Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters June 2017 Newsletter
June 2017 Newsletter Print E-mail



June E-Newsletter 2017

     Why does June always seem like such a short month?  Especially to gardeners who are busy planting, watching for harmful bugs and bunnies, and beginning to harvest the bounty of lettuces, spinach, strawberries, peas and snow peas, broccoli and other blessings from the garden, June just whizzes by.  We admire the opening roses, the first of the lavenders, and now days, even the daylilies (which used to be a July-blooming perennial!)  Along with others, we attend graduations, weddings, anniversary parties and other traditional June events that include picnics and barbeques.  June is a busy, busy month…a  month to be savored, but there just doesn’t seem to be time!
     Here at the potager, I’ve been harvesting and freezing peas, strawberries, black raspberries, broccoli, and peas.  There are 6 new quarts of elderflower syrup for cocktail-making and drizzling over pound cakes. We’ve eaten the first of the purple beans and cucumbers, and tons of lettuce, spinach, radishes, and kale.  We only had snow peas a couple of meals before the heat got to them, so out they came to be replaced by tomatoes.
     I started two new projects this month, besides finishing the mulching of all the potager paths and the other gardens.  1) The lavender slope is being stoned, and looks so much nicer, although it’s not quite finished because I ran out of stone.  It’s a beautiful Dixie River Rock, and I love it, and the fact that I won’t have to continually battle with the landscape cloth flying loose, and the weeds that seemingly appeared overnight when it did!  If it weren’t so darn heavy to shovel, and so expensive, I’d stone all the potager paths as well.  Maybe someday!  2) The second project is also not quite finished, but well underway.  It’s a new Cutting Garden between the potager and the berry rows.  I just CAN’T force myself to cut flowers from my gardens, so a cutting garden is the answer.  So I would not feel cutting blooms will spoil the design or effect, I intentionally didn’t even do groupings or color transitions, or worry much about who was taller, etc.  I’ll just keep telling myself, “They are supposed to be cut!” and hopefully it won’t just become another flower border.

P. Allen Smith’s Home & Gardens
     Last month’s E-newsletter described the vegetable garden at Moss Mountain Farm near Little Rock.  This issue, we’ll peek inside P. Allen Smith’s home, which he designed and had built on the top of his 600 acre estate, Moss Mountain Farm.  Please excuse the occasional raindrop on the photos.  It was pouring on the day I visited, and although the lens was repeatedly wiped, it was impossible to keep it totally clear for even the moment to click a photo.


Although the home intentionally looks as if it had been constructed in the late 1800’s, the house was built about 10 years ago.  The exterior has an aged patina, and a graceful front porch. 

Viewed from the back, from one of the many garden vistas looking toward the house, the extensive porches for entertaining on the main floor, and the sleeping porch on the second floor are readily visible.   Although historic in appearance, the home contains all the most modern conveniences, and well-designed use of space. 


So, let’s take a look at the entrance, beginning with the black dog statues standing guard at the front steps, the pretty planters (I LOVE those big topiaries!) and the cheerful rocking chairs beckoning us to come visit for a spell.

 Stepping into the foyer, the charm of P. Allen’s sense of style is immediately apparent.  From the monogrammed chairs, to the extra seating tucked under the side table, the colorful artwork (many of which are his own works) usually depicting fruit, plants, or birds, the careful combinations of textures and colors blended in a formal yet inviting style, are the hallmarks that have made P. Allen Smith an icon in the home decorating and lifestyle industry.  You’ll notice that he shares my love of “Granny Smith apple green,” a color that appears throughout his home (and mine!)Looking to the right, notice the obligatory family portraits.  Smith’s family were early, early (late 1600’s) settlers in Virgina, whose family gradually migrated westward.  Many pieces of furniture are family heirlooms. 
Stepping through the doorway into the extensive dining room, P. Allen’s love of books, family, and history is obvious. 
A corner hutch contains part of his collection of apple green vases.  His love of cut flower arrangements is famous, and they can be found throughout the home. 
Surprisingly, the dining room table itself is not set for dinner, but is filled with stacks and stacks of books, silver pieces, tall white vases, and more green apples.  On the wall nearby, is another of P. Allen’s paintings.  Giant fruits are often his choice of subject.  The dining room also contains upholstered seating near the fireplace. 


