Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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May E-Newsletter 2013

Only 5, yes that’s FIVE weeks left for this season!  The weeks are flying by, even though I am packing as much as possible into every day.  The gardens are filled with an ever-changing cast of perennials in star-performance roles and now I’ve started filling in the scene with annuals and new plants.  I’ve hauled several loads of mulch, which I put on each section after it’s weeded.  We’ve had nice rains off and on to spur growth and keep things bright green.  It’s been a lovely spring, a more normal spring than last year, and I’m loving every minute of it!  The spring bulbs were gorgeous this year, not frozen or wilted by drought, and amazingly, the fall bulb catalogs have begun arriving in my mailbox!  I’ve already begun my wish-list, beginning with the list of bulbs I saw last year at Keukenhof!
     The Cook’s Garden has some new raised beds, a little more color, and we’ve already begun harvesting radishes, lettuces, radicchio, onions, alpine strawberries, rhubarb, broccoli, arugula, lovage, chicory, sorrel, and various other herbs.  Nearly all the beds are planted now, the blackberries are bursting with blooms, and the gooseberries will soon be ready to pick!

     The Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden will be finished as soon as a few new perennials are planted.  It’s all mulched and filled with blooms that have already had lots of little flying visitors who are enjoying a feast of nectar.

     The Cottage Garden is packed with plants, although I haven’t planted a thing there this year.  The perennials have really filled in nicely and are providing lots of color.  In the Folklore Garden, the deep purple columbines and spiderworts are competing with the bright blue creeping veronica for attention, but the stately valerian’s perfume is stealing the show.
     The Devotional Garden has its traditional border of cheery yellow Mary’s Gold (that’s marigolds) to echo the yellow beards of the Immortality Iris.  I haven’t moved the big pots of tender perennial Biblical plants in yet, but it’s on the to-do list.
     The Sun-loving Perennial Circle is mulched and tidy, featuring the startling blue spikes of East Freisland Salvia and the peachy irises at the moment.  I need to replace a few lobelias that succumbed to last year’s drought, and maybe add a couple of new veronicas, too.
     The Moonlight Garden is next on the planting list, although right now the May Queen Shastas catch the eye.  I’ll be putting in Moonflower Vines, Pearly Gates morning glories, white cleome, scented white stock, jasmine nicotiana, white evening primroses, white baptisia, the huge-flowered Polaris Shastas, white toadflax and lots of white alyssum this week.  They’ll help fill in when the white columbines and white dames’ rocket are finished.
     In the Sunrise Garden, several iris varieties have already played their part.  I have a flat of Orange Profusion zinnias and some orange coreopsis to set in, along with a peach-toned lantana.  I may even add some orange New Guinea impatiens and a couple of coppery coleus!
     The Unicorn Plants will be the newest additions to the Children’s Garden, along with some Thumbelina zinnias, Toto rudbeckias, and a riot of colorful petunias.  We’re also planning to plant lots of blue morning glories, since I obviously seeded way too many this year!
     If you haven’t come to visit yet, please do.  Our plants are terrific and we add new varieties every week.  They’re growing fast, so we’ll do another round of up-potting soon….and that means up-pricing, so come find that perfect plant soon!

Upcoming Events:
     We’ll be at the Minnetrista Garden Fair in Muncie on June 1st & 2nd.  Visit our booth for a special discount coupon that you can use at the farm
     Berries & Butterfly Day on Saturday, June 8th:  Visit a display of plants to delight Butterflies and learn which plants are necessary host plants in a talk at 11:00.  Also featured are Berry Plants, with a talk at 1:00.  Enjoy “berry good” refreshments, pick up some free recipes, and all berry plants (gooseberry, elderberry, raspberry, blackberry are still available at this writing…sorry the others are sold out!) will be 20% off.  Many berry plants have traditional herbal uses in addition to the fruit.  Learn more at 2:00. 
     We’ll have a booth at the Herb Society of America Conference in mid-June in St. Louis, so if you’re in the area, come see us!  We’re packing the truck with fantastic herbal items!
     Lavender Daze June 29 & 30th:.  Our traditional event filled with the fragrance and beauty of lavender.  Various talks, workshops, refreshments, and more.  Hopefully we’ll have U-Pick lavender, although a few varieties are already beginning to show color!  All of our beautiful potted lavender plants will be on sale.  The Barn will be packed with lavender items, too!   The Lavender Field is undergoing a redo, as we replace some aging plants with new varieties, put down a new layer of stone, and prepare for the pipeline company to do some digging right through the center of the field!

There are only five workshop topics left for this year…..Worm Compost Bin, Painted Silk Scarf with a lavender motif, Woven Lavender Heart, Lavender Wands, and Crafting with Hypertuffa.  If you are interested in attending, sign up quickly.

Mystery Daylilies
Look for a wagon of daylilies on sale!  These named varieties have lost their labels, so we are selling them at a greatly reduced price.  If you want gorgeous, hardy plants, and don’t care what color they are, this is for you!  Or, keep them potted until they bloom and then plant them where they blend well!  Limit 3 per customer.  Valid until June 15th.

