Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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June E-newsletter 2012
     It’s hard to believe it is mid-June!  Part of my confused time-line is due to the weather, which feels more like July or August than June, and part is because I was in Europe most of May!  I came back to parched, dry earth, and I’ve been dragging hoses since.  However, the June roses are already finished, lavender is almost finished blooming, the daylilies (which usually bloom in July) are bursting with color, and the veggies in the Cook’s Garden fill my gathering basket to overflowing.  The season is rushing by.  I’m still planting and hoping to begin mulching yet this week to conserve moisture and thwart weeds.  We did get rain last evening…not very hard and not very long…only eleven minutes!  I won’t complain.  It was better than nothing.

Lavender Daze Cancelled!
     Due to the extreme heat, drought, and the early lavender harvest we’re forced to cancel Lavender Daze for 2012.  We will have Lavender Lemonade & Lavender Shortbread on June 30& all annuals will be 50% off, but there will be no U-Pick, demos, entertainment, or workshops.  We will offer tours of the gardens to interested people throughout the day on even hours.  We will be closed on Sunday, July 1st. Hopefully we will be able to reinstate this event in 2013….maybe we should schedule it for June 1st instead of July 1st if the seasons persist in arriving early!  If you have already paid for a lavender workshop, expect a refund by mail shortly.

New Plants
     We’ve added several new varieties for the season to the sales area.  Look for the fabulous Amsterdam Lemon Mint (which really is a true mint with a distinct lemon flavor and scent), Dyer’s Broom, luscious Red Raspberry plants, beautiful dark blue Bush Clematis, and others.  We’ve restocked green pepper basil, Corsican mint, patchouli, pasqueflower, white sage, and many other plants that were in short supply recently.  It’s not too late to plant.  I generally do most of my perennial planting in August, when I finally have time to pay more attention to the gardens!

My Recent Travels
     Our May trip to the Netherlands and Germany allowed me to mark several items of my “bucket list.”  It was an amazing trip, and I’ll highlight the first part in this newsletter, and continue next month.  There’s just too much to tell!  We flew to Amsterdam, caught the train from the airport into downtown, and caught a tram to the historic Hortus Botanicus, a medicinal herb garden that was established in 1638!  It was a beautiful garden, with purple wisteria hanging from the walls overlooking meticulous beds planted with medicinal herbs.  


Note this comfrey with raspberry, white, and purple blooms! 


There were also paths leading to other gardens and displays filled with color and fragrance.  I wish I could have read the signs, but I could identify the plants, even though many of them grew much larger than here in the States. 


In one building, there was a display of photographs entered in the annual contest celebrating “Spring Snow.”  Amsterdam has over 75,000 elms within the city. 


Each spring the flat white seeds fall from the trees forming drifts against curbs and buildings.  From mid-April until mid-May Amsterdam celebrates this “snowfall” with a series of concerts, parades, and festivities.  In addition to the photo contest, there is also a video contest with drifting “snowflakes” set to award-winning music.  I watched this year’s winning entry and it was delightful.
     The Hortus is in the old Jewish Quarter so we took time to visit the park that contains the famous Auschwitz memorial to over 100,000 Dutch Jews killed in the death camps. Then we ambled back through the city, enjoying the canals, architecture and plantings, especially those on the numerous houseboats!  We took photos of Rembrandt’s house and visited parks, just wandering around the city.  And before you ask, no, we did not visit the notorious Red Light District, nor any cannabis shops, although we did walk by some! 


Amsterdam is an interesting city, where most people travel by bicycle.  In fact there are racks of bikes throughout the city that are free to use.  You simply “borrow” one and then return it to another rack near your destination!
     We returned to the station to board our train to Lisse, where our hotel overlooked the famous tulip fields.  The amazing Keukenhof Gardens were only a fifteen minute walk away, and I urge you to add it to your “must see” list.  We were at the very end of the show, only three days left and I’d estimate that probably 65% of the bulbs were finished, but there were still some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen. 


Eighty-five bulb companies install their most exquisite bulbs and plants in this 17-acre park to make it one of the most-visited gardens in the world, and rightly so.  I took hundreds of photos! 


In addition to the open-air gardens, there are buildings containing lavish displays that featured orchids, fashions made from leaves, flowers & other natural materials, such as this one made from egg shells! 


