostly the flowers, but also the leaves), it has tremendous energy of protection and nurturing. As soon as it is big enough to collect more leaves, I’m thinking of making some amulet sachets filled with it for friends who have babies.

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October and November is Chrysanthemum season for us – and as you can see, ours is bursting with blooms! Chrysanthemums are deeply related to the dead in our culture – this plant is devoted to our Ancestors, and hopefully it will give us many flowers for the altar.

Last-minute edit before this post is published – both the pictures and the text for this post are written and updated several times along the month. This photo of the chrysanthemums above was taken at the beginning of October – in the two pics below, you can see the same plant, photographed on October 30:

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After being cut down to nothing after flowering and seeding all summer , the Catmint is coming back for the third year in a row. This plant is indestructible! A gentle protector, a wise Spirit ally – no wonder why such magical creatures as cats adore it. I actually have new seedlings growing from this plant’s seeds, that I planted to replace this one, but it is very clear that it doesn’t want to leave the garden :).

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Spearmints are still flowering – we don’t collect the seeds because it’s so much easier to plant them from cuttings, so we let it flower freely for the bees and wasps. Spearmint is the most used variety when making Moroccan style tea (which we drink very often), and a wonderful herb for protection and blessing.

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The “volunteer” fig tree (volunteer as in spontaneously sprouted in a pot) is almost half a metre tall, and growing gorgeous as you can see. This is one of the most important trees of Canarian subsistence, and of course one of the most powerful tree Spirits we work with – it can be used to empower almost any kind of magic.

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And finally, the humble beauty of Asters – this time of the year is one of the lowest flowering seasons, so I like to have a couple of these in different points of the garden to attract and feed beneficial insect life. Asters are affordable,  strong, adaptable to our crazy weather, and there are so many beautiful varieties! This plant has a bright, joyful Spirit that can be used when doing Blessing and Healing works.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In September

This post is a compilation of all the garden pictures that haven’t been posted already, all of them taken through the month of September. I like to keep a good archive of photographs for gardening documentation and for future articles, but a lot of them never get published because other posts and images take priority. As the month ends, I am gathering them together with a few magical tips, so all readers can enjoy the beauty – and may it inspire you to create your own urban garden!

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Even though we thought it would not make it after the summer, the Red Sage (Salvia Splendens) is reblooming like crazy! This camera really hates red, that’s why the  photo looks a bit weird, but I can tell you that it really is that supernatural colour. Bees and wasps keep making love to it :).

As all Sages, this one is filled with the energy of blessing and cleansing, a perfect addition to any magical garden, and really easy to keep for beginners. Since it’s almost odorless, they could make a great choice for when you want protections go unnoticed.

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Another plant that struggled with the summer, but that as you can see is bursting with blooms now, is the Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum Genus). We keep it in our garden to honour our Ancestors, since in our tradition it is a plant deeply related to the Dead. Hopefully soon it will give us many flowers for our rituals!

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Not the most appealing pic (the sun was really strong and I couldn’t see anything in the camera screen), but I am so happy to see my little Linden trees flowering! Linden (Tilia Genus) not only makes the best sedative tea (mostly the flowers, but also the leaves), it has tremendous energy of protection and nurturing. I am completely in love with these trees, and so glad I took the chance to grow them here, because they need a softer climate than ours, and only grow on the most humid areas of the islands. But Mommy’s love and attention convinced them to stay :).

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The Statice (Statice Limonium) keep slowly flowering – and we keep cutting and hanging the flowers to dry, as these don’t lose colour or beauty when dry. In the islands, they are called Siemprevivas (Lives Forever), and since they don’t fade, they are a magical symbol for eternity, both in Love Magic and in Ancestor Magic. To preserve them, just hang them upside down so the stalks dry straight, and once they are dry, you can put them in a vase.

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The tiny flowers of the Mastic Tree keep growing beautifully. No more wildharvesting seeds, hopefully :). These trees were grown from seeds I collected from one of my favourite places in the world, three years ago. Even when they are container-grown, they are just my height now, and for the first time, they are flowering.