On the other side of the fireplace, located in the center of the home, which is open to both the dining room and the living room the mantle features an elongated heirloom wooden platter filled with green apples.  Note also the antique grandmother clock.  In another corner of the living room these bright toasted orange chairs add a bit of color when combined with a neutral cabinet filled with more books.  On one side of the parlor fireplace is a basket of wood, and on the other…you guessed it, a basket of books and magazines!

Between the living room and the open kitchen, is the informal dining area.  I loved the table settings, which featured bird-themed dishes on apple green chargers, and white vases filled with fresh green herbs.  The white bird-themed vases are so sweet, and sweet-scented with fresh herbs that echo the green table settings, and the herbs in the kitchen beyond. Notice the green upholstered bench seating on one side. 

On the wall behind this area is a casual bar, with an elaborate green glass sculpture above.

The kitchen is a joy, filled with convenience and charming touches.  White and green are repeated in vases, dishes, and fresh herb bouquets.  Smith’s love of poultry, a hobby since he was 10 years old, is evident both in artwork and collectibles.  The massive stove gives testament to a homeowner that loves to cook and entertain.
     Every bit of kitchen space is utilized to the maximum.  Notice the small doggy water dishes, and yes, more books. 


The center island is large enough to have ample workspace, and still room for several decorative touches in the middle.  And yet more books in shelving in the island!

There are windows on three sides of the kitchen, providing both natural light and beautiful views in every direction.  Note more white vases, poultry, and fresh herbs.  Everywhere one looks, Smith’s passions are evident.  This is a very personal home, filled with love.

Leaving the kitchen, off the side is one of my favorite rooms, the flower room, designed to make floral arranging a dream.  Every supply from vase to clippers is stored here, plus a deep sink and buckets for conditioning armloads of blooms.  Can I just transport that room back to Indiana?

     Just beyond that are the two sets of French doors that lead to the porch that extends along the entire back of the home.  In the South, much time is spent relaxing in comfortable chairs inside screened porches.  At the opposite end is another casual dining area.  Notice the building to the left.  That’s the summer kitchen, where technicians were preparing for an upcoming segment of P. Allen’s TV show (aired on 96 stations across the land.)  Most of the cooking segments are filmed in the summer kitchen. 


Look more closely at the details of the table scape.  Even in a casual setting, the attention and repetitiveness of small items and color schemes is amazing.  White and green, fresh herbs and succulents are featured (in other areas as well as outdoors) and if you look closely, a metal poultry sculpture in back.  On a nearby table, the motif is repeated with slight changes, but you can easily recognize the master’s hand.

     On the second floor, my favorite place is this wonderful sleeping porch.  I want one of these, too!  Notice how open, airy, and appealing it is.  On the other end is this delightful tub.  Shutters give some privacy, but I suppose if one is in the middle of 600 acres of a private estate, outdoor bathing is not an issue.

     P. Allen’s bedroom, like his home and his gardens, reflects not only his own tastes and interests, but also those of Thomas Jefferson, one of Smith’s idols.  If you have visited Monticello, you will no doubt notice many similarities in style.  Notice the exquisite study just beyond the bedroom, with wonderful views overlooking the estate.  And, as all throughout the home, there is comfortable, inviting seating everywhere, with a selection of books at hand.  The guest bedroom always has a bouquet of fresh flowers.

     The third floor space is devoted to P. Allen’s nieces and nephews, who often visit the home.  Slightly more whimsical, but still including favorite colors and topics, like these children’s books and a cherished truck.  Notice the peek into the children’s bedroom just beyond, and that the central fireplace chimney has been left exposed on this floor. 


A closer look into the bedroom reveals plenty of room to play. 

But the best part of the third floor is the spectacular view that shows just a tiny bit of the gardens and the Swan Pond far right.  We’ll save the visit to the gardens around the home for next month!

Did you know:  If you cut off the garlic scapes (the boom stalk) then energy the plant would have used to produce flowers and seeds will instead go to making larger garlic bulbs.  Additionally, the garlic scapes themselves are delicious and can be used in a variety of ways.  See the recipe at the end of this newsletter.


