Psychoactive plants with Susan Wittig Albert plus some of my own!

June 16th, 2011 Posted in Insects, bees, books, garden design, native plants, shade plants

Every summer when the crape myrtle blooms, I remember the cold rainy November day I planted it, one month after we bought our house.

mature pink crape myrtle

Although we sat on our collegiate director’s chairs and dined on beans and rice, I had to have my inaugural tree.  I counted up every extra dollar and raced to the nursery in the rain to buy a mere twig. I didn’t have to fight for it, since I was the only customer. These days, I’ve always got customers, like the bees!

Bee on pink crape myrtle
I didn’t even know what it was when we were house-hunting. I’d fallen in love with its frothy pink flowers at the “dream house” we imagined as ours. That old bungalow was falling apart, but its leaky French doors framed the most beautiful tree I’d ever seen!  Over the phone, my mom knew it instantly with my rapturous description.

Pink crape myrtle flowers
When we lost dream house too late on our bid, I mourned. We signed on with the more practical (though not as romantic) one on our short list of qualified selections.  Mom knew just what to say, “Just frame your den window with a crape myrtle!”

Our romance with one plant propels us to dig another hole. After all, it needs companions.  Then, with our heady success, we find out about all kinds of plants and keep on going until we flat run out of room.

To convince us to plant another hole, plants entice us with romance, including childhood and first-garden memories.  But they also entice us with other psychoactive properties.

To explain a few of their tricks, this week on CTG, author Susan Wittig Albert joins Tom with true tales about how plants benefit our health and calm, energize, or make us high.

As always, in her latest China Bayles mystery, Mourning Gloria, Susan activates our senses with a stay-up-all-night plot, along with facts, lore, and the mystery of plants, including morning glory.

If you’re drinking coffee right now, Susan explains how recent research indicates its value as stroke and prostate cancer protection. And if coffee prices get too high for you, collect the leaves from your yaupon holly, the only North American plant that contains caffeine.

Yaupon holly leaves as coffee substitute

Need some more energy? Go for rosemary. Susan cites studies at the University of Chicago where students undergoing testing were more alert and did better with rosemary. I plan to try a tip from China Bayles’ cohert in crime, Ruby: dab a bit of rosemary essential oil in your car (or in your office!). Sometimes I cut a sprig of rosemary for the car. That works too, if you remember to take it out before it crumbles.

Or, dab some lavender to calm you down.  If you can’t grow it, Susan suggests a touch of lavender essential oil on light bulbs. Or a sachet under the pillow.

I’ve never tried catnip tea to calm me down, but I may do it yet if it doesn’t rain soon.  If the drought doesn’t get it, I’ve always got catnip in the cat cove.

Sam Jr. in catnip

I can’t positively say this is ‘Walker’s Low’ but from my notes, I think this is it. It has performed better for me than any other, with silvery leaves for me, euphorbia for the cats, and flowers for beneficial insects.

Catnip 'Walker's Low'

There are countless plants that make people high, or can kill them, as you well know.  Since 1992, when Susan published the first China Bayles mystery, Thyme of Death, she’s given us the inside story behind plants and their valuable contributions, along with their dark sides.

Hit Susan’s website for plant facts, historical uses, and recipes.  Follow her journeys as a writer, gardener, and personal life insight on her blog, Lifescapes. And be sure to check out her life-journey inspiring non-fictional writing, too.

I’m psyched about my new shrimp plant. The tag just said shrimp plant, but looks like it’s a yellow or apricot. I already have several and have divided them, but I couldn’t resist another one.

Apricot shrimp plant in bud

Apricot shrimp plant in bud
Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), is Daphne’s Plant of the Week, since this is such a perfect energizer for those shady spots we all have.

Coral shrimp plant with white flowers

It’s very drought tolerant, and its showy bracts attract us, while the tiny flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. And, they are easy to divide from the roots. You may even get another plant when a branch flops over and roots.

I also couldn’t resist this showy yellow. From past experience, this one isn’t as cold hardy as the others, but I had to give it another spin.