The Mastic Tree (Pistacia Lentiscus) is an extremely holy and powerful tree, full of properties – specially the resin, which can be used in many ways, from toothpaste to varnish, from incense to food flavouring, from perfume to medicine. This is actually one of the several plants that could be the main ingredient in the Bible’s Balm Of Gilead.

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Time for the mints to flower – above, Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium); below, Peppermint (Mentha Piperita). Both plants are widely used in our Curanderismo tradition; as medicines, for upset digestion, colds, headaches, and menstrual problems; as magical herbs, for protection, cleansing and renewing energy.

Please notice – Pennyroyal is an emmenagogue, which means that induces menstruation. If you are accustomed to it as we are, you can take a cup here and there without risk, but if you are not, or if you think you are pregnant, stay away from it. Also, people with liver problems should not take it, as there are evidences of it being hepatotoxic.

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The Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis, below) plants got their summer pruning two weeks ago, and as usual, they show their happiness by flowering .  Another plant that bees and wasps absolutely love – if you haven’t tried rosemary honey*, you haven’t tried heaven :). A strong, powerful herb for banishing, cleansing and healing, Rosemary is holiness incarnated in a plant.

*Rosemary honey is not honey infused with the herb, but honey that comes from bees that feed mostly on rosemary plants. It has a woodsy, deep taste that is completely unique, and is considered one of the most medicinal honeys here.

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And, even though we are at the slowest season, the garden is still giving and giving – this pic below is just the work of one morning, pruning and refreshing the herbs from dead stalks and overgrowth. Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Lavender, Thyme, Linden, Lemon Balm and Marjoram.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In August

This post is a compilation of all the garden pictures that haven’t been posted already, all of them taken through the month of August. I like to keep a good archive of photographs for gardening documentation and for future articles, but a lot of them never get published because other posts and images take priority. As the month ends, I am gathering them together with a few magical tips, so all readers can enjoy the beauty – and may it inspire you to create your own urban garden!

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Although they should not (because of the extremely hot weather), Lavenders keep flowering and flowering :). A herb for peace, protection and healing, its holy presence is a blessing in our garden. Hang a sachet over your bed for better sleep and prophetic dreams.

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Lots of seed saving happening – take-out food containers are perfect for drying them, as we collect the seeds in small amounts through the season. Another small way to give a second life to items that would end up in the trash.

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August is harvesting, harvesting, harvesting. In the past week, I harvested over 50 bundles of herbs – sage, lavender, thyme, basil, and more. The pic above is about a third of it only.

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My first year growing Linden – another experiment that is doing much better than I expected! As Lavender, Linden doesn’t do well in such hard climate as ours, but these guys are truly fighters! These were brought as tiny seedlings from the plant nursery, and in two months they have reached over one metre tall.

Linden is used to sweeten and bring peace to spells for healing troubled relationships, and to bless and protect children.

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All the succulents, like this Aloe Africana, are spending the summer on the shade. As regular Aloe Vera, we use it as a ready-made-by-Nature ointment for any skin ailments, just cutting a leaf and collecting the gooey gel it provides. As for their magical properties, these are the best live protections for the home, specially the ones with thorns/spikes like this one.

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And finally, some lovely Calla Lilies flowering (Zantedeschia Genus) – no magical or medicinal properties, but keeping a special place in the garden because this plant is fifteen years old, and still flowers every single summer.  The bulbs were abandoned and dry in a pot when we moved here, and it was the first plant I had in this house – it keeps reminding me of the long process that building this urban garden has been, and of how a garden is a journey of love and dedication.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In July

This post is a compilation of all the garden pictures that haven’t been posted already, all of them taken through the month of July. I like to keep a good archive of photographs for gardening documentation and for future articles, but a lot of them never get published because other posts and images take priority. As the month ends, I am gathering them together with a few magical tips, so all readers can enjoy the beauty – and may it inspire you to create your own urban garden!

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Absolutely beautiful Salvia Coccinea (Scarlet Sage, but not the same Scarlet Sage as Salvia Splendens), grown from seed. Used for digestive problems, menstrual regulation, and slightly relaxing as most medicinal Sages. Magically, for blessing and cleansing (as all Sages), but with a little extra Warrioress touch :). It works very well against nosy coworkers and/or neighbours.

