Oceanic Skullcap

Picture of skullcap growing in our gardenI have always loved the colors, textures, sculptural forms and under-seascapes of coral reefs. One of the reasons I love gardens is that they remind me of the lush exuberant whirling dervish atmosphere of underwater life. I like the thought of bringing this primordial template onto land –  so if a plant reminds me of a sea anemone or sea urchin, I’m likely to plant it. So when Rico Cech  of  Horizon Herbs described the purple flowers of Baical Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) as  “schools of dolphins breaking through green waves in a summer sea”, there was hardly a choice but to order seed and add to my seascape vision.shot of skull cap blossoms in the garden

The seeds germinated well and I grew the small plants in pots most of the summer. In September, I put them in the ground. At that point there wasn’t much oceanic about them. This spring, I strained to see something – anything –  emerging, and finally there were some tiny but determined looking shoots.  Since they are native to Mongolia and Siberia I need not have been concerned. Our West Michigan winter only went down to zero this year. Over the summer they grew by leaps and bounds – maybe of those dolphins – surprising me at every turn.

I haven’t tested out their lauded medicinal qualities yet – harvest of the roots is the second year – but I plan to next year. Mr. Cech asserts that the roots cure dysentery (rare here is West Michigan) and avian flu (not so rare). He says “there is really no better anti-infection agent in herbalism, to my knowledge”.

With such ringing endorsements of its medicinal prowess, it may seem an afterthought that the flowers make beautiful short bouquets, perfect for a tabletop where you must be able to see the person across from you (well not “must”, in some cases a bouquet of sunflowers would be preferable). But if beauty itself has  any healing power, then skullcap is healing from top to bottom. Bees and hummingbirds are also Baical Skullcap enthusiasts. Between the Nicotiana (in the background) and the Cosmos (over yonder), the hummingbirds seem to be thrilled.

Now these gardens are a little closer to that uninterrupted, flowing, oceanic, mysterious quality I am cultivating.