Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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May E-Newsletter Print E-mail


May E-Newsletter

It’s the merry month of May!  We’ve already celebrated May Day with May baskets, The Derby with traditional mint juleps, and some graduations.  Now Mother’s Day, Indy racing, weddings, and Memorial Day remembrances are approaching quickly.  May always seems like such a special month to me, a magical time of flowering trees, soft breezes, make-a-wish flowers, and the return of the hummingbirds.  Everything is carpeted in fresh green, and seed-sowing begins outdoors.  Planting time is finally here, so we’ve been able to move hundreds of plants outdoors into the sales areas.  What a great month!  


Rose Day—Our National Herb of the Year Celebration—May 12th
Celebrate the 2012 Herb of the Year with us as we cook and craft with roses.  Enjoy complimentary “rosey” refreshments including rose tea.  At 10:30 & 2:30, enjoy a talk on some rose uses, demo a recipe or two and relate rose lore.  Anything in the shop with a rose on it will be 20% off..

Have Photos, Will Speak!
I’m traveling again…first to the famous Keukenhoff bulb gardens for the annual show, followed by the Floriade, the world’s largest horticultural show, held only once every ten years.  I’ll be taking thousands of photos, and visiting other gardens and sights.  Shortly after the farm closes (July 14th), I’ll be organizing them into a presentation.  If your garden club or other group is interested in seeing the results, I’ll be booking presentations for later this year and into next year.

The Gardens
     This year has been quite different from last year.  Here’s my opening paragraph for the 2011 May E-Newsletter—“Only 7, yes that’s 7 weeks left for this season!  Time is flying by.  Memorial Day is nearly here, and I’ve barely started planting anywhere except the Cook’s and Cottage Gardens.  If it’s not storming, it’s drizzling, or looking like the skies are ready to open at any moment.  I know I shouldn’t complain, since we aren’t flooded or flattened by tornadoes, but it is still frustrating.  We haven’t even finished mowing once!  At least the weeds pull easily and the cool weather is making the pansies last lots longer.  I hope to begin planting big-time this week, sun or no sun.”  This year, we’ve barely had any rain at all, the sun has beamed upon us daily, and the gardens are way ahead of the “normal” schedule.  All of the gardens have now been weeded and planting is well underway!
     The Fairy Gardens are beautiful right now, and the Cottage Garden is lovely, too.  The Purple Garden is pretty with its purple columbines and alliums.  The Folklore Garden has not been planted with annuals yet, but the perennials are filling in nicely.  The Shade Garden has lots of Sweet Woodruff, coral bells and hosta for interest.  We’re planting the Butterfly Garden now, but the Dame’s Rocket is already drawing in lots of butterflies.  The Hummingbirds have found the columbines and are buzzing around the Cardinal Climber!  The annuals in the Sunrise Garden are adjusting to life outdoors.  We’ve planted statice in the Crafter’s Garden, and hope to get it finished this week.  The Summer Perennials Garden has iris that will soon be open, and the East Freisland Sage is already blooming, with the purple buds of “Purple Smoke” baptisia close behind.  The May Queen Shastas and Snow in Summer are blooming in the Moonlight Garden, although we haven’t started to do any annual planting in there yet.  There’s already Iris “Immortality” blooming in the Biblical Garden.  The Cook’s Garden is popping as rows of peas, snow peas, lettuces, purple beans and lots of herbs are thriving.  So, come visit the gardens.  You’ll get lots of planting ideas!

May Queen Shasta Daisies
Speaking of the May Queen Shastas in the Moonlight garden……Nothing seems more perfect for May than these simple, lovely white daisies.  They are the stars of the Moonlight Garden this month and add their beauty to all the cut-flower arrangements this month.  They symbolize innocence and purity, and are often carried by brides.  Plant these easy-to-grow perennials in a sunny spot in average soil, and enjoy them for years to come.  The white petals make the other colors in your garden “pop.”  They self-seed readily, but I let them go where they want.  After I’ve enjoyed their blooms, I often remove excess plants to make room for additional annuals, or new perennials I want to try.

Mystery Daylily Sale
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, while they last.