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I experimented this year for the first time at planting Statice (Statice Limonium), and it’s flowering beautifully (I wish I had planted more!). Medicinal use is almost nonexistent, but since the flowers can be dried and they don’t lose their colour, it has two magical uses – one, as a symbol of eternal love in Love Magic; and two, as an offering for Ancestor altars, as it also represents eternal life.

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During July and August, the most delicate plants are moved to the roofed part of the garden, to prevent the plants from drying to death under the sun. In this pic you can see the Blue Sage (Salvia Farinacea, purple flowers), the other Scarlet Sage (Salvia Splendens, red flowers), a huge Aeonium (top left), and a variegated Philodendrum (top right).

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A baby flower in a baby Common Sage (Salvia Officinalis). Due to our weather, regular sage grows very slowly and more bushy than in colder areas of the islands, so they need a lot of care to keep aphids and other pests away  – insects love bushy plants where they can nest undisturbed and unseen.

Not that I need to tell you the many benefits, magical and medicinal, or regular Sage. This plant just heals and blesses anything it touches, and increases the vibration of the body, mind and spirit.

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My baby Cinnamon trees. It will be many years until I can collect anything from them, but as the Audrey Hepburn quote says, To Plant A Garden Is To Believe In The Future. Cinnamon is pure fire, passion and luck – and pure physical healing, so when I found the plant nursery was selling a few tiny cuttings, I didn’t think twice. These are living amulets! They have cuadrupled their size since I brought them, so I think the feeling is mutual :).

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Urban Gardening: Recycled Shaded Area Structure – Revisited

On April 18, I published a post about the building of a shaded area stucture for our garden that was 100% made with recycled materials – you can read the whole post HERE. Three months have passed since that, and since today we had to make a small repair to it (a recent windstorm broke a couple of the strings that keep the canopy in place), I took a couple of pictures to show you how happy the plants are, and how successful recycling can be. Other than this little incident, the structure has suffered no damage at all, and we will definitely make another one as soon as we have all the materials.

This pic below is from the day we finished it:

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And these two are from this morning. What a difference! As you can see, we placed our Canarian Bellflower beside the pillar, and we’re coaching it with ties so it can lay over the roof and become a natural canopy.

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Urban Gardening: Bringing New Plants Home

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We grow many plants from seed, but some of the most useful herbs for a Bruja grow better from cuttings, so we  purchase those at a local plant nursery. Bringing the plants home, and helping them adapt to our very harsh weather is a labour of love; here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

· After bringing the plants home, we let them adapt for one or two days in a shaded part of the roof garden, and only water them if they are really dry – for the upcoming transplant, it is much better to work with a dry rootball than with a damped one.

· After 24-48 hours, they are transplanted into buckets, in small groups of two or three, keeping in mind that they share the same needs of light and water, and that their growth won’t end up in plants suffocating each other – for example, a creeping plant like Origanum with an upwards-growing plant like Lavender won’t bother each other, and both need the same amount of water and light. This saves a lot of space!

· Always water the pot immediately after transplanting it.

· Don’t be stingy with root space, or with soil quality! The bigger the pot, the healthier the plant. If you can, fill the bottom of the pots with vegetable scraps from the kitchen, eggshell, coffee ground, wood bits – remember that plants in pots have much higher needs for nutrients.

· The plant nursery sells you the plant while flowering because it’s pretty, but if you want your plants to thrive, you should cut off all mature flowers right after you transplant it. Not only it will regrow flowers very quickly – you will be giving the plant the strength it needs to adapt to its new environment, without exhausting it. Flowering and seeding takes all the energy of the plant, and if you ask the plant to do all this at once, it can become weak and lessen its medicinal and magical power, or even die because they do not have the strength to adapt to the change.

