Vampire’s Garden: Bloody Dock

Vampire's Garden: Bloody Dock, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Rumex sanguineus, vampire, vampires, herbs, herbalism, garden, gardening

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is twelfth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Rumex sanguineus

Common Names: bloody dock, bloody sorrel, bloodwort, red-veined dock, redvein dock, red-veined sorrel, wood dock

History: A member of the buckwheat family, bloody dock is native to Europe and parts of Asia and northern Africa. It has also naturalized in parts of North America and can be found growing in ditches and unkempt areas. Bloody dock gets its name from the deep red veins running through the leaves (and the Latin name ‘sanguineus’ means bloody or blood-coloured).

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: None (although it may share the same meaning as dock/Rumex crispus: “patience”– which, with its bloody appearance, may read as somewhat more menacing!)

Cultivation: Perennial in USDA zones 4 to 8 (can also be grown as an annual). In mild climates it stays evergreen. Grows best in full sun to part shade. Reaches 18″ (about 46 cm) both in height and width (flower stalk can reach 30″/76 cm). Prefers average to moist soil (does well around ponds or in water gardens). The flowers are tiny and unremarkable. Keep plants attractive by removing old foliage in spring and removing flowers (this will also prevent self seeding). Propagate by seed or division in early spring; sow seeds directly into the ground. Fertilize annually in spring. Can have issues with slugs, rust, and powdery mildew. Can become invasive if allowed to go to seed.

Uses:

Medicinal: High in vitamin C, as well as beta carotene, iron, and potassium. A decoction of the leaves can be used externally as an antiseptic and astringent to help heal cuts, burns, rashes, wounds, and other skin irritations and inflammations. An infusion of the root can help stop bleeding.

Caution: All parts of bloody dock contain oxalic acid, which can irritate the urinary tract and cause kidney stones. May cause skin irritation for particularly sensitive people. Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to bloody dock.

Caution 2: Oxalic acid is toxic to dogs and cats. Do not let your pets eat or chew on bloody dock. It’s apparently safe for wildlife and livestock.

Ornamental: The attractive leaves are ideal in borders or herb gardens. The flowers are insignificant and should be removed to maintain the attractiveness of the leaves (and to prevent self seeding). If the plant does go to seed, cut it back hard afterwards to rejuvenate it. Pairs well with plants that have light green or purple foliage or red or blue flowers.

Culinary: Bloody dock is one of the first spring greens in the garden. The young leaves have a slightly sour, lemony flavour, thanks to oxalic acid (present in all parts of the plant), which can cause kidney stones and blood mineral imbalances. It can also cause contact dermatitis in some people. Eat in moderation or avoid altogether if you’re particularly sensitive or at risk. You can boil the leaves in several changes of water to reduce the oxalic acid, if you want. Older leaves are too bitter to be palatable. Serve young bloody dock leaves like spinach (after boiling, drain, and heat with olive oil or butter and garlic, or add to any dish you would use spinach in). They’re also a nice addition to soup. Leaves can be eaten raw in small amounts. Bloody dock can be grown as a microgreen. Once seeds have turned brown they can be eaten raw or cooked.

Natural Dye: The roots can yield a dark green, dark brown, or dark grey dye. No mordant is needed. The leaves produce a medium green or dark brown dye, depending on mordant.

Mara’s Uses: Although, she might include bloody dock in her medicinal tonics, Mara’s main interest in this plant would be as part of her experiments in creating a blood substitute.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wisconsin Horticulture: Bloody Dock

Bloody Dock: Not as Macabre as it Sounds

NC State Extension: Rumex sanguineus

Red Veined Sorrel

Herb: Red-Veined Dock

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest (including as a microgreen)

Dyeing with Dock

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

3 Reasons You Should Ignore Your Inner Critic

3 Reasons You Should Ignore Your Inner Critic, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

To be creative, especially if you’re creative for a living, is to be in a constant state of worry. Will anyone be interested in my work? Will they like it? What if they hate it? The worst is when the worry morphs into self-criticism and you start doubting yourself and everything you do. My own inner critic nags at me that my books aren’t any good, that I should never have pursued writing in the first place, and I should just quit now. If I let them, my inner demons would probably take up as much space in my head as my plots and characters.

But my inner critic is a liar, and so is yours.

