Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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April E-Newsletter Print E-mail

April E-Newsletter

      No wonder the old phrase says “April is the cruelest month!”  A series of pretty days lulls one into thinking that Spring has arrived, then BAM!  A blast of wintry mix that includes blustery winds and snow arrives!  It’s enough to drive a gardener crazy!
     The good news is that since the weather kept us indoors, we’ve potted hundreds and hundreds of plants!  I didn’t keep track of the number of new varieties we moved over to the cold frame the past two weeks, but there’s LOTS!  Beautiful thymes, rosemarys, lots of gorgeous perennials, and flowering plants of all kinds.  Of  course, we have lots of Proven Winners for hanging baskets and containers, too.  We’re making up Color bowls of pansies, fragrant alyssum & stock and culinary baskets for Mother’s Day gifts, or just to brighten a patio or porch.  The heirloom tomatoes are growing by leaps and bounds, and the cold weather vegetables are hardened off and ready for the garden.  Come see what’s new!

Susan Albert’s visit
     You have only a few hours left to make your reservation for Susan Albert’s visit on Sunday, April 26th.  Susan will be presenting “The Shakers and Their Herbs” as well as signing books.  We’ll be serving a complimentary tea featuring recipes from the Shakers.  The afternoon begins at 1:00, but the Big Barn Gift Shop will open at 12:30 for those who want to shop for plants early.  We will take reservations until April 24th for the few remaining seats.  You can do it on line, or mail your check for $20 to the farm today!  The deadline for registering is 5 p.m. on Wednesday,  April 22nd.


Fairy Days, May 2 & 3
     It’s a magical day for all who believe!  E-mail your reservation now.  Be sure to specify how many adults and children will be attending for either Saturday, May 2nd or Sunday, May 3rd.  We need to know which day you plan to come to have adequate Fairy Tea refreshments and craft materials.
     This year, we have some talented vendors coming as well bringing their beautiful fairy books, fairy greeting cards, stained glass fairies and more.
     We have new fairy crafts for you to try, lots of new ideas, and some really beautiful miniature plants for fairy gardens.  The Big Barn Gift shop has new fairy books, new styles of fairy houses, a new line of fairies and a good supply of fairy furniture.  If you love fairies, you must visit.   Wear your wings and join the Fairy Parade.  Enjoy a complimentary Fairy Tea.  This will be a fairy special day!

National Herb Week---May 3-10th
     National Herb Week is just around the corner.  We’ll be celebrating at the farm on Saturday, May 9th with bay (the Herb of the Year for 2009) recipes and presentations at 11:00 and 1:00 entitled “The Blessing of Bay.”   We’ll also do “The Edible Landscape” at 12:00 and 2:00.   There is no fee for either presentation.  Get a free herb plant (with purchase only) to celebrate National Herb Week.  You might also win a door prize!

Garden Fair-May 16th, 8:30-3:00p.m.
I’ll be speaking at the big Garden Fair in Fort Wayne on May 16th.  We’ll also have a booth with lots of beautiful plants and herbal items.  It’s a full day beginning with a coffee bar & breads, gourmet lunch, prizes, goodie bags, many vendors, informative presentations and choice of workshops.
     My topic is “From Herbal Beginnings to Herbal Blessings.”  You can get more information & directions on the website at  Location is the Unitarian Meetinghouse, 5310 Old Mill Rd.  Seating is limited for this event, and registration is required.  You can call 260-744-1867 for information or registration.

One Book, One Community
    We were honored when Blackford County chose Carolee’s book, Herbal Beginnings
for the 2009 One Book, One Community program.  Residents of Blackford County are encouraged to read this entertaining herbal novel, and then to share their thoughts at several programs during the month of May.  One of the programs will be held at the farm on Saturday, May 23rd.  Carolee will give a presentation “From Herbal Beginnings to Herbal Blessings” which highlights some of the events and plants featured in the book, and refreshments will be served.  It would be helpful if you make a reservation.

Favorite Spring Plants Winner
It’s difficult to select just one plant, since I love them all, and from the responses to our March E-Newsletter question, most of you are the same.  The plant that received the most votes was the daffodil, followed closely by “spring bulbs.”
     The winner of the $10 gift certificate was Ka Freeman, Indianapolis, IN.


