Celebrations And Holidays, Halloween, Herbs, Lotti

samhain

There’s a frost on the ground this morning, and crisp autumn leaves crunch beneath my boots as I walk to work. For a few weeks the mornings will be light again, but the evenings have been plunged into darkness. Yesterday evening I stood outside and felt the chill in the air, smelt the telltale aroma of a bonfire burning somewhere far away. The moon has been bold and bright these past few days, and while it’s waning now it still manages to light up the sky.

Halloween is upon us.

This special time of year has been celebrated in one way or another for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It marks the halfway point between the autumn equinox and winter solstice as communities prepare for the long, dark months ahead. During this time, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead is said to weaken, allowing spirits (both malevolent and benign) to slip into our world. Celebrated in one of its earliest forms as Samhain (pronounced “sa-win” or “sow-een”), this marrying of our world and the otherworld was an important part of Celtic calendar.

halloween ritual

Many modern Halloween celebrations originate from Samhain and other gaelic festivals, and it’s believed by some scholars that the festival was Christianized into Halloween by the early church. Samhain focused on remembering and honouring the dead while harmful or mischievous spirits were warded off. It involved lighting bonfires and preparing meals using the recent harvest, setting a place at the family table for the dead. Often, people would dress themselves and their children in disguises to confuse any evil spirits who may have crossed over during this liminal time. In Ireland, offerings would be left for the aos sí (spirits or fairies) in exchange for their careful watch and blessings during the winter.

Samhain is the time of year where people celebrate being at one with nature’s rhythms as part of the cycle of life and death. As the cold creeps in, plants and flowers in the garden begin to wither and die and the harvest is over, leaving the fields bare. In early cultures, cattle were brought back from summer pastures at this time and livestock was chosen and slaughtered ready for winter.

Early celtic people had to be in tune with nature all year round and pay close attention to the changing of the seasons so they could better prepare their homes, livestock and farms. Today, most of us have the luxury of central heating and a local supermarket, so the changing of the seasons can often pass us by. Farming has modernised to make overwintering animals easier, and produce which cannot be grown in the UK during the winter can be shipped in from overseas. Samhain, which once served to remind us of the encroaching winter and the impact the season has on the world around us, is now more widely celebrated as Halloween.

pentacle symbol

If you’re feeling a little traditional this year, why not take part in some Samhain celebrations as well as apple-bobbing and trick-or-treating?

Start by taking a nature walk somewhere near your home. A forest, wood or patch of wild land is a perfect place for a spot of natural contemplation. Observe the changing world around you, take note of the colours of the leaves and keep an eye out for wild birds and animals. When you place yourself in a wild space like this, you remind yourself that you’re a part of nature just as much as the trees growing around you or the animals scurrying through the brush. If it’s permitted, collect some objects to bring home with you.

autumn forest

If it’s safe to do so, you could light a bonfire in your garden or kindle flames in a fireplace. The bonfire mimics the sun and its power to hold back the darkness and death so closely associated with winter. In later traditions, bonfires were said to have protective powers. When your bonfire is lit, write a habit you want to break out of or rut that you’ve found yourself stuck in and throw it into the fire as you imagine yourself adopting a new, healthier way of life.

Because the boundaries between worlds is thought to be thinner at this time, many people hold séances or practice divination using runes or tarot cards to seek guidance for the year ahead. This is also a way people give thanks to and remember those who have passed on.

You can also prepare a celebratory meal. A Samhain meal should focus on fruits and vegetables, wild game (if available) and foraged foods. All the food should be served at the same time complete with candles and a centerpiece and a place should be set and food should be served for the memory of the dead. Get some traditional Samhain herbs and spices to add some flavour to your meal: Rosemary is said to be a herb of remembrance: perfect for observing the tradition of remembering loved ones who have passed away. It’s also often used as a smudge for protecting magic spaces. Mugwort is another herb used by different magic practitioners who believe it encourages lucid dreaming and healing.

If you’re not feeling convinced, it’s always helpful to remember that you don’t have to believe in magic to grow useful, practical plants in your home or garden. Here’s a list of things you can grow yourself which are thought to help with a variety of illnesses and ailments.

Aloe Vera

aloe vera

Aloe Vera has been grown in homes and gardens for years thanks to its healing properties. The clear, sticky gel found inside an aloe vera plant is believed to be a effective moisturiser and is thought to relieve pain and speed up healing time for minor burns. Ancient Greek physician Dioscorides wrote what is thought to be the first written account of the supposed healing properties of Aloe Vera around AD 41 and by the second century it was an important component of the physician’s pharmacy.