Herb to Know: Salad Burnet
     The name “salad” burnet is well given, because it is a wonderful addition to nearly any salad.  Its cucumber-flavored leaves should be pinched from the stalk and chopped.  They are often steeped in white vinegar to be used in salad dressings.  Finely chopped salad burnet mixed with butter or cream cheese makes a delicious spread for crackers or tea sandwiches.  It’s pretty leaves also make a lovely garnish for canapés, drinks, or vegetable dishes.  Salad burnet was commonly steeped in wine for form a refreshing summer beverage.  The cucumber flavor is best if the plant is used before it flowers.  The leaves do not dry well, so it is wise to use it fresh, frozen, or as a tasty herbal vinegar.  The leaves also lose most of their flavor when cooked, so it is best to sprinkle finely chopped leaves on cooked dishes just before serving.
     Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a native of the Mediterranean areas, spreading to naturalize throughout Europe, especially in slightly damp meadows and pasture edges.  Early colonists brought it to American gardens.  It is a hardy perennial to zone 5, certainly and maybe colder.  Such a pretty plant, burnet is often added to herb gardens for the clumps of stems bearing penny-sized scalloped leaves, prettily placed alternately on the stem like a fern, which gives it a lacy appearance.  The flower is barely noticed as they appear in mid-summer.  They are green at the beginning, but then open to show red styles, if one looks closely. (You can see the pinkish seed heads in the photo above left.) After it is pollinated, it forms a seed head shaped like a miniature pineapple, about ¾” in height.  Once the seeds mature, it self-seeds readily.  Cutting of the flowering stalks will aid in keeping a supply of tasty leaves.  Once the plant flowers, the flavor of the leaves becomes bitter.  Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that he had his gardeners collect 8 bushels of salad burnet seed.  He planned to plant it in pastures as fodder, and to help control erosion, which was a common use in colonial times.
     Although it does not have a body of medicinal lore, there is one legend that says King Chaba of Hungary, after a very bloody battle, cured the wounds of fifteen thousand soldiers with the juice of salad burnet.  Having grown salad burnet for years, and not witnessing much juice in the tiny leaves, it must have taken quite a large plot of land covered with burnet to produce enough juice.   However, since sanguisorba comes from the Latin sanguisor “blood” and sorbeo, to soak up there must have been a strong reason to believe this plant had styptic qualities.   Another bit of lore says that in the Middle East, newly forged swords were always steeped in salad burnet juice mingled with the blood of moles before the blades were tempered.  One suspects that these legends were actually connected to the Greater Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis, rather than the smaller, milder Salad Burnet. 
     Salad burnet was commonly gathered by the ladies of the household to make a facial steam, or put into the regular bath.  It has astringent properties, and was used as a facial compress to tighten the skin, mixed with yogurt, cream, buttermilk or egg white.  Eating fresh salad burnet was also thought to be good for the skin.
     Whether these legends are useful or not, grow salad burnet for its lovely leaves to float in drinks, garnish canapes, or add to salads.  It is one of the easiest herbs in the garden.

Recipe:  Green Garlic Scape Dip
An easy appetizer, similar to hummus.  Perfect way to use more garlic scapes!
In a small skillet with a bit of non-stick spray, place ½ c. garlic scapes, using only the tender parts cut into 1/4”-1/2” pieces.  Cook covered over medium heat, stirring occasionally until bright green and tender.  Place in a food processor with 2 T. olive oil and process until fairly smooth.  Add 2 cans cannelloni or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed; 2 T. lime or lemon juice and a dash of salt.  Process just until mixture is still slightly coarse.  Stir in ¼-1/2 c. plain yogurt.  Serve immediately with fresh veggies, crackers, pita bread, or refrigerate.  Makes 2 cups.  Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding fresh parsley, a handful of fresh peas, a few chives, a dash of cumin, or sprigs of savory.  Those who like a bit of heat can add hot pepper or hot pepper oil.  A more traditional flavor can be had by replacing yogurt with tahini.  Enjoy!

Enjoy the final few days of June, and have a Happy 4th of July.  The summer is whizzing by, so be sure to take time to observe the beauty of plants, harvest the beneficial, fragrant herbs, and be dazzled by the bounty of flowers in your garden.  Life is short; make the most of it!

Herbal blessings, Carolee