Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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April E-Newsletter 2013

Here’s MUD in your eye!
     That’s a phrase that’s been stuck in my head for several days now, as I scrape mud off my boots, hands, face & most everything else.  It has certainly been a wet, muddy spring so far, so since I couldn’t get in the garden I spent a few minutes on the computer researching the phrase “Here’s mud in your eye!”  Apparently, it comes from the New Testament, John 9:6-7 where the story of Jesus healing the man born blind by putting mud in his eye is told. 
     During WWI, the phrase became a common toast among soldiers who dealt with mud in the trenches so prevalent that it was often even in their drinks!  The use of the phrase as a toast continues to this day.
     Despite the mud and hail and sleet and snow and rain, the plants continue to grow and the daffodils are blooming!  April has been a busy month, with Opening Day on April 2nd.  It was great to share hugs with many of you and we truly, truly appreciate your support.  Between customers, we’ve hauled stone, put in some new benching for the lavender plants, moved hundreds of flats outdoors, and mulched the path to the Cottage, adding some wooden stepping stones as you can see from the photo.
     We took a trip to Florida (see more below) and had a booth at the HSCI Herb Symposium, which was a terrific event.  Now it’s time to prepare for Fairy Day and hopefully do some planting in the Cook’s Garden.  And maybe one of these days it will be dry enough to begin mowing……..

Sat., April 27…Fairy Day! 
Come celebrate the wee folk, make fairy crafts, go on a fairy hunt, enjoy fairy tea party, and much more! Visit our Fairy Garden, learn to make a container fairy garden, and see a display of fairy plants.  Wander through the Enchanted Forest.  Wear your wings and receive a free gift!   It’s magical!  10% off all items in Fairyland and pre-planted Fairy Gardens.

Spring Open House-Sat., May 4th
Join us on Saturday, May 4th for our Annual Spring Open House & Make It-Take It Day!   Make a purchase, and get a ticket to our Make-It/Take It craft room, where you can make and take a variety of herbal crafts and projects.  Our gift to loyal customers!  Don’t want to make a purchase?  You can still participate for a $10 fee.   Celebrate the arrival of Spring!  Special refreshments.  All Pansies, Violas, Primulas & Stock on Sale.
The May Pole will be set up for dancing, and the plants will be smiling.  We’ll be giving out some door prizes and complimentary refreshments to celebrate the beginning of the planting season.  And a reminder….we have lots of plants in 3” pots right now.  Once we have time, we’ll be up-potting (and that means up-pricing, too!) them into larger pots.  Buy now, and save!

Saturday, May 11…National Herb Week Celebration—Elder!
Learn about one of my favorite herbs.  It’s magical, medicinal, repellent, delicious,
musical, cosmetic, a dye plant, and useful in dozens of other ways.  Talks at 11 and 1:00.  Sale on all elder plants & products.  Special elder refreshments & free recipes.  See our Herb of the Year plant display and also our Herb of the Year product display in the Big Barn Gift Shop.

Our Quick Florida Trip
David had a reunion of the six-time National Championship Purdue Drill Team this month in Treasure Island, Florida.  While he spent time renewing old friendships and twirling rifles, I enjoyed the local plant life.  I must say, Treasure Island has the biggest white-sand beach I’ve ever seen, and the weather allowed full enjoyment of it!  We stayed at the historic Bilmar and enjoyed every minute!

My first adventure was in nearby in Largo.  I knew immediately that I was no longer in Indiana when this sign greeted me as I crossed the footbridge from the parking lot to the gardens.


After visiting the well-stocked gift shop, I discovered an extensive series of gardens intended to help Florida residents realize the full potential of their property.  Planted around the Extension Service Headquarters were a Butterfly Garden, groundcover test plots, demonstration citrus orchards, Nature Garden, Vegetable Garden display featuring raised beds, a Palm area, a pretty Patio Garden, a pond demonstration area, a shade garden, and several other plantings. 


Best of all was a very extensive fenced-in Herb Garden, a bit of which is shown above, which I would love to just move to my property!  It took a 4-page handout (available at the garden’s entrance) to list all of the wonderful herbs who live there. 


I saw some old friends and made lots of new ones, like this Yellow Elder and Black Pepper plant.  There were also a Lemon Bay Rum Tree, Soapnut Tree, Egyptian Henna Tree, Neem Tree, Cinnamon Tree and many other plants that would have to live in my greenhouse.


