Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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January 2020 Newsletter Print E-mail


 January E-Newsletter 2020

January is always the hardest, longest month.  After all the holiday décor, fun gatherings, and cheer of October, November and December, January feels extremely dull, gray and cold.  It’s the month of Janus, the god with two faces, one looking back at the past and one looking ahead and somehow that seems what we do as well.
      Those of us here in the North search for any sign of green, filled with envy for those in southern climes that already have (or always have!) flowers blooming.  We linger over seed catalogs, and revise our garden plans again and again, hoping to achieve that perfect, bountiful, beautiful garden of our dreams.  Fortunately, there are like-minded gardeners with energy to produce some inspiring events to attend.  Let the fun begin!
Upcoming Events:
    Indiana Hort Congress:  Feb. 11-13.  This is a super show for anyone involved in farm markets or commercial crop production, wine, agri-tourism, food safety and organic or greenhouse growing.  Attend the entire conference, or go for 1 day.  The trade show is worth seeing for packaging, production machinery, wholesale seeds, irrigation equipment, etc.   Schedule and registration available at  Held at Indy Marriott East, 7202 East 21st St.

     Elkhart Co. Garden Expo:  Sat., Feb. 22,  8:00-4:30.  Five informative speakers, including nationally known Melinda Myers.  Topics:  Garden Trends, Herbs, Fermenting Foods for Gut Health, Plant This Not That, and Native Plants in the Landscape.  Vendors.  Food available on site 11-2.  Northern Indiana Event Center, 21565 Executive Parkway, Elkhart.  For more info go to

     Newfield’s 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.

     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.

     Kentuckiana Spring Herb Symposium:  Saturday, March 30.  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.  Good food, good company.  Always a great event.  Mark your calendar now!

     HSCI Herb Symposium:  Saturday, April 11. 9:30-2:30.  Fabulous event!  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!

Just in case you missed it:
    16th Annual Valparaiso Garden Show was held this month at the newly refurbished Porter Co. Expo Center.  Tickets were a very reasonable $10, which included a door prize drawing card and 5 tickets that could be used in exchange for seed packets or bags of bulbs at the huge “Seed and Bulb Exchange.  One long, long wall contained dozens of entries in the garden photo contest.  There were over 140 vendor booths in the three buildings, with an outstanding array of products.  Many were from the Chicago area, so I hadn’t seen their work before.  There were several plant booths, including this one featuring orchids. 

In another building, dozens of crates of elephant ear bulbs sorted by size were for sale.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many before!
     Visitors were hard-pressed to visit all the booths, displays, and other activities as well as attend informative speakers who were appearing simultaneously in two buildings, offering a variety of topics.  
     This year’s theme was “20/20 Vision in Your Garden,” with members of Lions Club International there to collect donated gently used glasses.  Glasses were also featured in the centerpieces in the dining area. 
     Next year’s show is already scheduled for January 23, 2021 so save the date!  It was great fun being surrounded by enthusiastic gardeners filled with thoughts of spring gardens, on a cold, bleak January day!

January is National Hot Tea Month, National Mail-Order Gardening Month, and National Oatmeal Month!   That is excuse enough to celebrate often with a cup of hot tea, oatmeal cookies or oatmeal cake, and a growing stack of seed catalogs to study on cold, cloudy days.  And, (sigh!) I celebrated another birthday this month, too.

National Hot Tea Month—Win a Prize!
     Most of you know I’m a tea-aholic, always trying new blends and searching for new recipes.  If you have a favorite tea recipe, share it with me, and your name will be put into a drawing to receive a selection of teas and tea items, including this month’s recipe blend, Berry Fruity Tea, that I developed using elderberries, rose hips, and more.  Deadline for entries is February 15th.  We’ll be drawing two winners, so email or mail that tea recipe now.

Did you know:
*A bit of vodka in the water for paperwhite bulbs will keep them more compact so they don’t flop, shorter, and happier.  This is the only circumstance I know of where a little alcohol actually makes something less tipsy!
*Eating a banana a day can reduce depression.  Bananas contain tryptophan, a protein that the body metabolizes into serotonin that helps one relax and improves ones emotional state, so one feels relatively happier.  It is very helpful for seasonal depression disorder, caused by these gray, sunless days and lack of outdoor activity.
*The shape of a bell pepper tells what it is good for.  Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and will taste best raw.  Peppers with 4 bumps are firmer and better for cooking.
*Use vinegar to clean windows only on cloudy days.  Sunny days makes it dry too fast and promotes streaks.
*Spray plastic storage containers with non-stick spray before putting spaghetti sauce or other colorful foods in them to prevent staining the containers.
*Clean a flower vase by filling it halfway with water and dropping 2 Alka Seltzer tablets in.  No scrubbing needed and it removes odors.

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2020
     Each year Pantone releases its “Color of the Year.”  The color selected for 2020 is “Classic Blue,” a darker, grayed blue that resembles the sky approaching dusk.  I find it depressing, and hope it doesn’t reflect the upcoming year at all!  What do you think?

National Garden Bureau Announces 2020 Selections
     The NGB designates one perennial, one annual, one edible, one shrub and one bulb/corm/rhizome as the selection for the year.  This year’s winners are Lavender (Yeah!); Lantana (although in southern areas this can be a perennial); Corn; Hydrangea; and Iris.  Look for special articles, promotions and displays in magazines and at your local garden center.

London Trip: Part 3
   Parts 1 & 2 were mostly garden related, but in this segment I’ll touch on some of the other fun things that might interest herb lovers.  Just being in London is exciting! It's such a city of contrasts, with lots of new, eye-popping construction in some areas and yet all the historical architecture like this medieval home.

