I started a whole flat of wolfsbane seeds this week. This is Aconitum anthora, a dwarf wolfsbane often known as “healing wolfsbane” because it is used medicinally (!) where it is native. You can see that the flowers are yellow, like regular wolfsbane, but the helmets are much fatter and stubby, not elongated. The plants are shorter than regular wolfsbane also. I decided to give them a try because I could get prepped seeds of this species. I hope it does well in my garden. If so, I will have some wolfsbane foliage for sale. The leaves are beautifully dissected. These were the first seeds I started this year.
I prepped two flats of Jiffy pellets to ready them for planting wild white petunia, pokeweed, radicchio, candytuft, and stocks. Yep, this year I am growing a bunch of fragrant, old-fashioned flowers to grow in pots on my patio. I love to sit out there in good weather, and I have so enjoyed having that area full of flowers in pots. Last year I had mostly zinnias and some of the white marigolds, which have a wonderful scent, unlike regular marigolds. Zinnias are pretty, and I will grow some again this year–red, scarlet, and wine-colored. I’ve always loved them, so easy to grow and so cheerful, but I wanted to grow a lot more good smellers both for me and for the bees. I’ll be growing a couple squash plants and cukes and would to see more pollination, and I hope more fragrant and more violet flowers (violet seems to be bees’ favorite color) will attract more bees. Both the stocks and candytuft are open-pollinated, so there should be a lot of variety with them. As for the radicchio, I love that stuff but can hardly ever find it organic. For a couple of years I’ve intended to grow it and haven’t gotten around to it. This year I will give it a try.
Remember the white henbane plants I found putting on tiny leaves in some dried-up pots in my basement? Here’s what one of them looks like now. I forgot how well henbane does under lights. I really love white henbane. The fuzz is very cute, and it prevents aphids. I think that might be one of the reasons why it was traditionally grown for medicinal purposes instead of black henbane. I have sure noticed that black henbane is a bug magnet. I can hardly imagine how they managed to grow fields of it in the old days. But white henbane I can see thriving in that type of situation. White henbane is not as strong as black in terms of alkaloids. Most health practitioners recommended against using black henbane on account of its greater strength. I think that might be precisely why it was relegated to witchcraft. I never feel completely sure that when we are told by historical sources that a plant was used in witchcraft that it actually was. And as for oral tradition, anyone who has ever played telephone knows how dependable that kind of transmission can be. I think the best thing is the witch’s informed practice.
Today I’ll also start soaking belladonna seeds so I can get them started in two weeks. I’m intending to grow many more this year in pots, where they have done so much better than in the ground. I should have a bunch of foliage and roots in the fall.
With regard to that plant, I wanted to mention something I noticed last fall, when I was handling the plant a lot. Even though I was touching the plant only briefly, for instance, quickly turning over some foliage in the dehydrator, or even packing dried plant material into glassine baggies or handling roots that were completely dried, I noticed profound effects. In terms of physical effects, I noticed my face got red, which is a side-effect of its alkaloids. I was surprised that even such brief touches (and I would wash my hands afterwards) would have such an effect. But there was more.
I noticed that after a day or two when I handled the plant materials that beings that normally I have not seen, at least, not in that form, became visible to me. I posted on FB, for instance, about seeing a shadow figure run across the sidewalk in front of me when I was going for a walk one evening. This figure did turn to look at me. It was a transparent grey. I noticed similar figures after handling the plant on other occasions. It is not that I have not ever seen spirits before, but generally those have been in dreams and visions, not when I am just going about my business in the mundane world. So that is something to consider if you are working with belladonna. I am not sure if this would happen with anyone. I have been growing this plant for years, always fascinated by it, and in that way I have opened myself to contact with its spirit. But I have always been very very wary of it, since it is highly tricksy, much more so than any of the other traditional European nighthades. Simply touching the plant and washing one’s hands afterwards seems like a pretty innocuous way to experiment with this plant, IMO. It does seem to be a powerful door-opener. Something to consider.