 Another huge building was filled with fragrant lilies.  The intoxicating aroma scented the air even before entering the building!  There is also a famous “kitchen courtyard” (the actual translation of “Keukenhof”) filled with beds of bulbs, herbs, fruit trees, and roses within the old walls.  Keukenhof was originally the herb farm of one of Holland’s richest women, so it immediately felt at home there!  Although the Keukenhof “castle” is modest by European standards, it would make a lovely “country home!”  The castle itself is surrounded by gardens that require a separate admission fee.  Lots of sculpture and artwork make interesting additions to the gardens. 


There is a section of “Inspiration Gardens” and since Poland was the featured country this year, many displays highlighting Polish art, history, and world contributions were sprinkled throughout the grounds.  Of course, there were lots of shops containing souvenirs, garden supplies and décor, bulbs and plants.  I especially liked this one with rows of flower-filled yellow wooden shoes nailed on the front. 


We took a break overlooking a pond with spurting fountain and surrounded by fabulous flower-filled containers, sipping wine and nibbling Dutch Apple Pie. I came away with a long list of bulbs I’ll be looking for, including this darling tulip called “Ice Cream” which really did look like yummy vanilla ice cream in a rosy cone!

We traveled next to Germany, where we visited our daughter’s family, including our granddaughter’s sixth birthday party, the local farmers market, and all of my favorite garden centers in the area.  More about that and more of our travels next month.
Have Photos, Will Speak! I’m traveling again…first to the famous Keukenhof bulb gardens for the annual show, followed by the Floriade, the world’s largest horticultural show, held only onceevery 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 elder was in full bloom while we were in Europe.  I was delighted to see it in so many gardens.  While I was in Meerbusch, Marco at Café Aroma served a delicious drink that was perfect for a hot afternoon that featured elderflower syrup.  When I returned home, my elder had blooms, but also many heads that had finished blooming and were beginning to form berries.  However, as you can see from the photo I took yesterday, many flowers dropped in the heat/drought so there are few berries per cluster.  I’ve decided that with the drought forecasted to continue, I’ll harvest the remainder of my blooming clusters and make elderflowersyrup rather than gamble that I’ll get a harvest of berries, which seems unlikely.

     Here’s the recipe I use, which is pretty simple.  Use a glass or enamel pan if possible.  If not, use a metal pan, but pour it into a glass dish with a cover to “steep.”  Carefully pull the white flowers from 12 clusterheads of elder bloom.  You just want the flowers, not stems which can be toxic.  Prepare the zest and juice of one lemon (or a lime.)  Bring 2 c. water and 2 c. sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve.  Turn off the heat and immediately add the flowers, zest & juice, stir and cover quickly.  Allow the syrup to “steep” for 3-4 days at room temperature, stirring daily.  Strain into a glass jar and refrigerate for up to a month.  In Europe, elderflower syrup is easily found at most groceries in pretty bottles at an extraordinary low price.  I would have brought home more bottles if I hadn’t already reached my luggage weight limit (and I’d already stuffed as much as possible into David’s!---please don’t ask him about the aromatic purple elder vinegar that broke in his suitcase!)
     To make a “Hugo” (pronounced u-go) like Marco served, fill a wineglass half-full with chilled Prosecco.  Add 2-3 T. elderflower syrup, a slice of lime, and a sprig of spearmint, crushing the leaves slightly.  Add an ice cube or two if you must.  It’s my new favorite drink!

Garden Tidbits
June is a lovely time in the garden, picking bouquets and strawberries, gooseberries and blueberries and enjoying lettuces, radishes, turnips and the first purple beans.  However, to keep hings happy you may want to:                                                                                       

1. Japanese Beetle traps…it’s time for these destructive pests to hatch. I’ve found 4!  

2. you haven’t trimmed your iris foliage, do it NOW.  If you see small round spots on the leaves, the dreaded iris borer has laid eggs there.  When the little larvae hatch, they will eat their way leaving a streak or trail down the leaf and into the corm, where they will eat and grow into an ugly 1” long worm almost as big around as a pencil.  They will happily munch the corms all fall, destroying your beautiful irises. 

3.  Dead-head coral bells, coreopsis, phlox, Shasta disies, and other perennials to encourage the plant to produce more blooms.