     At the opposite end of the parking lot is a series of much more formal gardens.  There is a large plaza where weddings are often held, a palm pavilion, a Tropical Courtyard, Bromelaid Garden, Cactus & Succulent Garden and an extensive Tropical walk through a variety of plantings. 


My favorite areas were the Cottage Garden and the Topiary Garden, where I visited with this delightful volunteer who keeps them trimmed and tidy.  There was also a small rose garden nearby, and although I didn’t visit either, there was a Vinery and a Wetland area.  I think the gator sign influenced my decision.
     If you are in the area, you may also want to visit the “Center for Fishing” which was a huge building housing classes, and an interactive museum as well as miles of nature trails.  Also next-door was the Heritage Village, where various historic buildings have been gathered together to provide a place to showcase the area’s history and allow visitors to interact with interpreters.  I didn’t visit the Village this trip, but I have it on my list for next time, since it does include a Heritage Garden.


     This formal 1.2 acre botanical garden is the VERY best, by far, garden that I have ever seen in Florida.  The garden is located on a sloping property on Lake Mirror, next to a city park.  Designed as a series of rooms, the gardens enticed me to move from one to another, but were so pretty, I found myself returning for another look.  The two photos above are just a sample of dozens that I shot. 


Everywhere I turned with my camera, it was a picture postcard setting.  There were water features, including Runnels and Bowls which demonstrate how Florida residents learned to move water where it was needed, such as this system which moves water from the lake to water the gardens and returns the excess back to the lake.  The White Room (above left) is popular for small weddings.  Intersting containers and decorative touches abound.


Impressive statuary, historic trees and ornamental shrubs are exquisitely placed in the gardens, along with delightful seating areas.  Here’s a list of the rooms:  The Tropical Room;


The Red Room; The Yellow Room (both shown above; The Vegetable Room and the Herb Rooms, shown below.


In addition there was a Gazebo & Trellis in neoclassical Tuscan masonry with the largest staghorn fern suspended inside that I’ve ever seen.  The large Rosetta Plaza and Fountain area is often a scene for weddings and small private parties.  A Sustenance Orchard features some of the historic varieties of citrus brought to Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1512.  Another area features “Trees of Americana.”  The Lily Pond was also home to colorful koi.  The Butterfly Garden was tucked into a quiet area so its residents would not be disturbed.  And hidden behind gorgeous stonework was a cool, moist Grotto dripping with cool spring water onto a granite floor and into the shimmering pool.  It was a wonderful retreat on a hot 87 degree day!

     Everywhere there were mounds of color, winding paths and the overall feeling that no matter how much you looked, you were probably missing something magical!  Symphonic music piped throughout the gardens added to the relaxing mood.  It was one of the few gardens I’ve visited where I could actually just sit and enjoy, and not feel like I should be weeding or deadheading!  It was meticulous!


     Just across the hedge was the Garden Bistro, overlooking the lake and Hollis Gardens.  I had one of the best vegetarian sandwiches ever… roasted portobella, roasted eggplant with sliced avocado, roasted red pepper strips, and sprouts with thyme mayonnaise.  Of course the lovely white sangria and bread pudding with whipped crème & caramel were pretty darn good, too!  Don’t miss it if you are in the Lakeland, Florida area!

Garden Tips
     Deadhead daffodils and tulips as soon as flowers have faded so the plant will put its energy into making more bulbs rather than trying to produce seeds.  Also remember that these plants must retain their leaves until they are totally brown and dried up, so don’t mow them or pluck off yellowing leaves.
     Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs until right after they bloom.
     Check your iris….the borers seem to be unusually prevalent this year.
     Shear thymes and savory to keep them from getting too leggy.  I generally cut back to wherever there is sign of green.
     Clipping asters, mum, and sedums when they are about 6” tall to about 3” will make them more dense, and less likely to flop later in the season.  It will also produce lots more blooms!   You can also do this with monarda, phlox and many other perennials. 
      Putting a pinch of “Soil-Moist” in the planting hole of water loving annuals (like begonias, impatiens, petunias, etc.) and mixing it in well before setting in the plant will greatly reduce watering later in the summer.  This is the same product we use in all our containers and hanging baskets, so we don’t have to water them as often.  Saves time and money!  Also works for veggies!

