Free Printables: Gardening Calendar

Do not download this pic – the downloadable PDFs are at the end of the post!

This two-page printable Gardening Calendar is based on the one I use myself, and will be very useful for beginning gardeners and wildharvesters. I write only the main monthly tasks, and also record what we have wildharvested (and where), so next year I can go back to it, and plan our wildharvesting trips in advance. It is a very efficient way to keep up with the cycles of the year, and once you have filled the first year, it is incredibly easy to stay prepared and organized. Below, you can find two versions for downloading, one in full colour, and one in black and white. And remember, as always, personal use ONLY.

Download The Full Colour Version

Download The Black And White Version (Printer-Friendly)

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My Main Website: brujacarolina.com – Tarot and Spiritual Services

Art And Illustration Portfolio: The Art Of Carolina Gonzalez

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Magical Herbalism For Beginners III: Wildharvesting And Guerrilla Gardening

Beautiful mountains in the area of the Valley Of Colino, which crosses our town.

The third post of this series is about herbalism outdoors: Wildharvesting and Guerrilla Gardening. For those unfamiliar with the terms, Wildharvesting is the practise of identifying and gathering herbs that grow in natural areas, and Guerrilla Gardening is the planting of beneficial plants in abandoned urban areas.

We practise both – we live in a quite poor urban area, with very few green spaces and very hard climate conditions; and, since we have only an urban garden on the house’s roof terrace, we need to wildharvest to get plants that we cannot plant in pots. I hope our experience helps you and inspires you!

To read the first and second part of this series, please click Here (Part 1) and Here (Part 2).

Wildharvesting

· Wildharvesting requires the utmost respect for Nature and Her generosity; harvest just what you need, harming the plant as little as possible and leaving enough of the plant for it to regrow and feed the local fauna. If possible, harvest from several plants, instead of from one. Learn how to prune herbs correctly so you encourage growth

· Get a quality hand scythe, and keep it as sharp as possible. There is nothing that causes more accidents than a dull blade.

Our scythe – old, but very loved :).

· Protect your hands with gloves. We use the gloves that are sold for electricians and other construction workers – they are quite thick while allowing excellent movement, and have a non-slip cover on the palm for a better grip.

· For urban wildharvesters, a few ziplock bags and a good pair of kitchen scissors will be enough; for those who wildharvest with a car, and need bigger quantities of herbs, this is our car’s kit: besides the scythe and the gloves mentioned above, we keep ziplock bags in several sizes, trash bags (for actual trash left by others), a couple of big and sturdy plastic bags for bigger amounts of plants, cotton cord, a sturdy rope, water, food, and a small first aid kit.

· And speaking of trash – don’t make any, and if you find stuff left by others, pick it. The land Spirits will love you for it. Become the guardian of the place where you harvest, and you will always be welcome to the land and its secrets.

· Always leave a payment for what you are taking, and thank the spirits of the place for allowing you to find and harvest plants. You can take seeds, fruit, milk, tobacco leaves, honey, bread or cake… the list can be endless. Take something of quality, and only biodegradable items. No candles, plates, or anything that can poison animals like chocolate.

· Do NOT wildharvest endangered species, on public parks, on preserved areas, or private properties. Ever.

· Do NOT wildharvest right off the edge of the roads where there is car traffic, if you have any intention of ingesting the plant, or to use it topically. Those herbs are poisoned by the cars’ fumes.

· And, this is very important: wildharvesting can be a dangerous activity. Don’t be the guy from Into The Wild, please; stay safe at all costs, never go wildharvesting without telling someone, and never ingest any plant until you are sure you know what you are putting in your body. Nature is NOT harmless, and neither are plants.

In this area (I will keep the place private), we have replanted several Dragon’s Blood trees, a Fig Tree, and several Canarian Lavender plants.

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening is the act of planting useful, edible and endemic plants on abandoned urban spaces. Guerrilla Gardening looks forward to give back to Mother Nature, to make our urban spaces more beautiful and useful, to offer sources of free food for anyone who needs it, to educate others in honouring the Earth, and to give the urban bird and insect fauna more sources for food and shelter.

· We gather all the seeds from our kitchen scraps along the year, extra wildharvested seeds, and any overstock of seeds from our garden, dry them and mix them in a bag – once dry, you can keep a small amount in your purse/backpack in a ziplock bag, and just spread a pinch whenever you have the chance.

· You can also mix your seeds with clay and make balls/discs with the mixture; make sure it’s natural clay with no chemicals added, like potters’ clay, and do not use heat to dry them (in both cases, so you don’t kill the seeds). Once they are dry, not only you can plant them anywhere, they make great gifts for friends and family, or for anyone you want to turn into Guerrilla :).

· Remember not to spread invasive plants, and use only varieties that are native to your environment – this is extremely important! Always choose useful over beautiful, food and medicine over pretty.

· Plants that are butterly and bee favourites should always be among your choices – the more we help beneficial insect populations, the healthier and stronger our ecosystem will be.

Offering of honey and Anise cakes, for a very special Spirit friend in one of our favourite wildharvesting areas.

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Magical Herbalism For Beginners II: Drying And Storing Your Harvest

Rosemary (homegrown) and Eucalyptus (wildharvested), ready to be added to our Apothecary. The stalks are tied in bundles for our magical bonfires.

On the first post of this series, I offered a series of tips on learning about herbs for beginning Green Brujas; this second post will be focused on the drying and storage of your herbal bounty :). Enjoy!

· The first step is to clean the herbs thoroughly of dust, animal hair, insects and all kind of natural debris, specially if you have wildharvested them. Remove brown and yellow leaves and dry stalks. Keep only the best!