1) Keep the Hummingbird feeder cleaned and filled, and plant some of their favorite plants in gardens or containers....cardinal climber vine, coral bells, cardinal flower, red nicotiana, nasturtiums, asarina, & sages all attract and feed our little flying friends
2) Plant sweet alyssum 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.  Fertilize finished bulbs, so they have lots of nourishment to produce bigger bulbs and flowers next spring.  Mark clumps that will need to be divided the end of August.
5) Feed emerging lilies with a bloom booster fertilizer (big middle number).
6) Putting a pinch of “Soil-Moist” in the planting hole of water loving annuals (like begonias, impatiens, petunias, etc.) and mixing it in well before setting in the plant will greatly reduce watering later in the summer.  This is the same product we use in all our containers and hanging baskets, so we don’t have to water them as often.  Saves time and money!  Also works for veggies!
7) 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.
8)  Scissor mums to encourage them to branch until July 4th.
9) Check lilies, peonies, and other tall perennials for staking needs—it could be a windy Spring.
10) Keep an eye on hollyhocks for those nasty little worms that skeletonize their leaves.  Spray with insecticidal soap, being sure to get the undersides of the leaves where the insect eggs will be hatching.
11) Those little beetles that make the brown spots on mint leaves are already here….trim
off those leaves and spray with insecticidal soap.  The mint will quickly regrow.
12) Stock up on Japanese beetle traps…all the other insects have been early, and they
may be, too.  Trapping beetles is the only way to keep them from multiplying..they have no natural predators here.  However, hanging a trap over a fish-filled pond (without the bag!) will keep the fish well-fed and happy all summer!
13) Plant extra parsley, dill, fennel and rue just for the butterflies!


Fennel is native to the Mediterranean regions.  It is a staple in Italian cuisine and was carried by the Romans into Britain, and by colonists to North America. 
     There are two types of fennel.  Foeniculu vulgare is the most common.  It’s a perennial for sunny, well-drained locations, growing to three to five feet tall.  Its feathery leaves have a light anise flavor, and it is a favorite of butterflies.  In fact, it is a host plant for Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and others.  A member of the Umbelliferae family, its flowers have the typical umbrella shape with small clusters of tiny bright yellow flowers at the ends of stiff umbels.  Both the leaves and seeds are used in cooking and in teas or liqueurs.  There is also a bronze-leaved fennel that is used identically as common fennel, but it provides a lovely, feathery accent in the garden as well as the typical anise flavor.
     The second type of fennel is Florence fennel, or Florentine fennel, which is grown mainly for its large bulb that somewhat resembles an onion.  Its feathery green leaves can also be used in cooking, but it is the bulb that is used as a vegetable.  Eaten raw, it has a crunchy texture, and the light anise flavor is retained during cooking as well.
     Both types of fennel are easily started from seed.  One or two plants of perennial fennel is enough for a normal family and a hoard of butterflies, but it will take many more of the bulb fennel to provide tasty vegetable dishes all season.
     Fennel has long been used as a skin conditioner.  Clothes dipped in a strong infusion are laid on the face to tighten wrinkled skin.  Shakespeare wrote that it was commonly used to improve eyesight.  It has long been used as an appetite suppressant to help people lose weight, as stated in the old saying “Eat fennel to be thin.”  Fennel seeds were often carried by travelers to help ease hunger.  And fennel seeds were soaked in warm milk or water, strained and the liquid used as a remedy for babies’ colic.
     In olden days, especially in France, fennel was fed to livestock to increase their milk flow, and also to make the meat more flavorful, especially that of sheep and rabbits.
     Fennel leaves are often used to make a sauce for fish, lamb or pork. 

Here’s a recipe I developed for our Culinary Herb Celebration Day last week.  I’ve already played with it a bit, so if you picked up a recipe sheet that day, this version is not exactly the same!

“Fennel-Avocado Pasta Salad”
Cook ½ lb. piccolini (mini bow-tie) pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, mix dressing by combining:  2/3 c. olive oil; 3 T. lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon; dash of salt & freshly ground pepper; ½ c. finely chopped red onion.  Set aside to allow flavors to blend.  Drain pasta and rinse well with cold water.  Drain.
     Just before serving, combine in a large bowl:  pasta; 2 cans tuna, drained; 1 tall can mandarin oranges, drained; 1 c. diced celery (or substitute bulb fennel); ¼ c. snipped fennel fronds; 2 avocados, coarsely chopped.  Lightly toss with dressing.  Garnish with sprigs of fennel.  Serves 6-8.

That’s our newsletter for this month.  Remember, I’ll be traveling to the Netherlands and Germany until June.  As soon as I return, we’ll be prepping for the Garden Fair at Minnetrista, June 2 & 3rd. 

********************Carolee’s Plant E-coupon for May*********************
 20% off all pansies and violas, sweet alyssuum  primulas and stock!   Mixed colors.   One coupon per customer, Valid through May 31, 2012.

********************Carolee’s Plant E-coupon for May*********************
50% off cabbage and cauliflower plants.  Valid while supplies last.

********************Carolee’s Barn Gift Shop coupon**********************
20% off anything  with daffodils or pansies on it!  One coupon per customer.  Valid through May 31, 2012.

********************Carolee’s Cottage coupon****************************
20% off any wood item in our Herbal Cottage.  Valid through June 15th, 2012