Create your own healing garden this Christmas

Looking for a different way to celebrate this Christmas? It is a great time to make your home a healing garden and experience the magic healing power of plants, especially herbs.

“Herbs-planting is the perfect choice to reduce stress from the pressures of daily life,” said Chen Kun-tsan, the deputy engineer and gardening expert of Hsi Liu Environmental Greening Foundation, Taipei.

In Western countries, horticultural therapy is used to improve human well-being. The primary targets of horticultural therapy include the elderly, disabled children, stroke patients, alcoholics and drug addicts, but even ordinary people can benefit from horticulture. Plant seeds and watch them grow and bloom. Life in the healing garden can give people hope and put them in a good mood.

Besides, herb gardens are fun and easy to grow. They also take up little space. Chen has grown over 300 kinds of plants on his balcony and roof since he bought his home.

His family now enjoys gorgeous plants all year round, especially during the Christmas holidays.

Healing Herbs

There are a wide variety of herbs which help people not only deal with grief and loss, but also soothe their soul. Herbs can be ornamental, aromatic, culinary and edible. Chen provided some tips for those who want to create their own healing garden. “Remember to pick easily
available, planted herbs in season because they require little maintenance,” he said.

Easily grown plants for beginner gardeners are rosemary, Jamaica mint, lemon mint marigold, stevia and patchouli. Rosemary, the queen of herbs, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves. The stimulating smell of rosemary may boost memory and mental performance. The fresh or dried leaves are frequently used in desserts and meat cuisine.

Herb tea is known for its healing and soothing benefits. Calamondin — a small, acid tangerine — blooms year-round, filling the air with the aroma of citrus blossom. Ripe fruits are most abundant from December to February. The juice of the calamondin can be squeezed to make refreshing beverages, to flavor fish, to make cakes, pies, preserves, sauces and to use in soups. Jamaican mint is a bush with bright green leaves and strong peppermint aroma. The leaves are used to make tea and relieve indigestion. Lemon mint marigold with strongly scented leaves has yellow blankets of flowers in blossom. The tender leaves can be used in desserts and tea.

Having a cup of herb tea can give people a comfortable feeling over the Christmas holidays. “To have a healthy Christmas, you can add stevia’s leaves to your tea,” Chen said. Stevia with small, white five-petaled flowers is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As natural sweeteners, stevia’s leaves have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.

Some herbs like patchouli and Mona Lavender are easily propagated from cuttings. Chinese medicine uses the heavy scent and juice of patchouli to treat nausea, sore throat, headaches and colds. Mona Lavender produces a lot of small orchid-like flowers every month except summer.

Christmas Flowers

If you want to add color to your garden, pick Blue Butterfly Flower, Egyptian Star Cluster and Snow Bush for your festive decoration. Blue Butterfly Flower and Egyptian Star Cluster are easy to grow through propagation. The year-round light-blue, purple blooms of Blue Butterfly Flower attract butterflies to their nectar. The Egyptian Star Cluster blooms every month; its star-shaped flowers come in white, lavender, purple, red and pink, in single and double shades.

Poinsettia is one of the traditionally popular flowers during the festive season of Christmas. However, Snow Bush, also called Snow-on-the-
Mountain, has gained popularity recently because its flower-heads appear like white poinsettia.

Vegetable Gardening

It is also a good idea to create a delicious garden and grow your own food this Christmas. To let his family enjoy fresh vegetables anytime, Chen has grown some vegetables including lettuce, chives, cherry radish and fennel on the roof. His wife can just walk out and pick the vegetable her family needs for the day’s meal.

Radish Cherry Belle, nicknamed cherry radish, is an edible root vegetable, reaching maturity in three to four weeks. Its cherry-red appearance with crisp white flesh looks adorable, especially for children. It is usually used as a crunchy, spicy addition to salads.
Fennel — a highly aromatic and flavorful herb — is traditionally considered one of the best herbs to season pork roasts, fish dishes and
spicy sausages. Dried fennel seeds are also used to flavor breads and cakes.

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