Your Reading List

Just in time for Valentine’s Day — the bleeding heart

Spring is inching ever so closer and Valentine’s Day may have come and gone by the time you settle down to a cup of tranquil tea while reading this issue of Grainews. More on tranquil tea in just a bit.

If your heart is burning with desire to get into the garden sooner rather than later, there’s a herbaceous perennial you’ll want to buy that turns desire into a show-stopping floral reality.


From my youthful days I still recall common bleeding heart (Dicentra spetabilis) an old standard favourite with heart-shaped rosy-pink flowers. This hardy grandaddy perennial bleeding heart is still seen in many floral gardens.

Now that Burning Hearts bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) has come on the scene, you’ll be quite taken by this colourful red showstopper. It flowers atop a compact mound of delicate lacy foliage starting late May right through to September. Most bleeding hearts tolerate half a day of morning sunshine, but need some shade for the rest of the day. Loose soil that’s kept gently moist, but not mucky serves them well.

Burning Hearts bleeding heart goes a step further. It fits perfectly within the realm of any classic shade or woodland garden and performs well in evenly moist soil with little or no direct sun. No wonder it’s a boon to gardeners with shade. Being of the fern leaf type, it tends to bloom longer, tolerating heat and drought better and goes dormant much later. Matter of fact, it’s not unusual to see it still in bloom well into September. The compact, mounding habit of Burning Hearts grows no higher than a foot or so and foliage remains neat and tidy at about twice that width. Think of it as a perfect edging plant along a pathway shaded by a canopy of deciduous trees.

At this time of year, wouldn’t it be romantic if a guy could go into a florist shop and order some fresh cut bleeding heart blossoms for the love of his life on Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter?


Usually the main ingredients are a calming blend of sweet fennel seeds, chopped fennel leaves and passion flower. Oft times there may be hints of lavender, lemon balm and even rose petals added, all of which combine to relax the body and promise a good night’s sleep. The bonus is feeling refreshed with restored energy upon awakening.

There are so many good things to say about sweet fennel, (Foeniculum vulgare dulce) a tender perennial with a long history that’s as easily grown as dill in any garden. Do you have difficulty digesting certain foods? Fresh chopped fennel leaves, when added to fish, ground beef, stews, soups and salads is up to the challenge at improving digestibility.

In past, a bit of fennel tea was given to infants for its calming and anti-flatulence effect; or when a young child said, “Mommy, I have a tummy ache.” Remember — in Grandma’s day, the pantry had a shelf dedicated to herbs and home remedies. Check the herbal section of seed racks at garden centres for fennel or call Richters at 1-800-668-4372.


… what do you do when a mix of inharmonious combinations flood the body and lead to coughs, colds or the flu? These could be as a result of festive season aftermath, too much food, late nights, cold weather, lack of sleep and perish the thought… shock from December and January bills and credit card statements. Some or all of these can inflict punishment on the immune system.

Here’s a herbal approach with a solid track record. Boil some water and make a tea using a teaspoonful each of fresh minced or dried parsley leaves and dried red raspberry leaves. Let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain and sip at least four cupfuls during the day. The trick is to sip each cupful slowly… not all at once, or you can put too much pressure on your bladder. One of the best attributes of this combo is its ability to collect mucus from the body’s organs. The diuretic effects of parsley deliver the mucus for expulsion via the kidneys, leaving little for a cold to survive on. When a cold is already established, parsley and raspberry leaf tea is still beneficial and can be reinforced with other added herbs such as golden seal, echinacea, garlic and onions.


Besides out in the open garden, almost any parsley will grow in containers. But — there’s a new kid in town that’s ideally suited just for pot plant production. It’s Xenon parsley, a very uniform moss curled type that’s suited for fresh cut home use and market sales. Xenon’s strong parsley aroma, flavour and finely cut leaves has a lot more going for it besides garnishes and adding character to stews, meats and vegetarian dishes.

Next to blueberry and cranberry juices (without sugar) parsley water is often recommended for bladder infections in humans and pets. Parsley has a long history of use for urinary problems and not much wonder, since research shows it’s a diuretic that helps to empty the bladder.

To make parsley water, boil a generous handful of fresh parsley in four cups of water for three minutes. Discard the parsley and add it to your outdoor compost heap. After cooling, remember to sip parsley water… not drink all at once. You can even add 1 teaspoonful of parsley water once daily over pet food. Cats and dogs become quite fond of it and seem to sense the benefit it brings while keeping the kidneys flowing and bladder functioning well. Store leftover parsley water in the fridge or freeze in ice cube trays.


… said a way back in 1911 that many children’s ailments, especially skin eruptions are due to a deficiency in passing water; i.e. urine retention. He urged mothers to pay particular attention to this because children rarely, if ever say anything about it. When elimination of urine is insufficient, he pointed out urine residue in a youngster’s bladder can cause swelling of the glands, stomach acidity, eruptions and fever; even eye or ear trouble. Back then, he formulated various herbal concoctions for specific health issues, including one called Father Künzle’s Tea for Children that is still available. The priest indicated once diagnosis is confirmed and treated, the child will pass a lot of water and recovery often achieved in just one day. If a renal infection and/or constipation are suspected, have the child examined by a physician.


As a writer, I am a guy who often feels like he’s still talking into a microphone with words going out over the airwaves and wondering “who’s listening?” Those of you who join me regularly here on this Grainews Singing Gardener page, know by now I was once a DJ. That’s right… in the grand scheme of things; little ol’ me… a disc jockey. A guy who spun 78s, 45s, and LPs on big turntables; cued reel to reel tapes, aired digital cassettes and emceed live studio and remote programming. Commercials (many of which I wrote) were rarely ever recorded and almost all were read “live” on the air without jingles. If I made a fluff… too bad… my frailty was exposed, but it kept me humble and human in the kindest way. Listeners back in those days were always forgiving.

East is east and west is west is how the old expression goes and never the twain shall meet. By the way, twain is said to be an archaic word that means “two.” And yes: I’m grateful a passport is not required to travel between our 10 provinces and three territories.

Let’s be thankful for our domestic greenhouse growers who provide the nation with the likes of fresh, on-the-vine tomatoes and cucumbers during this period of winter. We’re grateful too, for the abundance of Canadian field-grown root crops such as carrots, onions, potatoes and parsnips and orchard fruits including apples and pears. †

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



Stories from our other publications