A Thwarted Mother
     In April, a robin began building her nest in a flat of snapdragons right in the front sales area, next to the opening in the display where many people walk.  We tried our best to discourage her from choosing this site, knowing that would not be a very quiet location.  However, even though we tried to persuade her through lengthy arguments, removing nesting materials, thorough waterings, and frequent visits, she refused to be dissuaded and one morning, the nest was not only completed, but contained one beautiful turquoise egg.   At that point, I was afraid to disturb the nest and reluctantly waited to see what would unfold.
    In the following days, three more eggs were laid.  The robin became accustomed to me as I watered daily, and would remain on the nest.  However, passing customers generally alarmed her and she would fly away, hopping around the area nervously until she felt it safe to return.  I feared she spent too much time off the nest, especially since many days were chilly.  I often reminded her that she had not chosen a very good location.  She reminded me that her cousin had the nest above the Cottage door, and was having the same difficulties, as was the wren in the Cold frame who nested amid the red coral bells.  I had the feeling that I was being reprimanded for not providing a quieter neighborhood and more secure facilities.
     Eventually, the robin decided there was little to fear from most customers, and I think she even began to enjoy her celebrity status.  Notice the gleam in her eye in this photo, taken by Greg Tompkins.  All seemed to be going well until a sunny day in May.
     Normally I truly enjoy our small visitors, especially since my own children are all grown up, and my grandchildren live far away.  I delight in their curiosity, their sometimes ironical pronouncements, and their love of flowers.  However, occasionally parents have omitted some basic lessons, like respect for nature or other people’s property.  On this particular day, I suspected volumes had been left unopened in life’s classroom.  Despite repeated cautions to not disturb the nesting robin from myself and also from my employee, a girl approximately ten years old would not listen.
    When I returned outside, I saw the girl standing by the robin’s nest.  She had a sly, furtive look that I recognized from my teaching days.  The frantic robin mother was hopping around in and out of the succulent display.  “What’s happened to the other eggs?” I asked calmly, looking her in the eye.  She looked away quickly, saying “Were there four? I mean were there more?”
     “Yes, why don’t you look for them, and if you find them put them back in the nest so the mother can take care of them.  They should be ready to hatch out in just a day or two, so they need to be kept warm.  You can see how upset the mother is.”
     “I don’t want to,” she shouted, running off to the cold frame.  I can’t exactly conduct a pocket search, and when I heard her shout she’d found baby birds, I ran to protect the nest of baby wrens. 
     My employee and I breathe a sigh of relief as the family left the parking lot. We check the nest.  One egg is intact, one is cracked, the other two are still missing.  The robin never returned to her nest.

An Herb to Know:  Pyrethrum
     After being plagued by insects last season, from aphids to grasshoppers, it seemed wise to learn more about natural means of control.  One of the top plants on that list is Painted Daisy, a pyrethrum.  An easily grown perennial, pyrethrum is most recognized in its colorful daisy form, often called Painted Daisy or Painted Lady because of its bright red, rose, or lilac flowers.  A mid-summer bloomer with fern-like foliage, it grows in sunny locations to about two feet in height.  However, a little more research brought to light the fact that the most potent, preferred form for pyrethrin is actually Chrysanthemum tanacetum cinerarifolium, also called pyrethrum or Dalmatian Pyrethrin, with small white flowers and gray-green foliage, so that is what I ordered.  It forms a tidy 12” mound that will be covered with white blooms.  These are easily harvested, dried and powdered to be used as a dust, or mixed with water as an insecticidal spray.  Often a bit of sesame or vegetable oil is added to help it “stick” to the plant.
     Pyrethrum is not harmful to plants and is generally regarded as the least toxic of all insecticides to man and animals.  It is effective against a wide range of insects that plague plants and animals.  It kills insects by rapidly paralyzing them.  I’ll be doing some research of my own just as soon as any of my plants come into bloom.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the pretty foliage and watching them grow!

Whirlybirds & Walking Sticks
     One of the things I love about gardening, in addition to the beauty, the flowers, the bird songs that surround me and the ever-changing sky overhead is the opportunity to look at Nature up close.  Recently two things caught my attention.
     Who hasn’t grown up watching the “whirlybirds” or “helicopters” twirl downward from the maple trees in spring?  The paired seeds, wrapped in thins sheaths of papery beige have delighted children of all ages as they fall in lazy circles and form drifts below.  A single maple tree can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds.  I’ve observed that when something produces what seems to be a huge overabundance of seeds, it’s because Mother Nature knows most of them will not survive.  Sometimes it’s because of harsh conditions of weather or soil, but that’s not usually the case for maples that generally grow in productive areas.  So, the other obvious answer is that Mother Nature expects most of the seeds to be eaten, and that caused me to wonder who eats maple seeds.  My first guess was chipmunks, because we seem to have an abundance of those little critters this year at the farm, and at our home.  They are fat and sassy, and often in the areas near the maples.  The small red squirrels that we grew up calling “piney squirrels” are only slightly larger than chipmunks, with bushier tales and I’ve seen lots of them in the area, too.
     So, as I weed and plant I’ve been watching, and both chipmunks and piney squirrels do eat maple seeds.  A little research says that some birds also eat them, but I haven’t observed that yet.  I have observed that some maples seeds have tiny holes drilled into them, most likely by some insect. I haven’t had time to research what those might be. I’ve even heard that people collect and eat maple seeds, cooking them like peas, or roasting them like pumpkin seeds.  That’s something I may have to try.
     One had to be very observant to see this tiny, tiny walking stick who was almost identical in color to the leaves of the bellflowers growing in the Purple Garden.  I’ve always thought Walking Sticks were fascinating, but I’ve never taken the time to learn much about them, like what they eat or where they like to live.  Someday, when I have nothing to do, I’ll do some research on that topic, too!

