Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters February 2020 Newsletter
February 2020 Newsletter Print E-mail

February E-Newsletter 2020

Our blasted local groundhog saw his shadow.   How this happened, since this February was a record month for gloomy weather, is a mystery.  The header photo is typical of my view this month.  Despite the gloomy weather, I’ve been seeding on schedule, with 49 varieties underway.   Things are germinating nicely, and soon the transplanting will begin.  And, thankfully, there are many horticultural events on the calendar providing opportunities to hone our horticultural skills, and that remind us spring is on the way.  It comforts me to know that beneath the mounds of snow, resting in the frozen soil, spring bulbs and perennials are silently growing lovely root systems and are just as eager to push their bloom stalks upward as I am to see them!


Upcoming Events:

     Fort Wayne Home & Garden Show:  Sat., Feb. 27-March 1.  In its 47th year, with over 650 vendors!  Speakers, including garden expert Melinda Myers.  Open until 9 pm each day!  Fort Wayne Coliseum.

     Newfields Hort Symposium:  Sat, Feb 29, 7:45am-4:30p.m.  A full day of educational speakers focused on plants and environmental stewardship.  Topics:  Japanese gardens, Hardy perennials from Chicago Botanic Garden trials, colorful annuals at the Cincinnati Zoo (the gardens there are spectacular!) resilient landscapes for the changing climate, integrating art & horticulture, houseplant care.  $95 public; $70 members.  Includes morning refreshments and lunch.  Buy tickets on-line at 


     Philadelphia Flower Show:  February 29-March 8, 2020.  Established in 1829, this amazing show quickly became the largest indoor display in the world, covering 10 acres with gardens and garden-related displays.  This year’s theme “Riviera Holiday,” beckons you to embrace your inner romantic and create a Mediterranean inspired garden of your own. Ornate pottery and patterned tiles, a well-placed pergola and abundant clusters of scented flowers, ornamental fountains and herb parterres provide irresistible appeal along with sustainable lower maintenance, water-wise options that are both responsive to and reflective of temperate conditions. Tickets can be purchased on-site, but book your hotel room now to get one within walking distance.


     Wisconsin Herb Society Spring Symposium:  March 7.  “It’s the Berries!” is the theme of this fun event.  Held at the Women’s Club in Milwaukee.  Vendors, speakers, a bountiful breakfast and herbal luncheon (gluten free available) $70  Pre-registration required, but is available on-line..


     Indiana Flower & Patio Show:  March 14-22, 2020 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  Lots of interesting speakers this year, including Chris Lambton from “Yard Crashers.”  Check the show website for lots more info.  Also, on March 16th, take a can or two of food for the needy, and receive $4 off your admission!


     Kentuckiana Spring Herb Education Day:  Saturday, March 28, 9:00-3:00.  “You’re Berry Welcome!” This beautiful event is held at Huber’s Orchard & Winery’s Plantation Hall and features tables and tables of herbal goodies made by its members, plus an array of vendors, including lots of plants.  Good food, good company.  Three speakers including “Nature’s Edibles,” “Growing Berries Organically,” Berries to Beverages.”  $45 ticket includes morning tea and lunch.  Registration forms at


    GardenFest Pansy Sale…March 28.  The Morgan Co. Master Gardeners will again host their huge pansy sale and GardenFest, at the Hoosier Harvest Church in Martinsville, IN.  Hours are 9-3 on Sat.  There will be dozens and dozens of vendors, outdoors and inside, speakers, and food available for purchase on-site.


     Monroe Co. Master Gardeners’ Fair:  Saturday, April 4, 9am – 4pm at the Monroe County Fairgrounds / Bloomington, Indiana, 5700 W Airport Rd, Bloomington.  Expanded to two buildings this year!  SEE ME THERE at my book booth!

     HSCI Herb Symposium:  Saturday, April 11. 9:30-2:30.  Fabulous event, “Celebrating Rubus, Blackberries, Raspberries & More!”  Five informative presentations, silent auction, vendors, plant sale, swag bag, breakfast snack, beverages, and bountiful herbal lunch are all included.  Topics:  Herb of the Year, Garden Phenology, Creating Herb blends, Tai Chi for Gardeners, and Best Fragrant Plants for Midwest Gardens.  Print out a registration form or register online at   Deadline is April 3rd.  This event fills fast, so don’t delay!  Join me there!