Your inner critic is nothing more than an amalgamation of doubts, anxieties, and insecurities. We inadvertently feed our critics because smart creators know there’s always room for improvement, so we think we should pay attention to what our critic tells us. We definitely shouldn’t,

Why you should ignore your inner critic

  1. It’s counterproductive. Your inner critic is both a poor judge and a compulsive liar. If you need some honest feedback to help improve your work, ask a friend or colleague, or join one of the many groups (both online and in real life) where your fellow creatives and/or interested volunteers will be happy to help. You could even hire someone like an editor to assess your work. But your inner critic will never offer anything useful, and you’ll waste your time focusing on the wrong things.
  2. It undermines you. If you keep thinking that you’re not as good as you could/should be, or telling yourself that you suck, then even if you don’t really believe it, eventually it will chip away at your confidence. Before long you’ll be second-guessing everything you produce– and might even end up too stressed to finish a project. If you do manage to complete something, your eroded confidence in your abilities will make it impossible to pitch your work to anyone or promote it. If you’re not convinced your work is great, how are you going to convince anyone else?
  3. You might end up believing it. There’s nothing wrong with choosing not to pursue your creative skills as a career, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Unfortunately I’ve known too many talented people who’ve quit because they convinced themselves they weren’t all that good. Even worse, most stopped being creative for fun too, and that’s truly a shame. The world is better with your art/writing/music/whatever in it, and to let your inner critic convince you that you shouldn’t bother is a loss for everybody. No one is inspired by accountants, no matter how awesome they are at their job (apologies to all the amazing accountants I know), but that photo or poem or sketch you shared with friends or on social media could get someone through a bad day, or encourage them to start creating.

How should you deal with your inner critic?

An article on the Brockton Writers Series site suggests mindfully addressing your inner critic. The author offers some good suggestions, such as waiting the emotions out (they will pass) or agreeing with your inner critic and going forward anyway (for example, you’d say something like: “I should just quit now…and I will go ahead and write another paragraph.” Basically: acknowledge your inner critic, and then do your thing anyway. In other words: ignore it.

What’s important at the end of the day is to keep at it, no matter what that nagging voice in the back of your head tells you. Whether you’re creative for love or money, go ahead and ignore your inner critic. Or tell it off. Or sit and have a polite conversation with it– whatever you need to do. As long as you don’t believe it.

How do you deal with your inner critic? Share in the comments.

And while you’re here, don’t forget to download my books:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Love-Lies-Bleeding: The Oh-So Edible Annual

Click to read the Laidback Gardener’s article, Love Lies Bleeding: The Oh-So Edible Annual!

Sharing something a little different today– an excellent blog post from the Laidback Gardener about one of my favourite garden plants Love Lies Bleeding (it also inspired the title of my book). Give it a read if you want to learn more about this beautiful edible (and wildlife friendly) plant…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, According to Science

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Daniela Constantini on Pexels.com

There’s something magical about reading fiction. A story is basically just a series of symbols arranged in a particular order on a page (or screen). And yet, your mind translates those symbols into images, events, and people that feel real. It puts you into the minds of characters and lets you see through their eyes. You hold your breath when they’re in danger, you cringe sympathetically when they’ve done something awkward. Reading fiction puts you in another world and brings that world to life. I can’t think of anything more truly magical than that.

But it isn’t only magic. Science is finding all kinds of ways that reading fiction in particular can benefit you. Here are three:

Reading fiction relieves stress: Reading is enjoyable– it makes you feel good and forces you to take a break from regular life. While reading helps you forget your problems, it can also help you understand them and cope with them better. And reading fiction has been found to relieve stress more than other relaxing forms of media, like music or TV.

Reading fiction helps with cognitive and social skills: Reading challenges your brain. Among other things, it teaches new perspectives and viewpoints. As you read about other people and places, you learn to empathize, to understand different points of view, and to get along in diverse situations. In essence, reading fiction trains you for the real world.

Reading fiction can help you live longer: Studies have shown that reading helps prevent cognitive decline, which is associated with decreased life expectancy. Aside from that, according to at least one study (see “Further Reading”), people who read more fiction live longer, on average.

Bonus: Because reading fiction can mimic what we feel during real-life interactions with other people, it’s been found to satisfy the need for human connection. If lockdowns and distancing have been getting to you, reading a good book can help you through it.

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Quote by Doris Lessing: There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.

Reading fiction makes you happier and less stressed, teaches you about the world and other people, helps you feel more connected, improves your mind, and can even help you live longer. What more could you ask?

Want to get all those benefits of reading fiction right now? Download my books….

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Further Reading:

Why Getting Lost in a Book Is so Good for You

Even mild cognitive impairment appears to substantially increase risk for death

Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds

9 Ways Reading Makes Us Happier and More Creative

Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People?

