Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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 July E-Newsletter 2012

“And the heat goes on…….and the heat goes on….” that refrain set to the old Sonny & Cher hit throbs through my brain as I drag hoses hour after hour.  May felt like July; June felt like August.  I was kinda hoping July would resemble September, with some cool nights and occasional showers, but it’s not happening.
     Despite the unusual season, every day brings a few needed tasks that are time-sensitive, like collecting seeds, dead-heading, and harvesting flowers for drying.   I’ve also been drying herbs for winter cooking and teas, and making medicinal oils, salves and tinctures to restock my herbal first aid cabinet.  This week, I made a lovely culinary wreath since all the basils, oreganos, marjoram, and sages needed to be cut.  The mints need harvesting, as well as scented geraniums, stevia and lemon verbena, so I’m starting some herbal liqueurs!  (See the article below!) Thanks to a good farm friend, (thanks Shirley!) I have a big bag of small peaches (the branches came down in a storm!) that will be perfect, and I’m picking blackberries almost daily that will also be wonderful partners with some of the herbs. 
    We have nearly all the up-potting finished for now; we’ve cleared out the greenhouse, and we’re beginning to empty the cold frame, so look for lots of  “free plants” on the little table by the front door till we close.

Closing Day----Saturday, July 14th
     The final day of the 2012 season is quickly approaching.  We’ll have lots of plants on sale, especially tender perennials that make wonderful patio plants now and excellent houseplants to enjoy later indoors (scented geraniums, patchouli, lemon verbena, tender lavenders, and lots more!).  All perennials will be 20% off and selected shop items will be discounted….look for the special stickers.  Hanging dried bunches of lavender will be $5.00 each (normally $7.95) There will also be an appreciation gift to each customer and complimentary refreshments, as well as good-bye hugs!

Thinking of raised beds?
     I love raised beds, and I was delighted when an Indiana company sent me this lovely double raised bed to trial.  Greenland raised beds are made of a composite material that doesn’t rot, is resistant to insect damage, and slides together without any tools required. 
     I put this one together in about 5 minutes, right on top of our parking lot area, and filled it with potting soil and compost.  Although the kit came complete with seeds and a printed, pre-holed planting mat (which also serves as a weed barrier) for a salsa garden, we chose to plant an assortment of flowering annuals in mid-May.  As you can see, the plants are delighted, and we are too.  The beds are also available in natural cedar, and come in an assortment of sizes and themed kits.
     For more information on this Hoosier product, as well as an array of other interesting and useful gardening products, including an exciting garden wall that I think I must have, and weather-proof stepping stones made of recycled plastic, see their great website at  The website also offers lots of informative gardening tips and articles, especially for novice gardeners, but experienced folks will learn, too!

Book signing at Wabash Herb Fest
     I’ll be signing my newest book, Herbal Passions, and offering a fun-filled booth of herbal treasures at the Wabash Herb Fest on Saturday, August 18th.  Hours are 9-3, and this year includes lots of speakers, a decorated chair auction, a cookie contest, and trolley rides to a number of interesting sites, including Charley Creek Gardens!

Continuing our travels……
     In last month’s E-newsletter, I recounted the first few days of our May trip to Holland and Germany.  Here’s the next stop on our agenda!  The Floriade is reputed to be the world’s largest horticultural show.  It’s held only once every ten years.  I’ve been trying to go for thirty years, and when I discovered that it was only thirty minutes from my daughter’s home I was determined to go this time.  Imagine Disneyland or Opryland, but without the rides and more plants and flowers!   I was in garden heaven!  It’s impossible to describe it all, but there were large areas devoted to the idea of returning urban blight areas into restful green spaces with many innovative planting ideas.  The photo above was taken in an area planted in what once had been a huge parking lot.  One huge building was filled with only displays of lilies of all colors and varieties…..the fragrance wafted from the building meters away!  Another building was filled with amazing floral arrangements. 


A whimsical model “Green Home” had plants growing everywhere, even in the sofas and chairs, the dining room table, and throughout the kitchen!  Sprinkled throughout the show were restaurants, playgrounds, inspirational gardens, and informative displays.  A huge building was devoted to teaching where our food comes from, the importance of honeybees, being a savvy shopper, and even kids’ cooking classes conducted by famous chefs!


The World Show Case area was huge, with each participating country having a distinctive building that represented their cultural heritage surrounded by plantings.  The above photo is of the Thailand display.  By far the largest was the China pavilion….more about China next month.  One could spend days there just studying the various planting combinations, reading the displays, wandering through forests, experiencing the Zen area, learning in the educational centers, and taking photographs.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  One of the biggest differences between Floriade & an American park like Disneyland is the lack of trams or shuttles from one area to another.  Europeans expect to walk (and the walks were made interesting with music, whispering trees, informative displays, prettily planted rest areas, etc.)  The other thing, an enormous parking lot just for bicycles, that was filled with thousands & thousands of bikes!  The photo at the beginning of this newsletter is just one of three parallel floral ribbons that wound up a gentle slope.  The "ribbons" of blooms were about the length of two football fields each, and just solid with flowers.  I can't imagine either the effort it took to plant it, the number of plants, or the hours it takes to deadhead.  There were posters identifying each variety of flower that was included throughout the plantings at the Floriade. 