Herb to Know:  Lemon

     One of the joys this time of year, are the wonderful flowers, visual, aromatic and tasty, provided by my lemon tree.   I disagree with the lyrics of the song, “Lemon Tree, very pretty, and the lemon flowers are sweet.  But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat!”  I love lemons!  Even though it is young, this tree has produced a bounty of bright, cheery yellow fruits all winter.  Right now, the fruits have all been harvested, but there are clusters of brand new buds ready to open.  I’ll hand-pollinate them, since there are no insects in my basement to do it, give it a good feeding, and soon enjoy lemons for my tea or maybe a lemon meringue pie or two! 

     Although lemon trees can survive a frost, I prefer to move mine into my basement before frost to prevent stress, and because there are usually lemons on it at that time.  It sits in front of west-facing sliding glass doors, and seems happy there all winter.  As soon as the weather settles a bit, I move it onto the adjoining patio on nice days, but am prepared to slide it back indoors if temperatures plummet.  

     Most people are aware that lemons are filled with Vitamin C, and that they were carried on ships to help prevent scurvy.  Lemon and honey has long been used as a remedy for sore throats and coughs.  In his book “Green Pharmacy,” Dr. James Duke suggests “steeping 2 tsp. organic lemon rinds, 1 tsp. sage and ½ tsp. thyme in a cup of boiling water for 15 min.  Then add the juice of 1 lemon and 1 T. honey” to ease a cough.  Surprisingly, he also suggests eating lemon rinds, which contain rutin, for varicose veins.

     Lemon zest, juice and pulp have been used in cooking for centuries, providing flavor for beverages, baked goods, salads, and just brightening whatever foods with which they are combined.


RHS Wisley!

     In this final installment of my October London trip, I’m sharing views of RHS Wisley which has been on my “bucket list” for several years, but somehow was never worked into the schedule.  This time, it was top priority and fortunately the timing was perfect because it was their “AutumnFest,” which included lots of extra displays and food vendors.


     Wisley is home to some of the world’s largest plant collections, as well as some truly outstanding gardens.  Whereas Kew (another RHS site) is more focused on ornamental gardens, Wisley is committed to maintaining the “useful” plants, including heirlooms as well as new introductions, both of which are constantly evaluated by scientists. 


Just as an example, Wisley is home to the world’s largest collection of rhubarbs, a few of which are shown here in the trial grounds but I was unable to capture all 136 varieties in a single shot!  I didn’t dream there were that many rhubarbs!


     Wisley is also committed to finding and preserving the best food crops for the British kitchen garden, the best trees for lumber or fruit or nut production and those collections are just as impressive.  It is often called the best demonstration garden in Europe.  It is said that Wisley is the place that shows gardeners how it should be done!


     Unfortunately it was a bit drizzly as we arrived, so some of my photos are not the best, but I think you can get an idea of the beauty there.  Wisley began in 1878 as the garden of a prominent man who was interested mainly in growing fruit and orchids.  When he died in 1902, it was purchased by another wealthy, passionate gardener and active member of the Royal Horticultural Society who generously donated it to the Society as an educational and learning garden, and it is now the Society’s headquarters.


These are some of the original buildings, surrounded by beautiful plantings.


     One building houses the extraordinary horticultural library, which we visited.  They were having a huge sale of duplicate books, but unfortunately my suitcase was already at its limit.


     Nearby, this reflection pond, called the Jellicoe Canal, is home to a plant that definitely made me smile!


     There was also a big collection of potted succulents on the steps, and a lovely view of the Conifer Lawn.


  Just a bit along was a Spiral Garden that is the setting for thousands of bulbs in spring, but is transformed into an autumn garden with the addition of dried stalks of teasel, sea holly, and colorful dogwood twigs as well as dried gourds, colorful pumpkins and squash, and antique boxes of heirloom apples.


     The Wisteria Walk was past its bloom period, but the rounded trellis was home to other various vines and flowers.


     Like many extensive gardens, as one walks along there are enticing paths leading in other directions, but obviously in one day, they cannot all be followed.  So, we chose the areas we wanted to see most, such as the Cottage Garden and the Mixed Borders.


      Of course, the Herb Garden was a must-see, but I’m not sure I saw even all of that! 


     A project just planted was this interesting hill, with its spiraling path to the top.  The sides were planted with lavenders and rosemary, and the views from the top were beautiful.  It will be a sensual treat when the lavenders bloom.


