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

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

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

Visiting Provence: Carpentras

Since travelling right now is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, I’m sharing pictures of my past trip to Provence, France. Why not be inspired by where we’ve been while we dream about where we’d like to go?

In June 2015, after years of drooling over pictures and other people’s stories, I finally had the chance to visit Provence. While I was there I stayed in Carpentras, a town in the Vaucluse region of Provence with a fascinating history, a fantastic weekly marché (market), and a name that’s really difficult to pronounce if you’ve never heard it before! Why didn’t this video exist five years ago?

It’s also the centre of the truffle trade for the region (unfortunately I was there too late for truffle season). I think it would take many visits at all different times of the year to fully appreciate Carpentras. For now, here are a few shots I took during my brief time there. Enjoy…

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The sign directs drivers to the paid parking ticket dispenser. Somehow it sounds better in French.

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The mountain in the background is Mt. Ventoux, known for its white peaks, which are bare rock and not snow.

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Love the random plants growing on the side of the building.

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, provence, france, carpentras, vaucluse, architecture, travel, travelling, french tourism, avignon, whimsy bower, history, photography, aspasiasbissas.com

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The other end of the fountain features a female head.

My favourite part of Carpentras was probably the Roman arch (located behind the Palais de Justice). Provence actually has many Romans ruins and structures (farmers still use Roman-built aqueducts to water non-edible crops like lavender!) If I ever get to go back, I’m going to take a tour of all things Roman 🙂

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The side of the arch.

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, provence, france, carpentras, vaucluse, architecture, travel, travelling, french tourism, avignon, whimsy bower, history, photography, aspasiasbissas.com
Palais de Justice (back view). You can see the Roman arch at the bottom, right.

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Carpentras also produces a local specialty called Berlingots:

Visiting Provence: Carpentras, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

They were invented by a candy maker who wanted to find a way to use the syrup left over from making candied fruit. Now Carpentras is known for them– make sure to pick some up if you ever get the chance.

What’s a favourite place you’ve visited? Share in the comments…

Want to read more about France? Download my FREE story Tooth & Claw, set in early 1900s Marseille, and inspired by a true story (did I mention there are also vampires?)

Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

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Note: All photos in this post (other than the one of the Berlingots) are © Aspasía S. Bissas. They were originally shared on my other blog Whimsy Bower (click to see more photos there).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Nettle

Vampire's Garden: Nettles, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Mareefe 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 ninth 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.

Please also note: Nettle is known as stinging nettle for a reason. See “Caution” below.

Botanical Name: Urtica dioica

Common Names: Stinging nettle, common nettle, nettle leaf, stinger, burn nettle, burn weed, burn hazel, feuille d’ortie, slender nettle, tall nettle, wild nettle. (Not to be confused with dead nettle, Lamium spp.)

History: Native to Europe, temperate Asia, and parts of northern Africa, nettle can now be found throughout the world. It grows abundantly in areas that receive regular rain, such as the Pacific Northwest, and locations that have been disturbed by humans (e.g., ditches and fields). The German idiom “sich in die Nesseln setzen,” or to sit in nettles, means to get into trouble. The medical term for hives, “urticaria,” comes from the Latin word for nettle: Urtica (from urere, “to burn”). It has been used as medicine, food, tea, and as a raw material for textiles since ancient times.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Rudeness, coolness, scandal, pain, slander, cruelty, protection (no two sources I found gave the same meaning).

Cultivation: Perennial. Nettle needs moist, rich soil (it’s also an indicator of fertile soil wherever it grows wild). Start seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, or sow seeds directly in spring or autumn. Transplant hardened seedlings in spring, spacing plants 30 cm (12 inches) apart. Make sure to grow nettle away from high-traffic areas in your garden. The plant grows 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) tall in summer and dies back in winter. Harvest leaves in early spring (don’t use once the plants have flowered) and roots in autumn. Nettle spreads easily via rhizomes, so if you’d like to grow it but don’t want it taking over your yard, keep it contained with a barrier around its roots (if it gets invasive, regular and persistent tilling can help get it under control; otherwise, you may need to resort to herbicides). Add nettle leaves to compost as a source of nitrogen (or make compost tea). You can also forage for nettle in green spaces and open woodland (just be sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or steeped in car exhaust).

TIP: Aphids love nettle. Grow nettle to keep aphids away from other garden plants (like roses).

Uses:

Medicinal: The fresh plant is a traditional spring tonic. Fresh or dried leaves and the powdered root have been used to treat disorders of the kidneys and urinary tract, and for sore muscles, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, and gout. The leaves are also used for skin conditions, to treat anemia, and to reduce hay fever. There is some evidence that nettle lowers both blood sugar and blood pressure. Some folk practitioners still practice Urtication, or flogging with nettles, to treat arthritis and rheumatism, and to increase circulation (although this has been shown to be effective, before you try it keep in mind that Urtication has also been used as a sentence for criminals).

Hair Care: A tea made from nettle leaves can be used as a hair rinse to add strength and shine. Some people believe it also stimulates hair growth, but that is purely anecdotal.

Culinary; Nettles are rich in Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as iron, potassium, calcium, and protein. Use young plants picked in spring (plants that have flowered or gone to seed contain gritty particles that can irritate the urinary tract and kidneys). The sting can be removed by cooking or drying nettles, or by soaking them (I can confirm that cooking and drying works, but I’m hesitant to try the soaking method– please let me know if you have, and how it went). Fresh nettle can be used like spinach or other greens, or made into chips or pesto. Dried or fresh leaves and flowers can be made into tea. You can also brew beer from young nettles.

Fun Fact: There’s a World Nettle Eating Championship, where people compete to see who can eat the most fresh nettles. Those with a low pain tolerance need not apply.

Wildlife: Nettle provides food for the larvae of several species of butterflies and moths. Ladybugs (a beneficial garden insect) also prefer laying their eggs on nettle. When harvesting, watch out for eggs and caterpillars (a curled leaf can be a sign of a resident) and avoid damaging those leaves.

Textiles: Nettle has been used to make a linen-like fabric for at least 3,000 years, and unlike some plants (looking at you, cotton) nettle doesn’t need pesticides. Some modern European manufacturers are starting to produce nettle fabric again.

This short video demonstrates how to make nettle fabric:

And this video shows how to make paper from nettles:

Natural Dye: Nettle produces yellow dye from its roots and a yellow-green or grey-green hue from its leaves.

Caution: The leaves of most nettle species are covered in hollow needle-like hairs that inject histamine and other irritating chemicals into the skin when touched, causing a stinging sensation and contact dermatitis (known as contact urticaria). The sting is removed when nettles are cooked or dried. Wear gloves and use caution when handling the fresh plant. Dock leaves are a traditional remedy for nettle stings, and dock often grows close to nettle (you can also use spotted jewelweed, plantain, antihistamines, or anti-itch creams).

Caution 2: Nettle has been deemed likely unsafe to take during pregnancy, as it could potentially cause a miscarriage. Although it has a history of being used to induce lactation, it is now recommended to avoid nettle while breastfeeding. Nettle can also interfere with some medications; let your doctor know if you are using it.

Mara’s Uses: Mara would include nettle in tinctures and teas to help strengthen bloodletters (human volunteers used by vampires for their blood) and to prevent or treat anemia.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Further Reading

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Make sure to download your FREE copies…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, 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! ♥

Canadian Wildlife Federation (includes recipes)

Gardeners’ World: 10 Uses for Nettles

Penn State Hershey (medicinal use)

Surprising Ways to Use Stinging Nettles (with recipes)

Stinging Nettle: Useful and Delicious

Tips for Growing Nettle

How to Use Nettle as a Fertilizer

Dyeing with Nettles

Wikipedia

Floriography, Language of Flowers

Meaning of Flowers

WebMD