Comfrey and clary

Comfrey and clary


Growing together with clear eyes...

Plants and kids. Leaf and stem, petal and anther. Not so long ago, I earned my wages as a gardener. I think about plants all the time and I see them everywhere. I love their names, their histories, and I love understanding the way they grow. I love looking at them, I love cultivating them. And I love to see children doing the same! 

So why comfrey, and why clary? Known botanically as Symphytum officinale and Salvia sclarea, these are plants with long healing histories. Comfrey, or 'knitbone', was traditionally used as a mender of broken bones. The latin word symphytum literally means 'to make grow together'. Clary, a plant in the sage family, derived its common name from its historical application as a remover of foreign objects from the eye. Clary: "clear-eye". Growing together. Clear eyes. Could there a more cogent motto for kidhood than that? 

These are plants that are robust growers (like kids!), have storied healing properties (ditto) and a rich folklore behind them. Clary is beautiful and comfrey, a bit less comely, is a wonderfully nutritive addition to garden soil. There is much of kidhood in plants!

I came to know and love these particular plants while working as a gardener at the Cloisters Museum in New York City. If you haven't been lucky enough to visit the Cloisters, you should add it to the bucket list. There are few places so special in that city, and that says a lot of a city that is bursting with specialness. These were two plants that were special to me during a wonderful time in my life.

And, in my mind's eye, I can picture two dolls: a boy named Comfrey and a girl named Clary. Siblings perhaps, or maybe not. I can see them side by side in the garden, hunched over a heap of soil, planting seeds. Never too far from their little humans.