While weather forecasters can’t agree whether the rest of the winter will continue to be colder than average, most agree it will be wetter and for the most part that means lots of snow.

For me, snow-covered roads mean I don’t drive more than necessary — I’ve already had a texting driver take off the front of my car. So now is the time for me to stock up on reading material and when it comes to gardening there are lots of interesting books out there.

From the time I started gardening I’ve dabbled in growing plants to make herbal remedies. My copy of “The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions” (Rodale Press), written by the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs, ethnobotanist, James A. Duke Ph.D., first published in 1997 and currently available in paperback, remains on my go-to shelf of reference books.

While Duke’s book is a compendium of plants and their uses, ethnobotanist James Wong’s book “Grow Your Own Drugs” (Reader’s Digest) is an informative guide on the use of plants to make natural home remedies and includes 100 simple recipes. And the good news is many of the plants used are easily grown in the garden or containers.

Hot peppers have lots of medicinal uses, so if you’re a chili head gardener be sure to dry some for use in herbal potions. Wong has interesting recipe for hot chili foot oil that will keep tootsies toasty on these bitter cold days.

Scientists agree plant aromas affect our brains in surprising and healthful ways; so adding potent botanicals to a garden can create a restorative haven. In her book “The Aromatherapy Garden: Growing Fragrant Plants for Happiness and Well-Being” (Timber Press), internationally known aromatherapist and herbalist Kathi Keville shows you how to create a garden filled with aromatic scents and make your own body oils, tonics and sachets. Detailed plant profiles take the mystery out of plant selection and use.

Choosing plants that emit stress relieving aromas, including chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram and other citrus scents have been shown to enhance relaxation, encourage sleep, reduce depression and anxiety and lower the body’s response to pain. According to Keville it takes just a few whiffs of any of these scents to calm the body physically and mentally. The aromatic oils are found in the foliage of these plants as well as the flowers, so simply crushing a few fresh leaves and inhaling the scent is all that is needed.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.

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