· If the plants adapt well, a week after the transplant is a perfect time to start fertilizing it, and become a regular part of your garden; if they don’t, my suggestion is always to discard them and get other plants, or other varieties that do better in your weather and location. A garden is always a work in progress, so don’t be afraid to make changes and look for what works naturally where you are – there is no healthier garden than a garden that fits in its environment, and it makes no sense to waste energy and time in trying to grow plants that are not happy in your garden.

· Prune, prune, prune. Since the plant cannot get more root space that what it already has, letting plants in pots overgrow is always a bad idea. Learn how each plant wants to be pruned, and keep them at a size that doesn’t exhaust them.

· Once a year, remove the plants from the pots, cut off all excess root growth, and give them new soil. They will really love you for this :).

· And finally, a piece of advice specifically for Witches: don’t fall for the myth that entheogenic  or poisonous plants are more magical, or more powerful, than those who are not. A peppermint or basil plant that’s well cared and healthy can be as powerful as a protection for your home as a mandrake or a belladonna. The path of the Poisoner is just as magical as the path of the Kitchen Witch who only grows cooking herbs – no more, no less.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In June 2

Yes, yes, I know I made the monthly post with this title a week ago, but today I’ve got so many beautiful pictures of the garden that I couldn’t help making a second part of this post :). I’ve added a few magical tips so you can bear with my garden obsession!

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For the first time, the Crassulas (Money Plant, Crassula Ovata) are flowering. I had never seen the flowers of this plant except for pictures online – they are so tiny and lovely! These are considered amulets of prosperity and good luck.

Tip – add a golden coin and a piece of citrine to your Crassulas to enhance their money-attracting power.

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The marigolds (Calendula Officinalis) are flowering like crazy, despite being fighting a fungus problem, something very common with these plants here. With tremendous healing and blessing powers both as a medicinal and a magical plant, and an essential plant to honour Ancestors in many Latin countries, these are a must in  our Bruja garden!

Tip – drink Calendula flower tea to heal grieving of any kind.

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The Canarian Wormwood (Artemisia Thuscula, Incense Plant, endemic) that I got from a cutting in the wild was not looking happy at all, so two weeks ago I gave it a good pruning and paired it in a pot with happy Marigolds – as you can see, it is looking great, and filled with new growth. This holy plant is not only used for its fabulous aroma as incense – it is one of our greatest warriors against negativity, evil eye and parasitic entities.

Tip – wear a sachet filled with wormwood next to your heart when visiting places with negative Spirit activity. Parasitic entities hate it.

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The Sweet Pea (Lathyrus Odoratus) has finished its cycle, and has left us with the promise of returning next year in the shape of around twenty healthy seed pods. This weas my first time planting it, so it was an experiment – this year I will plant the seeds earlier, before the winter; that way, I will be able to enjoy their gorgeous scent and luscious presence, and the plants will have more time to develop the seeds.

Tip – the flowers of the Sweet Pea are perfect for love magic – add them to herbal incenses, infuse oil with them, or pair them with other dry flowers in a magical potpourri.

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My favourite picture of the day – a Ladybug basking in the sun on the Lemon Thyme (Thymus Citriodorus).

Tip – use Lemon Thyme to a quick and powerful cleansing home wash or spiritual bath.

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And finally, the happy result of the morning’s work – a tray of bundles of herbs. Marjoram, Lavender, Pennyroyal, Lemon Thyme and Fennel. So much magic and medicine, so many delicious foods spiced with them, so many herbal teas that comfort and heal us every day, so many herbal preparations for our Spiritual Work. There isn’t a day that I am not grateful for my tiny urban garden.

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Urban Gardening: The Garden In June

Summer is here, and temperatures rise a little every day. The day in the equator is extremely long, with daylight from 7 AM to 9 PM, and the hottest and less active season is around the corner. Many plants are flowering and seeding, a few of them will die very soon after that, and won’t return until the first rains in November. Planting seeds is also over until the end of the year, because seedlings would get fried in the pots – for the next months, our work is to care daily for the plants’ survival; most herbs here act like perennials because it never freezes, but the heat can kill them just the same. We’re speaking SubSaharan desert weather, don’t forget that :).