     The Rock Garden was amazing, but I only took a quick photo of a part of the extensive bonsai area, in order to spend more time studying the Vegetable Garden.


     I did not make it to the Alpine Meadow, or the South African Meadow, the Water Lily Pavilion, the Heather Landscape, the Pinetum, the Pollinator Garden, the Hilltop Border, or the Riverside Walk.  We did walk to the Glasshouse, but not through it.  It’s no wonder we couldn’t see it all…there’s 240 acres!


     The Allotment Gardens were quite a hike from the fruit orchards, but my daughter was determined to go and take some photos for me, even though their season was nearly over.

     We enjoyed the Autumn Fest so much, with all the cider vendors, food & veg vendors that I neglected to take any photos.  There was also an antique tractor show.


     Wisley is constantly renovating the gardens.  One of the current major projects is an entirely new Trial Garden.  The other is a garden dedicated for Wildlife.


     We did a quick walk-through of the Rose Garden


     As is generally the case in Britain, the Walled Garden was outstanding, and this little woodland area carpeted with cyclamen made me jealous.


     You may know that Britain has been invaded by a caterpillar that is destroying many of the countries’ historical boxwood plantings.  This lovely box garden is a test ground to see which (if any) varieties and species show any resistance, and how one might treat them.


     By the end of the day, we were ready to rest a bit in this unique Japanese pavilion by the lake.


     The extensive shop is packed with an array of gardening items, some of which are exclusive to the shop.  The Plant Sales area is HUGE, with an amazing variety (and a 5 yr. guarantee on hardy plants!)


     There are three cafés, but we chose luncheon at the Terrace Restaurant, which was indeed memorable, and included cider made from Wisley’s orchard, containing over 670 apple cultivars.


     I was SO impressed at the scale and beauty of Wisley, especially considering the lateness of the season.  It’s STILL on my bucket list, because I think I MUST see it in spring, and after the new Trial Garden and Wildlife Gardens are opened, and because there was much more than I could view in only one day.  If London is on your itinerary, do make the (about 1 hr.) drive to the southwest to visit RHS Wisley.  I can’t wait to return!


Did you know:

     * Recent research indicates that drinking 8-10 glasses of plain water (not flavored, not tea, not coffee…just water) significantly eases joint pain and back pain for up to 80% of those participating in the study.  It also decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, breast cancer by 79%, and bladder cancer by 50%!!  Drink more water!

     * Research has proven that the daily practice of gratitude, that is counting your blessings and being thankful, is an important step toward wellness and happiness .

     * By flying in a “V” formation, geese increase their flying efficiency by over 70%.  Pretty good for something with a brain the size of a pea.  And, they never leave one of their fellow flock members alone.  If a goose is having a problem flying or keeping up, another goose will escort him/her to the ground and stay with him until he is ready to continue.  Hopefully we’ll see some “V’s” flying north soon!


Recipe:  Orzo Avocado Salad

Avocados are in season, so take advantage of their low price in this tasty salad.  It’s hearty enough for a luncheon, and pretty as well!

     Cook 1 c. orzo pasta as directed on package.  Drain, rinse and allow to cool.

     Meanwhile make the dressing by combining  in a jar:  1/3 c. Half & Half; the zest of a lime plus ¼ c. lime juice; 2 T. sour cream, 2 T. mayonnaise, ½ tsp. chili powder; ½ tsp. salt; ¼ tsp. black pepper and one garlic clove, finely chopped.  Shake until smooth.  Refrigerate until needed.

     Combine in large bowl:  1 c. sliced black olives, 1 c.  cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered; 1 can whole kernel corn (drained); 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained); 4 green onions, thinly sliced; 1/2 c. finely chopped cilantro; ¼ c. finely chopped parsley.

     When ready to serve, add orzo and 1 avocado (peeled and diced) to bowl.  Toss gently with dressing until nicely blended.  Top salad with another avocado (peeled and sliced), a few cherry tomato halves, and sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro or parsley.  6 generous servings.

 Blink and it will be March, a time for March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, and the official arrival of Spring.  Hopefully, we’ll be seeing a lot more green, and not just in the Canal!  I’ll be firing up the little greenhouse and serious gardening will begin!  Until next time,

Herbal blessings, Carolee