1)  Kee the hummingbird feeder cleaned and filled…they’re feeding heavily as they raise new families.
2) Plant sweet alyssum and mignonette close to seating areas now to enjoy its fragrance, and let it self-seed, so you can enjoy it again later.
3) Keep pansies deadheaded to prolong bloom, and remember they are heavy feeders, so fertilize when you water.  Move containers of pansies into partial afternoon shade when the days get hot.
4) Dead head daffodils and other spring bulbs, but allow the foliage to ripen and turn brown before you remove it.  Mark clumps that need to be divided or moved this autumn.
5) Prune spring flowering shrubs right after they bloom.  It’s a good time to shape lilacs.
6) The first feeding for the lawn needs to be done around Memorial Day
7) Enjoy the Dames Rocket, Columbines, May Queen Shastas, Lungworts, Forget-Me-Nots, Hellebores, Bleeding Hearts, and all the other bloomers that are filling the garden with color after the bulbs.
8) Plant some containers with annuals in your favorite colors to pop into the garden areas close to patios and decks, if nothing is blooming there.  You can move them around as needed, or collect them into a grouping for parties.
9) Scissor mums every two-three weeks, so they will get really bushy and sturdy.  Stop trimming July 4th.
10) Check lilies, peonies, and other tall perennials for staking needs—it’s been a windy Spring.

11)  Harvest those beautiful chive blooms and pop them into salads, or the recipe below!  Or, steep the blooms in white vinegar for two weeks.  They will turn the vinegar a lovely shade of pink, and add a wonderful light onion flavor to salad dressings, marinades, and stir-fry.

Recipe:  Savory Cheesecake
     My friend, Dee Brown, from Honey Rock Herb Farm in Louisville, TN sent me a recipe for a savory cheesecake.  I’ve really had fun playing around with it, and I’ve already served various versions several times, using whatever herbs I have in good supply.  Here’s the version I’ve like best so far, but I’ll continue making it with different combinations.  I hope you’ll try it, and experiment with various flavors, too!  I call this one “Simon & Garfunkel Visit Italy”!  I think you’ll see why.
     Place the following herbs in a food processor: ½ c. parsley leaves (pressed down to measure); 1 T. fresh sage leaves; 2 T. fresh rosemary leaves;  ¼ tsp. dried thyme (or ¾ tsp. fresh leaves); 2/3 c. snipped chives, chive blossoms, or garlic chives (or a combination); and 2 cloves garlic, quartered.  Process until fine, but still with some texture, not a paste.  Set aside.
     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Use 1 T. butter to generously grease the bottom and the sides of a 9” spring form pan to a height of at least 2”
 .  Mix together: 1/3 c. bread crumbs, 1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese, and 2 tsp. dried basil.  Press evenly into the bottom of the pan to form a bottom crust.  Set the pan on a baking sheet.  Bake 10 min.
     While crust bakes, in a large bowl beat together:  3-8 oz. pkg cream cheese (at room temperature), 1/3 c. melted butter, several grounds of fresh black pepper, 5 dashes of hot sauce (David loves ‘Slap My Ass & Call Me Sally’) and 4 large eggs.  When well blended, stir in the herb mixture.  Pour over the baked crust and return pan (on the baking sheet) to the oven for 1 hr.  Turn off heat, open the oven door a few inches, and allow the cheesecake to “rest” there for 30 min.  Serve warm immediately, or refrigerate and serve cold.

Just in under the wire for the hectic month of May, but I promise to be more timely in June.  I hope your gardens thrive, and that you have some special moments to notice the beauty of the world and nature around you.  Herbal blessings, Carolee

*************Carolee’s e-coupon for May**************
 20% off pepper plants….choose sweet banana, jalapeno, bell, orange bell, cayenne, or variegated varieties! Valid through June 15 or while they last!

***********Carolee’s e-coupon for May*****************
Buy one, get one free petunias in 4-packs!  Choose from several colors.  Valid through June 15th, or while they last.

*************Carolee’s Barn Gift Shop coupon***************
10% off the beautiful white & green metal pieces in an herb design…railing pots and planters, watering cans, or trays.  Choose one item or several!  Valid through June 15th.

***********Carolee’s Cottage coupon***************
20% off any wood item in our herbal Cottage.  Valid through June 15th.