  I love all the flower-fronted shops and pubs.  This is"The Victoria," our local, neighborhood pub!  The flowers were inspiring and the food was excellent.

   I love walking through neighborhoods just to view the front gardens like this one,

or to discover interesting planters like this wheelbarrow garden

or this sidewalk planter with an espaliered tree and purple kale.

   And I think I found a new use for all those wooden apple crates that were my booth shelving at shows for decades!  I just need to decide what color to paint them!

      The variety of interesting shops, many with an herbal focus like Whittard’s, which has been around for centuries, or this shop with herbal gins,

or this lavender booth capture my attention easily. 

I could just stroll around with my camera and be content,  or pop on a big red bus!

or walk around to look at murals

but add to all those pleasures the delights of “afternoon tea” and that is exponentially increasing the pleasure.  Our first, very informal tea was in the upstairs café at the famous Foley’s book store (five floors of jam-packed shelves!  If you can’t find it there, it probably hasn’t been published yet!)  We just had a cup of tea to refresh ourselves after some shopping, but the food looked excellent.
     One morning we had tea and pastries at the Tate Museum of Modern Art before studying 3 floors of paintings and sculpture.

   Our first real “formal” tea was at The Swan, adjacent to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where we totally enjoyed a raucous performance of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I'd forgotten how bawdy Shakespeare could be!

      Our tea at The Swan was also “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with all of the foods related to things mentioned in the play or typical ingredients in Shakespeare’s times. The scones were excellent, with mulberry jam and clotted cream. 

  Next were the traditional tiny finger sandwiches:  buttermilk poached chicken with grain mustard in a tiny hollowed-out brioche bun, sprinkled with adorable newly sprouted pink and purple amaranth seedlings; Scottish smoked salmon with citrus cream and watercress on granary bread; tasty egg salad and cress on white bread; and a wild mushroom and leek tart.  The desserts were Blackcurrant jam and violet macaroons; salted caramel cake in very thin layers and stacked; Rhubarb custard chouquette; Rosewater jelly, hedgerow berries and vanilla custard layered in a shot glass.  The “Love Potion” cocktail was a magical mix of gin, honey, blackberry puree and prosecco with fresh berries floating.  Lovely!  Note that the dishes matched the printed menu.
     One afternoon we attended a performance at the Royal Opera House, which is a gorgeous building.  One feels like royalty just being part of the audience. 

We walked a lot, including a stroll to “Little Venice” to see the long, narrow boats on the canal.  We returned to St. Martin of the Fields, to visit their lovely gift shop, and had a guided tour of the “Early Ancient Egypt” exhibit at the British Museum.

     Tea at Fortnum and Masons is always a delight, and this visit was no exception.  I won't show the entire thing, just the two plates of desserts that I was forced to share!   
     During out trip to Bath, we had afternoon tea in the elegant Pump Room, where Queen Anne, her company, and all those who desired to be seen near royalty had tea.  There were three different “themes” offered.

  I chose the tea with all local ingredients (except the tea itself) which was traditional Somerset country fare:  My tea came on a rustic rectangular platter with three slate squares holding a chicken-fennel sausage roll with apple and onion chutney, which had a flaky crust and was delicious!  Second was a Scotch egg with cauliflower pickle (yummy!)  Dessert was an apple crumble cake, but I was too full to eat it then, so I took it along for breakfast the next day!  Also had a fantastic pear juice, rosemary and sparkling drink, as well as my tea.
     British cuisine has greatly improved since my first visit over 20 years ago, although there are some days I just want traditional English food, like this delicious pie from the award-winning "The Raven" pub.    And interestingly, I was served afternoon tea on the plane homeward bound from London!  A "Mile High Tea"  and it was totally delicious!    The final segment of our London trip will again be about a that instantly became a favorite!

Herb To Know:  Germander
     The Herb Society of Central Indiana hosts a potluck for its members in January, and the weather allowed me to attend this special event.  Tables were laden with dozens of herbal appetizers, salads, breads, main dishes, vegetable sides, and of course, lots and lots of desserts!  The companionship and networking were terrific, as we sat and ate overlooking a lake.
     Interestingly, several of the herb group members were unfamiliar with the herb used in the table centerpieces.  Crafty member Carolyn Curry had created the “herbal hedges” to enclose a tiny flock of adorable ceramic sheep.  When asked why she chose germander, she replied “It was the best looking herb this time of year, and abundant enough to make wreaths for all the tables.”

     Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) deserves to be grown in more gardens for its tidy habit.  Its glossy, dark green, scalloped leaves remain on the plant during harsh weather, and is hardy in Zones 5-9.  It is a great plant for edgings, whether allowed to grow naturally to its 12” height, or trimmed into tidy hedges.  In summer, its flowers are bright pinky-purple, but only for 2-3 weeks, as is the case for most perennials.  Easily grown from seed or cuttings, germander is happy is any sunny, well-drained location, and also is a good candidate for pots and topiary work, and fairy gardens.
     Germander has a long history as a medicinal, including use for gout and upset stomach.  It is said to improve the appetite.

Old Man Winter seems to be just meandering around this month, without much force or plan.  Hopefully there will be no long-term visits or temper tantrums.  Maybe he will settle down for a gently nap until Spring arrives!  Until then, don’t forget Mardi Gras (Feb. 25) is a chance to party, and Valentine’s Day will soon arrive for those who love chocolate or roses.  Take any opportunity to celebrate!

Herbal blessings, Carolee