· Once the herbs are clean, decide which herbs will be used fresh and which ones will be set to dry; fresh herbs are better to make incense sticks, kitchen oils and vinegars, to mince and make frozen cubes of cooking herbs, and so on. All the work done with fresh herbs is your first task.

· For the herbs you want to preserve dry, branches should be hanged in bundles in a shady but well ventilated area – remember not to hang them touching a wall, or the side of the bundle touching the wall can rot. Don’t discard the stems, as many plants contain more essential oils in them than in leaves or flowers.

· If possible, do not dry herbs in the sun as the essential oils of the herbs are highly volatile and the plants will lose some of its power if sun dried. Solar drying is good for roots, fruits, berries, barks, stalks, and anything that holds plenty of water.

The cardboard boxes from the plant nursery are always saved, as they absorb the herbs’ humidity very well. These are turned over daily for the best results.

· Smaller amounts of herbs, moss,  hair-like roots, seeds and loose flower petals should be placed on trays; either on trays made with netting for ventilation, or in regular trays lined with absorbent paper or tea towels. Again, they should be placed in a shady but well ventilated area, away from direct sun. Once a day, turn the batch around for an even drying.

· Remember that chopping herbs is much, much more easier to do when the herbs are fresh; if you suffer from arthritis, fybromyalgia or any other kind of painful/debilitating condition, you should consider chopping the hardest parts, like roots and barks, before drying them. The drying process would be the same as above.

· Those of you who live in colder and more humid areas of the world, may need to dry your herbs using heat – your regular cooking oven is always a good choice. Keep your oven at the lowest temperature and leave the oven door slightly open for ventilation. After half an hour, bacteria or bugs will not survive and, though the plant’s power will be a little lower, it will be perfectly safe to use and store.

· Depending on your weather, herbs may take from 1 to 4 weeks to dry. Once they are crunchy, paper-like and soft to the touch, they are ready to be placed in a glass or ceramic jar and labelled. Remember to add the date of harvesting, as you don’t want to use herbs that have been stored for more than a year – you are not a butterfly collector, so USE what you have harvested!

· To store herbs, I simply use recycled and sterilized glass food jars; to sterilize the jars, place them in a tub filled with very hot water after washing them regularly, to remove all stickers and dissolve the glue; after a few hours, scrub the stickers away with a wire kitchen scrubber (and lots of patience!) and wash them again. When they are dry, rub the inside surface with alcohol (regular rubbing alcohol or vodka will do). Be extremely meticulous when cleaning the lids too.

· Keep your herbs in a dark place, away from strong smells and, if possible, away from heated rooms like the kitchen. If you are using your herbs for cooking, save baby food jars or spice jars to keep a small amount of the herbs in the kitchen, while the rest stays in a dark and fresh place. That way, your herbs will stay fresh and filled with healing and magical properties until the last bit is used.

Roots like Ginger, and any other hard materials like barks or woods, are chopped prior to be set in trays for drying.

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Magical Herbalism For Beginners I: Starting The Journey

Lovely flowering Marjoram, from our garden.

Magical Herbalism can seem like a daunting task when you are a beginner. There is so, so much to learn, and so many fascinating subjects, that it may put off even the most enthusiastic practitioner. On the first post of this series, I am offering tips on starting your herbal journey, and on making the best of it without going insane :). Enjoy!

· If you’re a true herbalist at heart, you will continue to learn until your very last day – so start slow, and stay slow. You cannot learn the properties and Latin names of a hundred herbs in one day.

· RESEARCH. Do not work intuitively, specially if you are making herbal products that will be ingested, or used topically. Herbs are NOT harmless. Invest in good books on the subject.

· Learn the Latin name of herbs – it is much more useful than it seems; for instance, for online researching and sharing with herbalists from other cultures and languages.

· Learn first about your local herbs, the ones that grow easily around you – so many beginners are discouraged from continuing their learning, simply because they are obsessed with growing certain plants, and fail. Just so, start with live plants from your plant nursery, instead of trying to start everything from seed, which is much more difficult.

· Keep a notebook only for herbal lore – a regular ring binder is perfect, as you can add and reorganize as you go along. Herbalism is dirty work, so keep the pretty notebooks for something else.

Flowers and herbs, set in baskets in a cool and shady place to dry.

· If you cannot have your own garden, start buying a small amount of dry herb and, before you make any use of it, place the herb in a bowl/plate and place your hands over it. Welcome its Spirit into your life, and do your best to transmit your thankfulness and welcoming – then relax and let the herb speak. Note down everything you have felt, heard or seen.

· On the other hand, if you can have a garden, no matter how small it is, treat it well and put in the hard work. The key to reaching the deepest knowledge from your plant Allies is happy plants – learn as much about the practical side of gardening, as you do about magical gardening. Plants need food, space, and they need to be protected from illnesses and pests. Gardens that are loved and protected by a devoted Yerbera*, grow better, are more resistant to bugs and produce more leaves and seeds for your work.

*Yerbera – female herbalist.

·The Fairies/Elementals/Corte Encantada** are there to help you. Search for their advice as protectors of Nature by creating an altar to them in your garden, or near your herb caupboard. Make a fairy pond, leave offerings for them and acknowledge their presence.

**Corte Encantada – In Maria Lionza’s religion, a group of Spirits which includes Fairies, Elementals, and other child-like Spirits.

· And please, don’t fall for the “some plants are more magical than others” myth. While I have nothing against cultivating and consuming entheogenic or poisonous plants at all, that doesn’t make them more magical than the ones you would grow for your kitchen. A Basil plant that is well cared for, and grown in a Sacred space, is just as powerful as any Mandrake.

Basil bundles, just ready to be set to dry.

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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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