Won’t you please gather around in a nice circle for another installment of plant profiles. No need to crowd, there is plenty of room for all. Make yourselves comfortable, pillows anyone? Okay then. The chosen plant today is lamb’s ear.Stachys byzantina, Lamb’s Ear flowers in late spring and early summer, plants produce tall spike-like stems with a few reduced leaves. The flowers are small and either white or pink. The plants tend to be evergreen but can “die” back during cold winters and regenerate new growth from the crowns. In warmer climates they may grow year-round, but suffer where it’s hot and humid. They are easy to grow, preferring partial shade to full sunlight and well-drained soils not rich in nitrogen, so says our go to source of information, Wikipedia. This plant grows so easily here that we almost consider it a weed. What a big mistake, for it fills the bill of the new Semi-Piet design school we have adopted. This is the evergreen, or make that ever silver with the larger leaf to combat our little leaf syndrome. It can crowd out other companions in the garden beds, but is easily pulled when it gets rambunctious. Sun or shade, wet or dry, well we don’t really have any wet on our sloping land, but there is no spot here where this will not thrive.Now we come to the real reason we are showcasing this plant, it’s craft uses. The velvety leaves are perfect for children’s gardens for they invite petting. Or picking. Or lamb making. Several years ago I made many of these little lambs from the flower stalks and gave them as Christmas presents.I still have several and they have held up well but being made of dried plant material are still rather delicate. I think a couple of ears may have been lost in the storage box. Each one has a personality of its own. I love the idea of lambs as a Christmas decoration, signifying the stable mates of the manger.The time to make these is during the growing season when the material is fresh and pliable. The flower stalks are cut and the larger poufy bits are used for the body and head with smaller poufy bits for the neck and upper legs. Leafless stalks are the legs and tiny leaves are the ears. The tail is a tiny bit of poufy stuff. Black peppercorns are the eyes. The ever trusty hot glue gun holds them together. Start with the body, attach a neck, then head. Next join the leg stalks to the upper legs then glue to the body. I leave them a little longer to be able to trim them so the lambs can stand. Add the tail, ears and eyes and you have created a sweet little gift or decoration for yourself. One or a group, they always bring a smile. Added: For a detailed how to on making the little lamb, click here-How To Make A Lamb’s Ear Lamb.
Another craft we have tried is using the flowering stalks for weavers in basket making. Still delicate but quite attractive as an occupant on a shelf or table. The weaving is done with freshly cut material that can be bent without breaking. It is messy with loose leaves and flowers all around, watch out for hungry bees too, this is best done outside in a comfortable chair in the shade. Make sure everything is dry, same with the lambs, we don’t want any mold to develop. The stakes of this basket are dappled willow stems and the bottom is a combination of iris leaves and purchased reed, a common basket making material, for strength at the turn from bottom to sides, a basket’s weakest point. (I do plan to do a basket post later, even though I have stopped making new ones, maybe).The fresh leaves can be glued to nearly any surface. Styrofoam hearts were made as decorations for offspring Semi’s wedding several years ago. They still look pretty good and make nice Valentine’s Day decor. For these we just used white craft glue instead of the glue gun.More wedding crafts, these were marked down metal Easter buckets from a craft store with the leaves glued on. They were used to hold a row of silver dichondra and flowering annuals. They made a simple yet elegant presentation.Here is a shot from the wedding in progress. The lambs ear buckets are displayed on the antique pump organ in the old pre civil war wooden church in our area. A friend’s daughter played the violin and the whole scene was the stuff of dreams. Little offspring of offspring Chickenpoet, MA as ringbearer, aged five at the time, was mesmerized by both the music and the musician. His sense of wonder permeates this photo, and wonderful it was. I still tear up just gazing at this picture.Quality time has been spent searching for photos of this plant in the back garden. This little patch near the stone steps is the only one I could find, although it is growing here and there along the slope.This photo was featured in the May bloom day post and the lambs ear is just barely even visible, but since this is one of my favorite shots of the garden, it deserves to be shown again. The scotch moss, Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’ is blooming along with dianthus and a volunteer fern leaf bleeding heart at the lower left. During the cold months many an hour is spent studying the spring garden on the computer files. It is transporting and plants the seeds for future plans for when that spellbinding time returns.