Bleeding Hearts & Brunnera
     Two of my favorite plants in spring (besides hellebores and pulsatilla—see those articles on the website) are bleeding hearts and brunnera.  The old-fashioned bleeding heart is such a charmer, with its heart shaped blossoms in rich rose and white that dangle from arching stems.  The name comes from a Chinese legend that said the blossoms of the plant resemble a heart with a drop of blood.  The plant is also often called “Chinamen’s breeches,” “lady’s locket,” or “lyre flower.”
     The plant was “discovered” by the famous plant hunter to the king, Robert Fortune, who brought it from the Orient to England in 1846.  It immediately became the rage for English gardens   A member of the Dicentra genus, bleeding heart is a perennial that blooms best in rich soil and partial shade. 
     Surprisingly, there are 150 species of bleeding heart known, with most being found in North America, Asia, and the Himalayas.  The most common North American type is Dicentra eximia, whose flower is a solid color and not as perfectly heart-shaped as the old-fashioned, but much-loved Dicentra spectabilis.  Another drawback to D. eximia is that is causes dermatitis in many people upon contact with any part of the plant.
     My absolute favorite bleeding heart is “Golden Heart.”  Its rich golden leaves really liven up a shady spot.  It has proven very hardy and reliable for me in both my home garden and in the Enchanted Forest here at the farm.  Even after the flowers are gone, the foliage is lovely until it disappears entirely by late summer.  I plant mine with toad lilies as neighbors, who gladly fill in the overhead space vacated by the bleeding hearts.
     The other hardy perennial I can’t live without is brunnera.  The variety I grow is “Dawson’s White” which is known for its lovely variegated cream and green leaves.  It has gorgeous clusters of sky-blue flowers, resembling forget-me-nots.  In fact, some people call this plant perennial forget-me-not.  It is also a shade lover, as are many spring-blooming plants.  Like the bleeding hearts, it also appreciates good soil and adequate water.

The rule in gardening, never forget….is sow dry, and set wet!    

Dandelions, Spring Greens
     When I was a girl, one of the sure signs of spring was the appearance of dandelion greens at supper.  When I was big enough, it was often my chore to pick the tender greens.  They grew in abundance in the yard, orchard, along the fence lines, and in the garden.  Digging them out of the garden accomplished double… eliminated them from the cultivated plants, and we gained a nutritious meal!  Dandelion greens can be prepared in a number of ways.  There are entire cookbooks devoted to it!   The greens are best for salad when picked before the flowers appear, because they are more tender and mild.  Once the bright gold flowers come, I cook the greens.  And, I dip the flowers in beaten egg, roll them in finely ground cracker crumbs, and fry them in butter.  They taste like fried mushrooms, but are much easier to find!
     Of course, you MUST NOT harvest dandelions from lawns or areas that have been sprayed, or in areas where run-off from fields or neighboring lawns that might have been sprays occurs.  Rinse the greens well before using.
     Here’s my favorite recipe, passed down by generations in my family.  Hard boil 3 eggs, cool, peel, and dice.  Bake or boil 3 large potatoes until tender.  Cool and dice into 1” pieces.  In a large skillet, cook 4-6 slices bacon until crisp.  Remove to drain on paper toweling, and then chop coarsely.  In the skillet, sauté ½ c. diced onion until soft, but not brown.  Add a 2 quart bowl of washed dandelion greens, stirring to wilt.  Toss in the eggs, potatoes, reserved bacon and 3 T. apple cider vinegar.  Stir gently.  Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt, if desired.

May 1st—May Day!
     Traditionally, the First Day of May was for celebrating the end of winter, with May Pole dancing, special foods and parties.  Depending upon the geographic region, it might also celebrate the beginning of the planting season, or the first sprouts in the newly planted fields, or the first harvest of early garden crops.  In Europe, the day often included a May Bowl, which was a white wine punch flavored with Sweet Woodruff, a beautiful groundcover for shady spots.  The first alpine strawberries and violets would be floated in the bowl.
     Generally, fires were burned, upon which symbolic wreaths were thrown, sometimes with an effigy of Old Man Winter.  After the fire cooled, the ashes were sprinkled on the fields before planting or between newly emerging crops to ensure a good harvest. 
     Houses were decorated with garlands of flowers over the door, and young maidens wore crowns of blossoms.
     Traditionally, the foods for May Day celebrations were made with eggs, milk, cheese, and spring greens.  Whole grain breads were spread with wine jelly or the last of the honey which had been rationed over the long winter months.  And, of course, there would be steaming kettles of sorrel soup.

Garden Tips:
1.  Mark clumps of bulbs that need to be divided.  Move them once the foliage has ripened and disappeared.
2.  Divide perennials when they are 1-2” tall for the least stress possible.  Do this on a cloudy day if possible.  If not, provide a bit of shade for the plants in their new location.  I use an old card table that I can move from spot to spot as required to act as a canopy.
3.  Make notes of “empty” days when little is blooming in your garden.  Visit a public garden or display garden to see what you can add in the colors you prefer.
4.  Mix radish seeds with newly sown perennial seed.  It will help keep from seeding them too densely, and the radish seeds will emerge quickly to remind you that a perennial may be sprouting there in a few weeks (or months!)
5.  Enjoy primroses on the coffee table or kitchen table, keeping the faded blooms picked off.  When they are done blooming in another month or so, plant them in a shady location to enjoy outdoors next year.
6.  Plant annual statice plants now for best bloom.  They can tolerate cold weather.
7.  When mums and asters get 8” tall, clip them back to 5”.  This will improve bushiness.  Repeat as needed until July 4th, then stop clipping.
8. You can also clip monarda and tall garden phlox, or just do half or one-third of the clump to prolong the bloom period.
9.  Now is a good time to edge gardens.  Be sure your edging shovel’s edge is sharp!

Upcoming Events:
April 26th- Susan Albert’s Visit
May 2 & 3-Fairy Days, reservations required
Sat., May 23rd-One Book, One Community Presentation-reservations requested
Sat., May 30th-Flowering Shrub Day