4  Continue to keep a keen eye on hollyhocks and roses. There is a tiny, tiny worm that will skeletonize the leaves overnight.  Spraying with insecticidal soap after each rain (being sure to get the undersides of leaves) will keep them at bay.

5  Check tall lilies (the Asiatic and Oriental types) to see if they need staking before their heavy flower heads open.

6.  Dead-head lambs ears NOW, or they will self-seed everywhere!

7.  Cut the flower buds off garlic plants now…..they are a gourmet delicacy, raw in salads or lightly sautéed as a side dish or in stir-fry.  If you don’t cut them off, the plant will use up loads of energy trying to make flowers and seeds rather than making a nice big bulb!

8.  Cut off lemon balm and put it in a sun tea jar, by itself or with other herbs and mints to make a delicious tea.  Adding a leaf or two of stevia will sweeten it nicely.   The plants will soon grow a new batch of foliage.  This will keep balm from self-seeding everywhere.  You can also dry it for therapeutic baths.

9.  Now that it’s getting hot, move containers of nasturtiums, mint, violas and pansies into semi-shade to protect them from the hottest midday sun.

Scented Geraniums
     These 90 degree plus days only have one positive aspect in my view……they fill the
air with lemon, nutmeg, ginger, rose, lime, apple, and peppermint fragrances from
scented geraniums!  As the sun heats the leaves, microscopic oil sacks rupture to release
essential oils that perfume the air.  Natives of South Africa, scented geraniums love this
heat as long as they get adequate water, producing abundant leaves to be used in teas,
desserts, syrups, flavored sugars and potpourris.  Years ago, I felt compelled to grow
nearly all of the over 150 different “flavors” of scented geraniums.  However, now I only
grow the ones I really love to actually use.  Anyone who reads my novels knows that my
favorite is Rober’s Lemon Rose, which I use in tea almost daily throughout cold weather. 
But I also love the Lime Scented Geranium, which is the basis for a wonderful cake (see
Emelie Tolley’s recipe in her beautiful book, “Herbs”) and also great in teas and lime
tarts.  My friend Linda loves Peppermint Scented Geranium, and I can’t rub a leaf &
enjoy its scent without thoughts of her gentle soul & great laugh.  The lemony ones are
great in all kinds of desserts and teas, as are the rose scents.  I harvest baskets of leaves
throughout the summer, throwing them into my sun-tea jugs.  Sometimes I add a splash
of orange juice, or lemon-lime soda, white wine, or gin to make a refreshing evening
beverage.  Scented geraniums are so versatile and easy to grow.  In the dead of winter, I
have pots on my windowsill.  Rubbing a leaf brings instant memories of summer
sunshine to mind and I can harvest fresh leaves throughout the dreary months.  They
remind me that spring will be just around the corner.  If you don’t grow scented
geraniums, try one.  I’m positive you’ll soon want to grow more “flavors.”  Here’s one of
my favorite recipes using scented geraniums:Rose Geranium Baked Apples
Halve and core 6 McIntosh apples.  Place in shallow baking pan.  Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and drizzle with honey.  Place 1 skeleton rose geranium leaf on top of each apple.  Mix ½ c. brown sugar, ¼ c. flour, 1 t. cornstarch.  Sprinkle over apples.  Dot each apple with a dot of butter.  Place pan in preheated oven (350 degrees) and add ¼ c. water in bottom of pan.  Bake 35-40 min., till apples are tender.

I hope you are taking a few moments to enjoy your herb garden, that you receive gentle
rains, and that your harvest is bountiful.  Until next month,
Herbal blessings,

**********************Carolee’s Plants E-Coupon****************************
20% off Stevia plants….the non-calorie, natural sweetner that is beneficial to health in its green form.  Easy to grow in a sunny location with adequate water.  Harvest the leaves to use fresh, or dry them for winter use.  Valid through July 14, 2012

**************************Carolee’s Barn E-Coupon************************ 0% off any gazing ball for the garden.  Choose colorful stainless steel balls or glass “bubble” balls.  Cannot be combined with other discounts. Valid through June 30, 2012

***********************Carolee’s Cottage E-Coupon************************* 0% off any item for sale in the Cottage.  Cannot becombined with other discounts.  Valid through June 30, 2012.