CREEPING JENNY (LYSIMACHIA NUMMULARIA)
This perennial has a long history in its native Europe and was picked in moss, wrapped in bulrush leases and taken to the battlefields in soldiers’ travelling bags. Teas made from the herb were given to wounded soldiers and the sprigs were bound as a compress for wounds.
Plant it in well-dug, richly composted moist soil in full sun or partial light shade. Growing 5cm high, it spreads evenly. Where the runners touch the ground they root easily, finding places against curbs, rocks and stepping stones. It demands little attention other than watering so keep the soil lightly cultivated all around it and water it twice or even three times a week.
Chop the runners off with a sharp spade and press immediately into bags of richly composted, moist soil. Keep them watered, shaded and protected. After two months, gradually move the now sturdy little- plants out into the sun for a short while, increasing the time each day. Keep them well watered.
Pick the leafy sprigs throughout the year and make a tea with honey or use as a lotion.
Creeping Jenny tea has been used for centuries to ease coughs, sore throats and bronchitis and to loosen phlegm. The tea, taken three or four times during the day, was also a remedy for diarrhoea, digestive disturbances, colic, flatulence and nausea. To make the tea:
Pour a cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup fresh sprigs; let the tea stand for five minutes and then strain and sip it slowly.
MONDO GRASS (OPHIOPOGON JAPONICUS)
Mondo grass is a perennial evergreen groundcover that grows in 15cm tufts. It’s characterised by its neatness, adaptability and attractiveness along walkways, as a border plant, between pavers and in green banks and vertical gardens. This plant has been part of traditional Chinese medicine since the first century AD.
Plant it in well-dug, well-composted soil in both full sun and light shade. Prepare the ground with lots of good compost, bonemeal and rock dust, mixed together in the ratio 4:1:1. This formula ensures several years of excellent growth. Every 3-4 years, dig out the clumps, discard the soil in which they have been growing to a depth of 30cm, and then dig again, adding the formula, a spade or two every half metre. Space plants about 10cm apart and water slowly so the water can reach the roots and swell the tubers. I let a hose trickle in 2-3 times a week, less in winter. It’ll take frost, winds, searing heat and even hailstorms. In summer, sprays of pale mauve or white flowers appear which turn into blue-purple ’berries’. Left to dry on the plant, the berries are filled with tiny seeds that germinate well.
This is done mostly by separation of the tufts or from seed. Propagate at any time of the year except the coldest months. Water first, then dig out a clump and divide it by gently pulling out their fibrous roots and the small tufts and small thickened tubers. Replant in bags filled with soil mixed with compost. Keep moist and protected until created in the shade. Afterward move out into light shade for at least per week before putting them out permanently to reinforce.
To harvest the roots, water well, then pull up the edges of the clump and use a small fork to gently lift the roots. Mondo grass is a hardy perennial and can be harvested at any time of the year.
The ancient Chinese used the underground roots and tubers and the lower parts of the linear leases to make a traditional tonic tea called the ‘Emperor’s longevity tonic’. To get the full benefit, make the tea at least twice a week. The Emperors are recorded as taking 1/2 cup daily in times of anxiety and fatigue. Like all herbs, take it daily for a week or two and then break for a few days before resuming.
Simmer the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan for 15-20 minutes with the lid on, stirring frequently. Set the brew aside to cool. Drink it either hot or cold – half a cup twice a day, sweetened with honey, if desired. 2-6 slices of ginger root and a squeeze of lemon juice in winter.