Watch Out There’s a Humphrey About, Happy Hands & Stress Busters

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 14th April 2018 
 Watch Out There’s a Humphrey About … 

I have bestolled the virtues of comfrey in the garden before, but whereas most gardeners are familiar with the Russian comfrey, my adoration is for the creeping comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum), also known as dwarf or ornamental comfrey.

At this time of year I am always reminded of its excellent ground cover skills and ability to attract bees. I was recommending it to a client last week and mentioned that my brother always refers to it as ‘Humphrey’.

“Oh how sweet”, she replied, “How old is your brother?”

“49”. I replied.

As with any good ground cover, it will need ‘supervision’. Some people consider it to be a weed as it will cover the ground quickly but as Dad used to say, “A weed is only a plant in the wrong place.” I have used it to cover large areas of flowerbeds and as it is low growing it is great to grow taller plants and/or bulbs through too.

Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is the most popular type of comfrey for the grower, it’s a hybrid of Symphytum officinale (common comfrey) and Symphytum asperum (rough comfrey) and is also a useful plant. It can be used to create a powerful liquid fertiliser – and chickens love the leaves, which are also a great tonic for them.

It is a member of the Borage and Forget-me-not family (Boraginaceae) and will happily grow on most soil types, needing little fuss or maintenance. The stems are covered in tiny hairs, which can sometimes irritate the skin so wear gloves when handling or cutting leaves for making ‘tea.’ Comfrey tea is an excellent fertilizer for the garden – not for guests!

Simply add leaves to a container of water and allow them to decompose into a highly nutritious liquid fertiliser. Fill a bucket or barrel with water and add roughly 1kg of cut or bruised leaves to every 15 litres of water, although you don’t have to be too precise. Cover, and after 4-6 weeks a noxious (very) smelly brown liquid is ready for use.

Or make a concentrate by packing the leaves tightly in a container, like a 2 litre plastic drinks bottle (good way to recycle), creates a black concentrated liquid which can be stored for up to a year – and it’s not quite so ‘fragrant’.

Just cut off the bottom of the bottle, pack in the comfrey leaves and stand the bottle upside down in a container. Cover the open end with a polythene bag, held in place with an elastic band, to prevent drying out. Comfrey liquid will drip out of the bottle into the collecting vessel. This concentrate should be watered down according to its strength – when thick and black, dilute 1 part feed to 20 parts water; and then when thin and brown, dilute again to 1 to 10. This needn’t be too precise either!

Happy Hands

The saying, ‘Busy hands are happy hands’, is mostly true, I agree, but the busier my hands are the more battered they become! I have tried an awful lot of hand creams over the years none of which have made the slightest difference and have been relegated to the back of various cupboards and drawers, but I had another pot as a birthday gift recently and just before I dismissed it, I was hooked by the smell. So I gave it a go. And it works. And me and my hands love it! And it’s Welsh – or made in Wales anyway.

Gareth Daniel formulates and hand makes his range of Old Faithful natural skin & hair care products and has an amazing affinity with essential oils and their benefits, and an obvious passion for what he does.

He is committed to using only the highest quality cold pressed, unrefined, natural ingredients and essential oils from excellent growers and suppliers and has developed a great range of Unisex skincare products, including beard oils (not quite so unisex!), a foot balm, a cleanser which has rave reviews, and a Hammam moisturising serum.

Despite my skepticism, the hand cream (Maker’s Cream), has made a huge difference to my hands and in fact I now have one pot on the kitchen table and one pot in my truck – not in the back of a cupboard or drawer!

You can find out more about Gareth, his story and his fab products at www.oldfaithful.co And to quote him, “I hope you love & respect yourself as much as I love & respect the ingredients which go into my products.”

Stress Busters

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that April is not only National Pet Month but also Stress Awareness Month. I believe the one reduces the other, for sure. See photos!

Studies show that interactions with animals can decrease stress in humans by increasing levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decreasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Other proven benefits include:

  1. Just being around an animal decreases your blood pressure,
  2. Our pets decrease our reactions to stressful situations.
  3. Pet owners on average get more exercise, especially dog owners.
  4. People with pets are less likely to say they feel loneliness, which is one common source of stress.
  5. Pets help you be in the moment.
  6. Pets lower stress by fulfilling our need for touch, which we find comforting.
  7. Pets seem to help support feelings that make you more resilient at dealing with stress.
  8. Finally, they make us laugh!

No wonder the more people I meet, the more I love my animals!

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