The Real World Benefits of Reading Fiction

7 Benefits of Reading Literary Fiction You May Not Know

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Hawthorn

Vampire's Garden: Vampire-Repelling Plants, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is eleventh in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Crataegus monogyna (and other species of Crataegus)

Common Names: thornapple, May tree, whitethorn, hawberry, mayhaw, fairy thorn, quickthorn, Bread and Cheese Tree

History: Native to temperate areas around the world, hawthorn is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family (you can see the resemblance in the berries, which are similar looking to rosehips). Folklore about Hawthorn abounds, and these are only a few examples: In Ancient Greece, branches decorated altars of Hymenaios (God of marriage), and were carried during wedding processions. It is believed that Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of hawthorn (in parts of France it was claimed that the plant would groan and cry on Good Friday). The Celts thought it could heal a broken heart. Before the calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian system, hawthorn bloomed on 1 May, and May Day/Beltane celebrations included gathering the flowering branches (the only time it was allowed). In Great Britain and Ireland it was believed that uprooting or cutting down a hawthorn brought bad luck (with some attributing the failure of the DeLorean Motor Company to their cutting down a hawthorn in order to build a factory). Hawthorns have strong associations with fairies, and lone trees were thought to be especially powerful and most beloved of the fair folk.

Vampires: Starting in Serbia and spreading throughout the Balkan region, it was believed that only stakes made of hawthorn or ash could kill a vampire. In Bosnia, people would wear hawthorn twigs to funerals, dropping them as they left the cemetery; if the deceased rose as a vampire, they would have to stop to pick up the twigs, allowing the living to return home safely. The thorns were also placed in a recently deceased person’s clothing to “pin” them to the coffin and keep them from rising.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Hope

Cultivation: There’s a hawthorn for almost any hardiness zone, from Zones 4 to 11 according to the USDA, and as far north as Zone 1 (just below the tundra) in Canada. Hawthorn will grow in full sun or part shade. They’ll tolerate most types of soil, although they prefer rich, well-drained soil. They’re also drought tolerant. Growing hawthorn from seed is difficult and time-consuming– it’s easier to transplant a sucker or seedling. It’s possible to graft one type of hawthorn onto the seedling of another type. You can also use hawthorn as rootstock to graft other plants, mainly medlar and pear. Flowers generally bloom from May to June. Hawthorn is used as a hedge plant and as ornamentals– just be mindful of the thorns. Once established, hawthorns need little attention, other than fertilizer in spring, and some water during prolonged dry periods. It is also resistant to road salt and air pollution, making it ideal for urban areas.

Uses:

Medicinal: The flowers, leaves, and berries of Crataegus laevigata and other species have been used since the first century CE to treat heart disease. Science is starting to back up hawthorn’s use for treating a variety of cardiovascular issues, although more studies need to be done to confirm results and determine things like dosage. The dried fruits of Chinese (C. pinnatifida, shān zhā in Chinese) and Japanese (C. cuneata, called sanzashi in Japanese) hawthorn species are used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid.

Caution: Taking too much hawthorn can cause cardiac arrhythmia and low blood pressure. Some people may also experience headache, a racing heart, and nausea. Do not use if you are taking digoxin. It’s best to be safe and avoid hawthorn if pregnant or breast feeding.

Culinary: The “haws” (berries) can be used to make jam, jelly, sauces, or wine (although since they’re an important winter food for wildlife, you might prefer to leave them on the plants. The young spring leaves and flower buds can also be eaten cooked or raw. In Mexico, the fruit of a local hawthorn species is made into candy called rielitos.

Wildlife: Hawthorn is a source of food and shelter (especially in winter) for birds and mammals, as well as an important source of nectar for insects. It also provides food for the larvae of many butterflies and moths.

Bonsai: Many species of hawthorn can be used for bonsai, including common hawthorn (C. monogyna), Japanese hawthorn (C. cuneata), thornless hawthorn (C. nitida), and ornamental varieties like Crataegus lavigata ‘Paul’s scarlet’.

Other Uses: First Nations people of Western Canada used the thorns as fish hooks and for minor surgeries.

Mara’s Uses: Although Mara would likely use hawthorn in tonics for her clients, its traditional use against vampires might leave her a little reluctant.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wikipedia: Crataegus

Vampires: Hawthorn

Six Ways to Stop a Vampire

WebMD

Mt. Sinai

How to Grow Hawthorns

Hardy Fruit Tree- Hawthorn

Gardening 101: Hawthorn

Hawthorn- a Foraging Guide

Hawthorn- bride of the hedgerow

Hawthorn- Tree of the Wee Folk

Hawthorn as Bonsai

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas