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MEETING REPORT: Horticultural Concert, Sept. 14, 2020

By Lynn Langley.

Photo credit: Dominique Arciero.
Frustrating tech glitches aside, presenter Karen and performer Dominique enjoyed precious time together waiting for the show to begin.

On Monday evening, members were treated to a horticultural concert at the home of the new president, Karen England. She began the evening with roses, 60 varieties of roses in fact, grown organically, so she can eat them and use them in body care. When selecting varieties of roses her primary interest is fragrance. According to Karen, fragrance equals flavor. Since essential oil made of roses is so expensive, she often uses a rose-scented geranium oil that costs less. Whichever oil is used, it must be real oil to get the benefits. Rose hips were used by the Vikings to ward off scurvy since they contain more Vitamin C than oranges. They would take them on their long sea voyages and drink rose hip tea. Karen then demonstrated how to make a fresh rosebud pair of earrings. Her neighbors, Sean and Dominique, sang a song. (For a list of songs, please read Karen's Editor's Letter in this newsletter.)

Next on the horticultural concert were lemons. Karen grows a lot of citrus on her property. One of her favorite varieties of lemons is Pink Lemonade. They are variegated when unripe but the green fades to yellow as the fruit ripens. Inside, the lemon flesh is pink. Pink Lemonade lemon leaves are fragrant and variegated and can be used as a substitution for Kaffir lime leaves when cooking. She made lemonade using 5 Pink Lemonade lemons and a blood orange, mixing equal parts of simple syrup and water with the citrus juice. Herbs like lavender or mint can also be added. (Karen posted the lemonade recipe on her blog here: The lemon shells are placed in a mason jar and covered with organic vinegar. After steeping, the shells are strained out leaving a wonderful, lemon-scented vinegar cleaning solution! Preserved lemons can be made by slicing Meyer lemons and layering them with salt in a jar. After steeping they can be used in Moroccan cooking or other dishes where a salty, lemon touch would be welcome. Then Sean and Dominique regaled us with the Lemon Tree song.

The herbs, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme were the next movement. Long stemmed rosemary (once called Miss Jessop, now called Barbecue) can be used as skewers once the leaves have been stripped off. No need to soak the stems if they are freshly picked. The leaves can be thrown on the fire for a wonderful fragrance. Karen found herself having trouble growing culinary sage, but then found the native Cleveland sage. It has much the same flavor and grows well here. Our song for this movement was Scarborough Fair.

An explanation of the difference between spruce and pine began the fourth concert movement. Spruce have needles that are single along a branch while pines have clusters of 2-3 needles. Unfortunately, fragrant pines don’t grow well here but the pines that do can still be used to make tea or to eat. Sean and Dominique sang Pine Trees.

Karen began the fifth movement by discussing the definition of an herbalist – someone who studies the human body and horticulture to be able to diagnose and prescribe herbs to help treat or correct a malady. Herbs are defined as useful plants for cooking, crafting or medicine. Spices are all herbs (seeds, roots, and leaves of herbs) but not all herbs are spices. The International Herb Association exposes people to the herbal uses of plants not commonly known. The 2020 Herb of the Year was blackberries and raspberries (a relative of apples and roses). She demonstrated a few cocktails using herbal concoctions made by steeping them in brandy, or adding sugar to an herb/alcohol blend to make a liqueur. A fantastic acoustic rendition of Blackberry Blossom by Sean and his dad, Chuck, closed this movement of the concert.

Photo Credit: Karen England.
Dom and Sean were wonderful! What a beautiful gift they gave the SDHS by putting on this show with Karen for everyone.

The finale included a demonstration of making herbal tea. Karen goes through her herb garden with a salad spinner, picking herb blossoms and leaves. After cleaning them, she steeps what she has collected to make a fresh, herbal tea that can be enjoyed right away. It is not a medicinal tea that changes as it steeps. Dried herbs can be used as well but the flavor is more concentrated than fresh. Dominique and Sean closed out a wonderful evening with their rendition of the Rolling Stones song, Dead Flowers, renamed for this one night to "Dried Flowers".


Those who missed seeing the concert or would like to see it again may watch it, in its entirety, on the San Diego Horticultural Society's YouTube channel here Horticultural Concert with Sean Watkins and Dominique Arciero and while you are at YouTube be sure to check out the other SDHS meeting recordings.


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