Monday, December 12, 2011

Lemon balm

Melissa Officinalis - Bee Balm

Geoffrey Grigson writes in The Englishman's Flora "The rain may long ago  have washed out a chalk cottage in Wiltshire, a cob cottage in Devon or Cornwall, but as likely as not a thick thicket of bee balm will survive"
Morning Minion mentions it in her blog, and it reminded me of my old garden, lots of lemon balm everywhere not only did it travel happily around  but I also planted it in bare spaces. I have a love affair with plants and trailing and bruising the leaves through one's fingers of this particular plant was a joy on a summers day.
Many years ago I kept angora rabbits of different hues, and they also enjoyed eating the young leaves, especially my first rabbit Daisy who would savour the various plants like a connoisseur and showed a remarkable intelligence for a rabbit!
So what else does Grigson say; it comes from Southern Europe, early botanists identified it with melissophyllon 'bee leaf' of Dioscorides and the apiastrum of Pliny.  You can drink it as a tea, though there is no real taste to it and Grigson says it was by no means as nice as the smell of the leaves,  I haven't got any here in Essex, have not seen in the nursery centres..

Pliny's words; It is profiterablie planted in gardens about places where bees are kept, because they are delighted with this herbe above all others.. for when they are straied away they do finde their way home again by it..

Gerarde added that you should rub the hives with the leaves to attract more bees and also which causes the bees 'to keepe togither'

2 comments:

  1. Thelma,
    I wish I could bring a clump of lemon balm to you---a house-warming gift for the little cottage. You have expanded on my thought that this is a plant valued by many generations.
    In thinking of the allure to bees, I confess that once the lemon balm starts to flower I cut it back--it seems to reach the straggly stage.

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  2. That is a lovely thought MM, thank you. The flower is very small and indistinguishable, and the plant soon goes 'off' after flowering

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