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While we grow our herb garden, we share some basic herb knowledge. Check back often to see our progress from seedlings to harvesting, we'll keep you posted.  


Click the seed packets below to learn tidbits of fun facts about the history of the herb, uses, recipes and more . . . 

Sage ~

Then: Gerard found sage "singular good for the head and braine; it quickeneth the senses, strengtheneth the sinewes...and cleanseth the blood." Pakinson touted its use" for teeming women, to helpe them the better forward in their childbearing." Culpeper tells us sage was useful against snakebite and would turn hair black.

And Now: Sage is useful in digesting rich foods. It may be added to vegetables, meats, eggs, breads and vinegars. In the home, it is an antiseptic cleaning solution.

Thanks to ~ "A Return to the 18th Century."

Feverfew ~

The Feverfew plant is an herb with a bright little daisy-like flower. It is actually a member of the chrysanthemum family, more specifically the daisy chrysanthemum family. It differs from the Gerbera Daisy family in several respects.  The main difference is the origination. The daisy chrysanthemum originated in Asia, while the Gerbera Daisy originated in South Africa. There are also differences in the leaf structures, as well as the colors, shapes of the flowers and climate preferences of each. 

Feverfew Flowers in the wild.

1,500 Years of Greek Wisdom

Feverfew has been used since the first century, and perhaps even longer, as a medicinal herb. Derived from the Latin word, febrifugia, meaning "fever reducer," Feverfew was documented for its medicinal qualities by the Greek botanist, pharmacologist, and physican, Pedanius Dioscorides. Dioscorides was employed by the Roman Empire and wrote what was considered the physician's bible of medical wisdom, De Materia Medica, a five-volume pharmacopea encyclopedia widely read and used for more than 1,500 years!

Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887

Pedanius Dioscorides

Vienna Dioscorides European Bramble illustration

Fever and Fire~

The scientific name is Tanacetum parthenium, but is referred to more commonly by the synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium. Pyrethrum, derived from the Greek word, pur (fire) is the key here, since the roots are spicy hot and bitter, too. Pyrethums have become a key ingredient for insect repellents. In herbal medicine, the uses include reducing fever, relief from migrain headaches, stress and fatigue, as well as female maladies. A tonic can also be made by boiling the leaves and using the cooled liquid to repel fleas for dogs or bees for humans. Making a tincture from this herb can also be used to reduce irritation from insect bites.  During the Middle Ages it was thought Feverfew would protect one from the plague and the bite of mad dogs. While it is still widely used as an herbal remedy, people who are allergic to ragweed will have adverse reactions to this herb as well. Feverfew attracts flies and slugs, but clever gardeners can create a toad paradise by placing small clay pots on their sides near the plant. The toads show their gratitude for these little toad houses by gorging themselves on the pest buffet the plants attract.


Feverfew flowers in the garden

Feverfew leaf

Garden Toad House

Feverfew at our D.D. Collins House

April ~ 2017

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Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm ~

Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and native to Europe, central Asia, and Iran. It has become so popular that it is now naturalized worldwide, including the Americas and in our own state of Illinois.


It is a perennial that grows from 1 to 3 feet tall with leaves reaching about two inches across. It has a light lemon fragrance with a hint of mint, but the scientific name may hold some surprises in how it was derived in the ancient times . . . 

Lemon Balm in bloom

Ancient Celebrities ~

How would a lemon-fragranced mint be scientifically named for honey bees? We must travel back to the days of antiquity and heed the words of celebrity. Back at that time, their words were revered and taken utmost seriously. Odd as it may seem, Virgil, the poet, who said, "Love conquers all,"  back around 50 BC played a part in how the name was derived. Not only he, but one more, too, who told us so true, that "Home is where the heart is," played a part, too.  Yes, indeed, Pliny the Elder, a celebrated Roman author and naturalist around 50 AD shared a love with Virgil as a keeper of the honey bee. They both knew and shared with the world, the virtues of attracting honey bees to new beehives by crushing lemon balm leaves and rubbing the hives to entice the bees to take up residency.

Let's take it apart and put it together so you can see that the Greeks and Romans were oh so clever, indeed. The scientific name, Melissa Officinalis takes its meaning from the Greek via Latin roots. "Melissa" is the Middle Latin abbreviation of the word, melissóphyllon, which means ‘bee leaf’. "Officinalis" is New Latin and means ‘in use pharmaceutically’. So there you have it, Lemon Balm really plays homage to a leaf for bees that comes in handy, medically.