Aloe Vera is an easy, stylish plant which is great to grow indoors. To harvest the gel from the plant, you need to remove a mature leaf from the plant by cutting it as close to the base as possible. Let the yellow sap drain from the leaf, then give it a quick rinse. Using a sharp knife, remove the serrated edges of the aloe leaf then remove the top and bottom pieces of skin (similar to filleting a fish). You should be left with a leaf-shaped sliver of translucent gel, which can applied to the skin. The easiest way to store aloe gel is to cut it into small cubes, where you can keep it in the fridge for about a week or freeze it for a month.

Lavender

lavender

Lavender is famous for its relaxing aroma and has been used for thousands of years all around the world. Lavender oil is said to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties which can help bug bites and even minor burns and one study noted that wounds treated with lavender oil closed faster. Lavender is most popular, however, for its calming effect and the benefits it can have for those suffering from restlessness, insomnia or anxiety.

Lavender can be grown both inside and outdoors. Lavender should be harvested when the buds have formed but the flowers haven’t yet opened. Cut a good bundle of lavender, tie it together then hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dry spot. After 2-4 weeks, you can simply rub or shake the lavender buds off into a bowl or tray then store them however you like. Lavender is great for putting in mini drawstring bags to be tucked beneath pillows to aid sleep or even placed into a draw to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

Peppermint

peppermint

This popular garden herb has been used in alternative medicine for years to treat a wide range of illnesses and ailments. Peppermint is one of the most widely consumed herbal teas (also known as tisanes) and is said to ease the effects of nausea, cramps, diarrhea and even morning sickness or period pain. When applied as an oil, peppermint is said to help relieve headaches, muscle pain, toothache and itchiness. This versatile herb also contains menthol, which makes it a natural decongestant.

You can make your own mint tea at home with just a few ingredients. Rinse off your freshly harvested mint then give the leaves a gentle crush to release the flavour. Peppermint tea is best made with hot but not boiling water, so boil a kettle and leave it to cool for a few minutes. Place 7-10 leaves in your mug then pour the hot water over them, making sure they’re completely submerged. The tea then needs to steep – the longer you leave it, the stronger it will be! You can add extra flavour with honey or freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Chamomile

chamomile tea

Like peppermint, chamomile is an enduring medicinal herb which is most popularly consumed in tea. Chamomile is said to be great for tackling period pain, reducing inflammation and encouraging sleep, and the oil can assist healing and help relieve eczema.

You can also brew your own chamomile tisane at home by following just a few easy steps. An infuser teapot is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one you can make makeshift tea-bag from cheesecloth or pour the tea through a fine strainer when it’s ready. If you’re using freshly picked flowers, you should use them right after harvesting. Each cup requires around two heaped teaspoons of flowerheads (or more for a stronger infusion) which need to be steeped in boiling water for around ten minutes. You can add honey, mint or even apple slices to your tea to give it more flavour!

Lemon

lemon tree

Lemons have been a staple of cold and flu remedies for many years. These bitter fruits are a great way to ease the pain of a sore throat or a cough during the winter. Simply mix the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon with hot water and honey for a quick and easy homemade cough mixture.

While not the hardiest plant, lemons are one of the most popular citrus fruits to grow in the UK. They should be grown in a pot and can stay outside during the summer then brought in over the winter. You can also buy miniature lemon trees which are great for keeping on a windowsill.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Infographics, Planters, Planting, Plants

You may have noticed over the last few months that we’ve been going potty over pot-growing plants. Through a series of infographics, we’ve compiled the Complete Guide to Container Gardening – simple guides to help you get the most out of planting in pots.

Here are the collected guides for you to enjoy all over again. And when you’re ready to start growing, we have all the planters you could ever need!

How to Plant in Pots

How to plant in pots

We kick off with the basics, for gardening novices or simply those who need a refresher. Planting in pots opens up a whole world of flexible gardening for decorative plants, herbs, houseplants and more.

How to Repot a Plant

Hot to repot a plant

Most potted plants will need repotting at some stage in their life. If they outgrow their current container it’s essential to give them more space. We made this 5 step guide to make the process super straight forward!

How to Water Pot Plants

How to water pot plants

Watering is one of those critical conundrums when it comes to pot plants. With potentially no natural water and limited drainage, it’s easy to over or under-water. Follow these best practices for healthy plants.