An Herb to Know--LOVAGE
     One of the early risers in spring, lovage (Levisticum officinale) has been prized for centuries for its pretty foliage, long hollow stems, and luscious celery flavor.  Said to be a native of the Mediterranean regions, it is perfectly hardy here in Zone 5.  Early colonists brought it to North America as a valuable culinary herb and medicinal plant.
     A perennial, lovage is very easy to grow in full sun or it can be used to fill that slightly shady corner where other herbs aren’t happy.  If it is grown in full sun, be sure that it gets adequate moisture to keep the leaves green and producing during the hottest days of summer.  I also give it a dose of manure tea or diluted fertilizer in mid-summer to keep it thriving.  The plant can get as tall as 5’, but mine generally stays about 3’.  When it is mature, it will produce dill-like clusters of small yellow flowers that will eventually become brown celery-flavored seeds.  However, unless I need the seeds, I generally cut the faded flower heads off so the plant will use its energy to produce more leaves.
     For quick production, plant a plant.  Like most perennials, growing from seed takes patience.  Sow the seeds in early fall.  Because it has a fleshy root, the plant does not divide as well as many other perennials.
     The leaves and stems can be used fresh in any recipe that calls for celery.  That’s a real blessing to the increasing number of people that are allergic to celery.  Use them in salads or on canapes, especially the young spring leaves.  The leaves can also be dried to use in soups, stews, casseroles and sauces in winter.  Lovage leaves may have a slightly stronger flavor, especially as the season progresses, so use lightly at first and add more if required.  If the stems get too strong a flavor, blanch them by dipping them in boiling water followed by a quick rinse in cold water. 
     Pick the outer leaves and stems at will, but allow the center to grow undisturbed.  The ripe seeds can be dried and added to savory breads.  In England, the seeds were often coated with sugar as a confection.  The leaves or seeds can be added to tea blends and in cordials.  Traditionally, the hollow stems have been used as a straw for Bloody Mary Cocktails.
     The plant was used for a variety of ailments such as ague, intestinal disorders, and sore joints.
     Lovage seeds have been used in infusions as a facial cleanser and also as a deodorant.  Steep a ¼ c. seeds in a pint of boiling water for an hour.   Strain and add to a warm bath or use as a foot soak to help eliminate foot odor.  The seeds have also been used as an ingredient in potpourri, and fresh seeds steeped in brandy were used to settle an upset stomach.
     The roots were often harvested and infused to reduce water retention or to aid rheumatism  They were also sometimes pickled.  Lovage roots should not be used during pregnancy or by those with kidney problems.

Here’s a recipe for the Spring Herb Cheese Ball that I served on Opening Day!  It was a big hit!  The lovely concept of this recipe is that you can use a combination of the leaves of whatever spring herbs are ready…..watercress, arugula, sorrel, chicory, chives, garlic chives, dandelion, parsley, thyme, sage, lemon balm, mints, chervil, lovage, or the trimmings from herbs that have over-wintered indoors and are getting a bit leggy…such as rosemary, tarragon, lemon verbena, etc.  The variations are endless, so experiment!
For Opening Day I used a mixture of ½ c. chives, ½ c. watercress, 2 T. arugula, and 2 T. parsley, all finely chopped.  Reserve ¼ c. of herb mixture.
Mix together (I used my hands to really mix it well!):  2 c. shredded cheddar cheese; 1 c. small curd cottage cheese; ¼ c. grated parmesan cheese; remaining herb mixture.  Form into a log or ball.  Spread the reserved herb mixture evenly on plastic wrap.  Roll the ball or log in the herbs.  Wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Carolee’s April E-Coupon #1
     Annual statice….pick bouquets of flowers all summer and fall to use fresh or dried.  Buy one pack, get the second free.  (Limit 8 packs purchased.)   Valid only till May  25, or while supplies last.   Limit One coupon per customer.
Carolee’s April E-coupon #2
    10% off any framed artwork in the Big Barn Gift Shop.  Valid until May 25.  Cannot be combined with other sales or discounts.   Limit one discount coupon per customer.
*******************Carolee’s Cottage E-Coupon***************************
20% off any country lamp displayed on our Herbal Country Cottage.  Choose from many designs, sizes and styles.  One coupon per customer.  Valid through May 25, 2013.