Virgil, the poet

(70 BC - 19 BC)

1815 P Turpin Melissa Lemon Balm Hand Colored Engraving

Pliny the Elder

(23 AD - 79 AD)

Good Fer What Ails Ya ~

You can be certain when the scientific name has pharmaceutical references, there are a plethora of medicinal uses for this herb.  Lemon Balm is an ancient medicinal herb with various uses throughout history for more than 2,000 years.  The Capitularies of Charlemagne in the 800s were decreed to plant Lemon Balm in their cloister gardens. In the 10th Century it was used to fortify the heart and treat melancholy. In the 14th century the Queen of Hungary  was the first to use it cosmetically as an anti-aging cream to soften wrinkles and reportedly look tens years younger. It has been cultivated since at least the 16th century and suggested for many uses including bringing about calmness as well as alertness. In herbal medicine of today, it is proclaimed to help with digestion, liver function, the treatment of herpes cold sore virus, as well as Alzheimer's disease.  As with any medicinal herbs, precautions must always be taken in the use of natural remedies.

Common uses for Lemon Balm

Saint Elisabeth of Hungary

14th Century

Cloistered Gardens of

The Met

Still Popular Today ~

Lemon Balm remains popular today for everything from aromatherapy with essential oils, natural remedies of all sorts, and for many culinary delights including as a spice for fish and poultry dishes. It is wonderful to dry to make a fragrant potpourri addition. The fragrance is soothing and calming and has been prescribed for centuries to help heal a broken heart or to entice romantic love into one's life. It is also a popular additive to furniture polish, in making perfumes and cosmetics. As an herb, it has been majorly produced in Hungary, Italy, and Egypt; and as an essential oil in Ireland. 

Lemon Balm essential oil

Lemon Balm for cooking and teas

Lemon Balm in the garden


Catmint in bloom

Catmint ~

The story of Catmint bounces to and fro a little like a cat under the influence of . . . catnip. Catnip and catmint are used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two. In the garden, catmint is a little more decorative and fuller than traditional catnip so it is more likely to be among the choices in garden centers.  

Catmint in the garden 

Catnip in the garden 

Named for an ancient city ~

Catmint shares the family of Labiatae with similar herbs as rosemary, basil, lavender and more than 250 varieties of catmint. Its genus is Nepeta named after the ancient Etruscan city of Nepeti in the Roman Empire where it was first cultivated. Catmint is now naturalized throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa.

Garden defense ~

Catmint was often planted in the garden as a natural defense against some common garden pests. The oil of catnip is used as a natural mosquito repellent and is ten times more effective than DEET.  It will send cockroaches scurrying away, too. If they needed to deter deer or rats from the garden in the 1800s, catmint planted around would discourage these pests from entering. As a matter of fact, rats hate catmint and go to great lengths to avoid it at all costs even if they are starving.  On the other hand, bees and butterflies absolutely love catmint.  Gardeners have planted it to attract bees to their garden bee hives for centuries so the pollinators would visit and stay and produce honey to sweeten their day.

First close-up of the mosquito viewed via crude microscope by Jan Swammerdam and published  posthumously in "

The Book of  Nature," (1758)

Rats hate catmint

Bees and butterflies love catmint

Deer don't like catmint

"The Management of Bees" 

 (London Samuel Bagster and William Pickering, 1824)

Here kitty, kitty ~

About 50 percent of cats are affected by and drawn to catnip. For the ones that are genetically inclined to love catnip, the mere fragrance is enough to cause a reaction. That is why you may see cats rolling in catnip, flipping in it, purring like crazy, and any number of other silly, catty behaviors. Cats are less affected by non-specific Nepeta Cataria because the specific genus "cataria" produces a larger amount of the compound called nepetalactone which triggers the high they crave. If cats just smell the catnip, they get hyper. If they eat it, they get mellow. If they eat the root (and this goes for humans, too) they get down right aggressive.  Asian Catmint has been used for years by zoos around the world to calm lions and tigers. And, yes, the old saying is true~

'If you set it, the cats will eat it,

If you sow it, the cats don't know it.'

Got catnip?

Catnip seeds

Ahhhhh, got catnip.

Sowing Catnip seeds

The medicine chest ~

Catmint has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. It is still used by herbalists to treat colds, upset stomach, fever, colic, and as a sedative due to its generally relaxing properties. Given its mint properties, it is also helpful for bronchitis and has been used as a special cigarette to treat asthma. It can also enhance the intoxicating properties in nicotine when used in tobacco. It can be given as a tea, used as a poultice to relieve swelling from insect bites, and to relieve female maladies; however, it should never be used by pregnant women or women trying to conceive. 

Catmint Flower

Catmint Tea

Nepeta cataria botanical drawing

Dried Catmint leaves

Catnip flowers

Catmint cuisine ~

Catmint was used in the days of old as a meat rub to add flavor and aroma to meats. It is used regularly in French cooking and may be referred to as French marjoram. It is also becoming a popular herb in fish dishes. Before tea from China became popular, catmint tea was cherished by peasants and the upper class alike as a pleasant and refreshing tea.

