Echinacea purpurea is a beautiful hardy herbaceous perennial for the middle to back of the border. Flowering in late summer, it has purple petals and a high central cone giving rise to its common name 'purple coneflower'.
It is famed for its ability to increase the body's resisitance to infections and can be taken in capsule or a rather foul tasting liquid dilution.
Some say that taking echinacea will increase resistance to colds and many cancer patients take this drug believing it can assist them to fight the disease but trials have been inconclusive. General advice about taking the drug suggests that you shouldn't take it for more than 8 weeks before giving your body a period of time without it.
Whether you believe the claims about echinacea or not, it is a lovely plant to have in the garden. Sow seeds in spring or divide roots in autumn.
Much associated with witchcraft, the elder tree Sambucus nigra is a useful addition to any garden if you have the room for it. Growing up to 8 metres, it has clusters of creamy-white scented flowers followed by berries in the autumn.
The flowers are used to make a light wine, and to flavour jams. You can dip the flowers in batter, deep fry them and spirinkle them with caster sugar for a snack with a difference.
The berries should not be eaten raw but can be used to make wine, jam or a hot juice which is taken for coughs.
An infusion of the flowers can be taken as a remedy for fevers and colds or used externally as a face wash.
Elder is easy to propagate from semi-ripewood cuttings taken in late summer.