Yellow shrimp plant

On tour, visit Debi and Mark Akin’s pond and garden, a testament to how plants and working with them soothe our souls.  Since its first broadcast, I’ve heard from people who watch it when they just want. . .to. . .calm. . .down.  And Mark’s story about Debi’s kidney that saved his life reminded me that my own worries are very minimal.

Daphne’s Question of the Week comes from a viewer: Is it safe to use Mosquito Dunks or Bits in rain barrels that water the vegetable garden?

Mosquito Bits and Dunks

Yes, perfectly safe.  Mosquito Dunks or Bits contain the larvicide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Microbial larvicides are bacteria that only target certain insects. They don’t harm pets, people, or the wildlife we want.  In this case, the toxin disrupts the mosquito’s gut. So, even bacteria figure into our holistic gardening picture.

You can also use a window screen over your open rain barrels/buckets. If the mosquitoes can’t land on the water, they can’t breed.

Until next week, think rain.  Linda

  1. 9 Responses to “Psychoactive plants with Susan Wittig Albert plus some of my own!”

  2. By Shirley Dehmer on Jun 16, 2011

    I’m a retired teacher. For a number of years I traveled during the summers all across the USA. I camped out in National parks and avoided cities. I left home as soon as school was out for the summers and slowly headed toward home in late July and early August. The Crepe Myrtles were blooming in north Texas starting a little below Tyler at that time of the year. I always swung by my parents home to visit before heading for Houston Area where I lived. My parents lived in Lufkin. I was used to Crepe Myrtles and had been around them all my life, but I saw them with new eyes during those years as I traveled south on the way home. What a glorious plant we have! I would bet the rest of the USA is as jealous of our beautiful trees as I always was of their Lilacs. If they smelled as wonderful as the Lilacs they would be heavenly. Marble Falls has beautiful Crepe Myrtles that are always absolutely covered with blooms!


    Linda reply on June 16th, 2011 5:35 pm:

    Yes, we are lucky to have them. Too bad they don’t have the fragrance of lilacs, for sure.


  3. By C L Williams on Jun 16, 2011

    I am making a garden in Northern New York for lilacs.
    They are grand when in leaf and in bloom.
    They do not have the marvelous bark and branching habit of crape myrtles.
    Lilacs are weedy and suckering in form. They make dismal and haunted little thickets in winter that have to be screened with evergreens.


  4. By Jeaniene Jolley on Jun 17, 2011

    I have been wanting a crape myrtle or two and you have now convenienced me to go today and buy them! Good to know about the mosquito bits. Loved the kitty picture.


    Linda reply on June 17th, 2011 2:53 pm:

    Hi, Jeaniene,

    And there so many varieties these days, unlike when I got mine. Different heights, lots of color and most of the new ones are resistant to powdery mildew. If you plant now, just keep it carefully watered! And have fun.


  5. By ron tucker on Jun 17, 2011

    for me all plants give me cause to relax and reflect. i find that i really feel relaxed when working around or with roses. their color and beauty are unmatched.


    Linda reply on June 18th, 2011 3:19 pm:

    Ron, that is simply wonderful! I think that’s why we gardeners stick with it, despite drought, heat, floods, and all that comes along with it. Thank you!


  6. By Kathleen Scott on Jun 23, 2011

    Hi Linda, lovely post. And since you put this up we’ve had rain!!! I’m limiting new plants…too hard with Stage 3 restrictions looming, but there’s still plenty to do in the garden as we put in our first drip irrigation area and add more compost to beds.

    We use one of your plants of the week almost every month as our garden club Plant of the Month handout, with credit of course. This month is Red Bird/Pride of Barbados. Great resource, I hope it brings you new readers.


    Linda reply on June 23rd, 2011 3:22 pm:

    Dear Kathleen, you are so wonderful! We taped FABULOUS shows today with Bill Welch (Southern Heirloom Garden) with plants that have been here from pioneer days. And Cheryl Hazeltine, author of Central Texas Garden, on changes in the past 30 years. And this Saturday is Meredith from Great Stems!!


Post a Comment