Tuesday | April 21, 2015
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Celebrate love with herbs on Valentine’s Day

It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day became associated with romance. Feb. 14 marked the beginning of birds’ mating season in Europe, which helped establish the day as a celebration of love. As early as 1415, Valentine poems were being written and sent.

Thus the celebration of a saint developed into honoring mating birds and poetic expressions of love followed. We’ve added cards, flowers and chocolate, making the holiday good business for card shops, florists and restaurants.

This Valentine’s Day, express your love by creating gifts from live, local plants. Give yourself, your partner or your friends something lovely, handmade and imbued with loving thoughts.

Many herbs have historically been associated with passion and love. These plants have romantic associations that can add a loving touch to Valentine’s Day creations. Love herbs can be assembled in a bouquet, added to a sachet, mixed into a tea blend or made into a nosegay for use in a romantic bath or in a Valentine’s Day dinner.

Lavender symbolizes undying love and passion. Said to be an aphrodisiac, lavender’s intoxicating scent can attract the attention of a lover. Placing fresh lavender under your pillow conjures sweet dreams of your love, while placing it under the mattress of newlyweds supposedly brings passion to their relationship. You can add lavender sprigs to a romantic candlelit bath or make a sachet and place it in the dryer with bed sheets to infuse them with its scent.

Basil is an ideal herb to share with your beloved. Its scent is associated with spicy, sweet love. Traditionally, basil has been a symbol of fertility in love and marriage. In Italy, basil was once worn by maidens to let suitors know they were available. Pots of basil were placed outside homes to encourage young men to stop in and court the eligible lady who lived there. In Romania, a man offers a woman a basil leaf rather than a diamond ring when he proposes marriage. By taking the basil leaf, the woman accepts the proposal. Basil is still associated with commitment and fertility, in today’s modern world.

Rosemary symbolizes loving remembrance. Aphrodite, the Roman goddess of love, was draped in rosemary when she was born. During the Middle Ages, rosemary became part of wedding ceremonies, worn by the bride and groom to symbolize love and loyalty. Many also used rosemary plants as a charm to help choose future lovers. People today still use rosemary as a sign of remembrance. Its attractive aroma and hardy growth are reminders of the person who gives this herb.

Fennel is another love herb. Its soft, feathery and delicate growth habit along with its sweet, heady scent associate fennel with love. Fennel is often used as a form of nonverbal flattery to the beloved. Include its tall, shimmery fronds in a bouquet to flatter and delight your loved one.

The heady scent of patchouli is not surprisingly considered an aphrodisiac and the herb signifies passion. To use patchouli to its fullest extent, make small sachets of the herb and tuck them under a pillow. The rich, lusty scent will encourage passionate feelings in your lover.

Thyme is an herb that encourages affection. It is also known as an aphrodisiac. Its use is perfect for enhancing young love or deepening a friendship. A sprig of thyme in a valentine is an expression of your devotion to the recipient.

The fertile energy and luscious green leaves of oregano signify joy and happiness. Include this spicy scented herb in a bouquet, sachet or tea mix when you want to express and share these feelings with your beloved.

Tropical Edibles Nursery will celebrate herbal love lore by offering a chance to create valentines using herbs from its garden. The class will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday. Alicia Morrier of Anuenue Chocolate will offer tastings of her chocolate and lead a chocolate ganache making demonstration. Attendees may bring a dish to share at a potluck lunch. Call 328-0420 for more information or directions.

Try using herbs according to their associated love lore to enhance the romance in your life this Valentine’s Day.

Tropical gardening helpline

Phyllis asks: My lawn has several brown areas that have increased in size over the past few months. What is causing this and how can I fix it?

Answer: Diagnosing lawn problems can be difficult because damage caused by insects can look similar to that caused by diseases, drought or animal urine. Also, many lawn diseases and their symptoms look alike.

Start by closely inspecting the turf. Look for insects or caterpillars in the lawn or at the edges of the damaged area. Bring insects to the surface by inserting a bottomless coffee can several inches deep into the turf and filling it with water. Collect any insects that float and bring them and a turf sample from an area where healthy and damaged plants meet to a county extension office for identification and control recommendations.

The University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources publication “Destructive Turf Caterpillars in Hawaii” can be downloaded at ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-5.pdf.

If no pest seems present, your problem may be a disease. Though turf diseases are not common in Kona, wet weather or having shaded areas on the lawn may make your turf susceptible.

During wet weather, turf diseases caused by fungal or bacterial organisms can appear. Symptoms include a gradual decline and discoloration in patches of grass, often accompanied by a slimy appearance. If a fungus is responsible, you’ll see tiny threadlike fibers within the damaged patch. These threads are symptoms of a disease called “brown patch.”

Conditions favoring turf diseases are excess thatch, high humidity and soft lush growth because of excess nitrogen. If the damage is not severe, the condition will usually clear up as conditions gets drier.

Reduce irrigation in the area, watering only when needed. Also, improve soil aeration and water drainage. Reducing nitrogen fertilization that can cause soft foliage growth can help. Pruning overstory trees and shrubs to allow more sunshine into the area will help keep it drier and less susceptible to infection in the future.

If you rule out insects or diseases as the problem, you might have dry spots that are not being reached by your irrigation or your lawn may be a favorite for dogs in the neighborhood. Consult “Dogs and Lawns” for advice on this issue at ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/tm-11.pdf.

Email plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by certified master gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook.