I believe I counted 96 calendula seedlings planted this summer? A couple of them are still blooming, under two snows, in the garden. Many of them are valiantly surviving the cold in their pots on the porch steps. I was afraid I would loose them all at the first sign of frost. I didn’t'.
Most of the ones from the garden I pulled up last week, and out of time, let sit on the kitchen counter – a giant pile of plants. Between the freeze and the undignified heap they sat in for a few days, I lost a bunch of the leaves... but I still managed to dry a quart Ziploc bagful from them. I grow calendula for the flowers, because they are beautiful and because they are healing. Bonus: they attract aphids away from other things you are growing. But I also harvest the leaves. They're edible, did you know? Calendula is the classic "potherb." My leaves though, are dried and sent with instructions on poulticing and plastering to my father – he with the varicose veins the size of golf balls in his legs. They're good for that, the leaves. I hope he actually uses them.
I think I must have a love affiare going on with my herbs. Affaires are mutual things, you see. I love them. And I think that efficacious herbs, the healing ones, must have a truly deep love for humanity. They could have evolved in so many other ways. The amount of phyto-chemicals and trace nutrients and good energy that healing herbs put into their herbal parts is astounding. When you think that all of that energy could have evolved to have been directed towards something else... or towards the same plant parts, without creating the effective herbal medicines... There is so much love right there. Calendula has been giving me flowers ALL SUMMER LONG. Now she gives me her leaves. And in exchange, I save her seeds. I've got some collected already, from seedheads accidentally collected before their time. From some recent seed heads, fully mature. The seed head its self will appear dried and ready to harvest long before it really is. It is not until the vital energy has withdrawn from the stem, leaving it brittle and brown, rather than strong and lush and green, that the seeds have absorbed all the procreative energy they can hold.
I'm leaving the seed heads on the plant, on the porch, out in the cold, even after harvesting another giant basket of leaves. I want to see if next years plants will remember the cold. Will they grow more fiercely in the early season? More vibrantly? Be even less susceptible to frost in the fall? How does evolution happen anyway? There is an intelligence in seeds. In plants. I feel we all too often vastly underrate that intelligence. If I contemplate the possibility that our human DNA carries with it some load of karma from our ancestors, why should I not entertain the possibility that the prana (life force) at work in seeds can remember the cold, and tell next year's plant to prepare for it? How else do we get cold-hardy varietals??