Probably 10 years ago, we bought some seeds from Chiltern Seeds in the U.K. including seeds of Muscari comosum, the Tassel Hyacinth. It’s a beautiful plant, cousin to our familiar Grape Hyacinths, just as hardy but much more flamboyant. I hope I can work out how to put in photos so you can see what I mean. According to my book,’The Macdonald Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants,’ the plant has both sterile & fertile flowers, the fertile ones being those on long stalks at the top of each stem.(20/11/07 The book has it wrong, the fertile flowers are on the stem, ours are starting to form seed pods now.) As well as being lovely, it is also classified as an Herb. Apparently it’s bulbs are bitter to eat after being boiled, (not very inspiring,) however the cooked bulbs do make an excellent poultice for reddened skin, but I’m not prepared to sacrifice any bulbs to find out, because the flowers are too good to miss.

Another beauty, we have growing, which we haven’t tried is Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum multiflorum. This is in full flower now, & will stay looking cool & elegant for quite some time to come. Perusing that useful book, ‘Herbs” by Roger Philips & Nicky Foy, I have learnt that the young shoots can be cooked & eaten like Asparagus. & the starchy roots were used in bread-making, by the Native Americans. Flowers & roots were dried & used as snuff, & the whole plant was used to make a distilled water, reputed to be an excellent skin tonic. Although some of these uses sound interesting, I’m afraid those beautiful pendulous creamy flowers win hands down. It is a hardy plant, as most are in our garden, the more delicate ones tend to fall by the wayside, or more aptly by the compost heap! Solomon’s Seal seems to thrive in our changeable Hawke’s Bay climate, handling both extremes of wet & dry, & happily popping up in shade, semi shade & full sun. The only trick is to remember exactly where it’s planted , so that while it is dormant you don’t inadvertantly spear it, although even this it seems to cope with.

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