Catmint tea recipe from


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Catnip Alchol recipe.jpeg

Catmint Cocktail

recipe from HGTV

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Sour Melon Liqueur with Catmint 

recipe from All Recipes

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Kitty catnip treats and toys ~

Because we know the consequences of not including a few recipes and toys for our feline friends to enjoy, here are a few catnip treats you can make yourself ~


Salmon and Catnip treat recipe

 from Epicuricloud

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Catnip cookies treat recipe


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DIY Catnip yarn toys

 from The Honest Kitchen

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Catmint in the garden at the 

D.D. Collins House - Spring  2017


Chives in the garden

Clever herb garden markers

Chives ~

As we stroll through our 1840s garden we can't help but notice purple balls of spiked petals upon slender stems bobbing in the breeze. "Oh, it's just a clump of chives," you may scoff. Well, there's a bit more to this precious herb than you may know. . . 

Shall we scape down the chive trail? ~

It's not a typo, but a pun of sorts. The hollow stem that holds this purple puff is called a "scape." It and the slender leaves emerge from a bulb that grows in dense clusters with roots just below the ground.

Botanical drawing

of chives

Old World, New World . . . China to Rome ~

Chives are a member of the Allium family (Greek derivative of "aleo" or to avoid by reason of smell like garlic). It is the only member of the Allium family to be native of both the Old World (Africa, Asia, and Europe) and New Worlds (the Americas). Origin claims stem from Siberia, China, and Greece. Chives have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years with recorded uses dating back to 3,000 BC. Chinese medicine used chives to promote sweating and male fertility. 

Chives were cultivated throughout Europe and the Roman Empire since the Middle Ages. Old World Romani believed that hanging chives around their doorways would ward off evil spirits and disease. They also used chives in fortune telling (as did Gypsies in the 1800s). The popular satirical poet of the First Century, Marcus Valerius Martialis (born 38 - 41AD - death 102-104 AD) wrote of chives in his twelve volumes, Epigrams ~

"He who bears chives on his breathe, Is safe from being kissed to death."

Marco Polo (1254 AD - 1324 AD) is credited with introducing chives from his travels in the East, however chives were not commonly used until the 1500s. The common word, "chive" comes from Old French "cive," and the first English use of the word, "chive" was around 1400.

Marcus Valerius Martialis

Vintage ancient world map

Marco Polo

Garden and medicine ~

The root system of chives help guard against erosion in the garden. It is one of the first plants to break ground in the spring, a welcome sight to every gardener. Chives help protect the garden from many insect pests including Japanese beetles.  They also offer help with the control of fungal infections, mildew, and scab in the garden.

Chives have been a medicinal herb for thousands of years. They have a mild stimulant effect as well as diuretic and antiseptic properties.

Bundles of chives

Chive Blossoms

Chives in early spring

More than a potato topping ~

Everyone is familiar with a baker topped with sour cream and chives, but more is there for this culinary, herbal fare. One could do as the Dutch in the 1800s and feed chives to your family milk cow to flavor the milk. That may give your sour cream quite a zing. Or . . . you could check out some of these recipes, sure to please that gourmet adventurer deep within thee~

Chive Infused Oil Martha Stewart.jpg

Chive Infused Oil recipe

 from Martha Stewart

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Crab Stuffed Deviled Eggs recipe

 from Vintage Cooking

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Egg Nests with Chives recipe

 from Vintage Recipes

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Pork Potstickers with Chives recipe

 from Honest Cooking

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Beet Caviar and Chives recipe

 from 101 Cookbooks

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Chive Pinwheels recipe

 from Taste of Home

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Potato Latke all recipes.jpg

Potato Latkes recipe

 from  All Recipes

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Loaded Potato Soup w/ Chives

recipe from Prudent Garden

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Chive Blossom Vinegar recipe

 from Intimate Weddings

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Mashed Cauliflower recipe

 from Foodie Crush

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Grilled Steak Chived Blue Cheese

recipe from Nerds With Knives

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After dinner art ~

Victorian gardens in 1800s England and America featured herbs like chives in intricate landscape designs. Vincent Van Gogh loved chives and painted his masterpiece, "Flowerpot with Chives," in 1887. In the late 1800s chives were popular with botanists and herbal artists. Vintage seed company packets of chives are a collector's treasure. Chives are popular subject matter for the blooming artists of today.

Vincent Van Gogh

"Flowerpot with Chives"


Seed Packet for Chive seeds


by C.A.M. Lindman


"Herbal Legends"

St. Louis Magazine

click photo for article

The Sargent House Museum garden

Gloucester, Massachusetts

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Vintage postcard from Holland circa 1900

"Early Morning Chives"

by Doug Shiver  (modern day)

Phone:  Call Lavadna at 618.420.0288         

Mail: c/o 104 Irene Dr., Collinsville, IL 62234 

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