How to Choose the Right Planter for Your Garden

How to choose the right planter

Picking the right planter is a deceptively easily task. But there are so many factors aside from taste – material, portability, size and more. We address them all to make your decision simple again.

How to Plant Potatoes in Containers

How to plant potatoes in containers

Container gardening is such an adaptable form of growing and it’s perfect for raising your own crops to eat. Potatoes especially are a natural fit for pots, meaning you can have home-grown spuds without the need for an allotment.

How to Plant Strawberries in Containers

How to plant strawberries

Strawberries are perfect for growing in pots on the patio too. Fresh fruit on the doorstep – what’s not to like? We take you through how to grow the juiciest strawberries at home.

How to Grow Herbs in Pots

How to grow herbs in pots

Take your cooking to the next level with a stock of fresh herbs at your fingertips. We show you how to start growing herbs at home in a kitchen garden or right on the windowsill.

How to Grow Plants Indoors

How to grow plants indoors

Of course, many of us who love container gardening do so because it allows us to fill the house with beautiful blooms. Indoor gardening has its own challenges, so we’ve got the tips for you to master it.

How to Plant a Hanging Basket

How to plant a hanging basket

Finally we round off the series by heading back out into the garden for a classic horticultural endeavour – planting a hanging basket. By now you should be an expert in container growing and well prepared for this last task.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Gardening, George, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Infographics, Planting, Watering

Gardening shouldn’t be limited to outside, particularly if you live in the city or an apartment. Having plants inside will enhance your rooms with life, colour and lovely scents. You can also have herbs and vegetables right on hand for cooking. So read on and pick up some tips on how to grow plants indoors with our step-by-step infographic.

And when you’re ready to start growing, we have some wonderful planters that will look great in your house!

How to grow plants indoors infographic

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Infographic by our designer Becky.

Check out the previous installment of The Complete Guide to Container Gardening, How to Grow Herbs in Pots. And read Part 9: How to Plant a Hanging Basket.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Amie, Animals, Bird Baths, Celebrations And Holidays, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Mothers' Day, Planters, Plants

Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show off your eternal gratitude to the one woman in your life who will always be there for you. Thanks to Primrose, there’s more to this day than just flowers and chocolates. We’ve compiled a list of gifts for the special woman in your life, to suit a range of budgets. With next day delivery available too, you can even afford to leave it until the last minute.

Carbon steel Weed Fork
Does your mother enjoy gardening? Is she eager to get out into the garden once the sun breaks through? If so, we’ve a great low cost solution with our weed fork. With an ergonomic grip, carbon material (lightweight yet strong) and a 5 year warranty, you can’t go wrong. She’ll be back out in the garden in no time at all, and it’ll be thanks to you.

LED Candles
Whilst the clocks are set to turn back at the end of March, there is still plenty of darkening evenings ahead of us. Considered a safe alternative (great if there are children in the household), with up to 48 hours runtime, LED candles are great for setting a mood, using as a table centerpiece or placed in the bathroom whilst enjoying an evening bath.

Herb Garden Windowsill Planter
Considered the perfect gift for a loved one (one of our best sellers), this beautiful herb planter will sit happily upon any windowsill or shelf. This planter contains three seed herb sachets and a dash of compost too, so this gift is ready to go as soon as it’s unwrapped. Or if you want to place your own message on one, we have a personalised option available also.

Bird Bath
The perfect gift for those who have a delightful presence of wildlife in their gardens, bird baths not only look great in your garden, but they actually keep birds hydrated.  With minimal effort to set up (you just need to fill with water), you can sit back and watch the birds flock to your garden, surrounding with the cheeky chipmunks on the bird bath body.

Planter
Add a stylish touch to your garden with our 4 tier solar water feature / planter.  Powered by the Great British sunlight, this requires minimum maintenance, and is both environmentally friendly and safe to use. The water cascades down the tiers, and your mum is free to personalise it with her own flower choice. Being self-contained, there is also minimal set up effort and easily  moved around.

Statue
Why not push the boat out, and treat your mum to this extravagant ‘Mother and Child’ statue. It would be a great addition to any garden, and can symbolise your love for one another. Consisting of mostly bronze, this statue will be the envy of your neighbours, and your mum won’t hesitate to show it off, especially with this generous price tag..

So there you have it. Plenty of options to choose from if you wish to break away from the tradition of flowers and chocolates. Don’t forget the date – Sunday 6th March.

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

To see the rest of Amie’s posts, click here.