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After two years, the Lemon Catmint (Nepeta Cataria v. Citriodora, grown from seed) is finally flowering.  It is really looking lovely, and the scent is just delicious. Use Catnip, no matter the variety, for Love Magic, to make lovers remember what united them.

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A close-up of the lovely white and peach flowers.

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You won’t believe me, but the colour of this Sweet Pea (Lathyrus Odoratus, also grown from seed) picture has not been edited! This plant was very appreciated in Arabic gardens for its fabulous scent, and used as a wall cover or to separate areas in gardens. Ours is filled with seed beans already, and growing new flowers every day. Another powerful plant for Love Magic, specially to increase physical passion on tepid individuals :).

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The two Blue Sages (Salvia Farinacea) we got at the plant nursery last month are growing and flowering like crazy – and I am totally in love with this plant’s graceful and relaxed energy. I hope that it will give us many seeds, because I want it growing in my garden every year :). As all Sages, this plant has powerful healing and blessing properties.

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Last year, our little Guava trees (Psidium Guajava, grown from seed, around seven years old) gave like five flowers and one single and small guava, something completely normal when it comes to growing trees in containers. This year, it has like fifty flower buds – I can’t wait to see how many fruits this lovely tree gives us. A plant for Road Opening Magic, but it’s a really holy tree, so it can be used for many different purposes.

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The gorgeous variegated leaves of the Corsican Basils (Ocimum Basilicum v. Corsican), which were seedlings just a month ago. As all Basils, a plant of strong protection that negative Spirits just abhor. It has the peaceful energy of the warrior who does not know fear.

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And finally, and only because of its own beauty, a lovely Cosmos. I haven’t used this plant for magic yet, only the flowers as an offering, but when I connect with it I feel the kind of blind joy that one must have felt when we were two years old. This plant is just happy. Don’t miss the little green spider on the petal :).

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Herbalism: Tips For A Greener Practise

Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) - for cat happiness, easing frayed nerves, and Love Magic :).

Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) – for cat happiness, easing frayed nerves, and Love Magic :).

For me, herbalism is not just a hobby – it is a truly spiritual service, and a magical path. It lies deeply in the belief that Nature is our true and only source, that it is Sacred and filled with the presence of Spirits and of the Great Divine Source, and that it must be respected and cared for as much as possible. Being ecologically conscious is the price that I (very willingly) pay for what Nature gives me.

We live in a city – not a very busy one, but a very concrete-filled one. As an urban Bruja, I feel that reducing waste and recycling are incredibly powerful steps into a greener, more conscious living, and they have definitely helped me to empower my spiritual practise; here are some helpful and very cheap (if not free) tips that we use on our daily life.

· Save the water of boiling potatoes and eggs and water your plants with it. Not only this reduces your water waste, that water is full of nutrients for your plants.

· Any herbal debris from pruning and weeding your garden can be saved and used to make compost tea: cut all leaves and stems in small pieces with scissors and place them in a piece of fabric (old cotton pillowcases are perfect). Add a stone or any other heavy object and tie the fabric to make your “tea bag”. Place it on a bucket of water, cover the bucket and leave in a warm place in the sun for a few days. Your herbs will love this water!

· Don’t throw away those nettles after you’ve weeded them! Not only they have wonderful properties for your health and your magic, they also make the best cold infusion to fill your plants with nutrients. If you let them dry first, you can manage them without any danger, and do exactly as with the compost tea method above.

Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) - for easing upset stomachs and healing Magic.

Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) – for easing upset stomachs and healing Magic.

· Coffee grounds and powdered eggshell make a wonderful organic fertilizer, as well as kitchen scraps (vegetables and fruits only). Keep a separate bucket in the kitchen to gather them, and mix them with your preferred soil – as the scraps decompose, they will make your plants happy :).

· To keep you plants free from aphids, spray the plants with a solution of water and dish soap, specially on the underside of leaves, once a week until the aphids disappear completely. For slugs, a glass filled with beer and buried at ground level will attract them and make them drown in it.

· Kitchen buckets from the supermarket are much cheaper than planters, and can hold a lot of soil. Just make holes in the bottom for draining, and spend the extra money you saved on more seeds and plants :).

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