     Sandwiched into our garden adventures were trips to farmers’ markets for white asparagus, strawberries and cheeses; visits to ice cream parlors, our granddaughter’s sixth birthday party, browsing through the amazing German Apothecary shops, and walks through the village and local countryside.  Of course, I had to make a visit to Bogie's, my favorite garden center.  Throughout their plant displays, they had these cute painted pig statutes.  Another garden center had a display of flying pigs!
     One week, we traveled to Hamburg for several reasons.  The first is that Hamburg is often called Germany’s most beautiful city.  Established in 832 (Yes, that’s 832, not 1832!) Hamburg has a long history of commerce.  Although it was almost totally destroyed during the war, it was rebuilt, but with the hindsight of modern conveniences, beautiful parks, and better traffic flow.  There are reconstructed historic buildings and modern skyscrapers.  Surprisingly, Hamburg actually has more canals than Amsterdam, and is called the “Venice of the North” but actually termed that more for its architecture than its waterways!  It is the world’s third richest city, after New York and Hong Kong.  It is Germany’s second largest city, but it is the nation’s “greenest” city, with over 136 allotment garden clubs, 20% of its land in parks and 20% in agriculture for locally grown food!  It is also home to the world’s largest tea importer, so it’s my kind of place!

     Our first destination was the famous Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model train display, but it is much, much more than that.  You have to see it to believe it.  There are many areas, but the one I enjoyed most was the USA, which had the Grand Canyon, an area that included Mount Rushmore, Florida, and Las Vegas, complete with intricately lit casinos all with running trains, cars, fire trucks, boats, airplanes and more in perfect scale.  The Swiss Alps were actually two stories high, with tiny villages, lakes and cable cars.  Tiny, tiny ladies tended perfect miniature gardens or sold mini-vegetables and flowers in the farmers’ market.  It is a must-see! 

     Mid-day, I left the rest of the family with the model trains and sneaked off to the world’s only herb and spice museum, which was only a couple of block away.  Once again, fragrance led me to the location, where I paid the entrance fee and received my “ticket,” which was actually a package of peppercorns!  The museum, Spicy’s, is small, but it contains diverse displays that explain how various herbs and spices are grown & harvested, and how they have impacted the world.  I’ve never seen such huge bags of dried herbs and spices!   A long table held wooden bowls filled with various ground spices, and visitors were encouraged to experience their aromas.  The colors were amazing. There were old-time stores, apothecary shops, and bazaar scenes, along with antique equipment that ground spices, packaged herbs or pressed them into block.  Antique containers, posters and books completed the displays.  There was also a small shop area that sold spices, herb blends, books, and various accessories. 
     That night we ate at a historic restaurant that specialized in the local delicacy, eel!  There were 15 different main dishes featuring the sea creature, but I have to admit none of them tempted me.  I did however indulge in a fantastic bread pudding with a luscious cherry sauce.  The walk back to our hotel was magical.  Because much of the city was rebuilt, it is common to find a variety of herbs springing up between sidewalk cracks, at the base of brick walls, or around trees planted in the medians.  I saw mugwort, soapwort, tansy, mallows, sage, horseradish, calendula, stinging nettle, yarrow, and many other herbs growing in surprising places.  A friend told me that the Germans let them grow undisturbed.  The people have been through hard times that could come again, and the herbs might be needed!

      Planten un Blomen is a huge park in the inner city of Hamburg, filled with an abundance of gardens.  One of the most interesting is the Apothecary Garden, which is planted within white-washed walls.  Each “room” has a mosaic of the human body, highlighting a specific organ.  The medicinal plants in that room effect that designated organ.  I wish I could have read all the informative signs and labels.  If you look carefully at the far wall in this photo, you'll see the tall rectangular mosaic of the human body.  This garden was for the liver!


Europe’s largest Japanese Garden is just a part of this amazing garden space.  In addition, there was a huge rose garden, beautiful iris garden, shade gardens, and the most amazing children’s playground I’ve ever seen, as well as pony rides, ice cream stands, and water slides.  Several restaurants are sprinkled throughout the park, all with views of colorful azaleas and brilliant rhododendrons in massed planting along gentle slopes, or swans floating on various lakes and ponds with arching fountains.  At various times throughout the day, the fountains “dance” to music.  There was a large outdoor stage with various artists performing music and dance all day.  A tropical house, cycad house, fern house, subtropical house, and succulent house apparently are also on the grounds, but I didn’t run into any of them in my wanderings!  Planten un Blomen is open to the public at no charge.  It is a treasure for both children and adults!

     That evening, we met friends at Café Paris, one of the most famous French restaurants outside of France.  Many celebrities have eaten there, including Bing Crosby, Yul Brynner, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and many others.  The food was lovely (I had a fantastic crayfish soup, lamb chops with a tabouli that surprisingly included peas, and the amazing white asparagus that is a traditional food throughout Germany during May.  It was a beautiful setting for a memorable meal.  Unfortunately, I was too full for dessert!  I should have taken a photo of my plate, but I didn't, so I'll just show you a photo of the white asparagus at a farmers' market.  I think I ate it at least five times while I was there!

     We returned to Meerbush just in time to attend the annual Schutzunfest parade. Hundreds of the local men are members of clubs which carry on the tradition of defending the local village.  Each spring the clubs compete by shooting a cannon at a target, and the winners get medals and the honor of leading the parade.  There are bands, horse brigades, and ladies in long dresses riding in decorated carriages.  Each club has a specific military style costume.  One of my favorite traditions is the huge bouquet of flowers, carefully arranged in a large bull’s horn that is carried on the shoulder of one member of each group.
     Sadly, our trip was over.  It was sunny and mild the entire month we were there.  The day we left, it began to rain and turned colder, and it has continued since!  We have no rain, they have too much!

After July 14th…….
The farm will be closed for general business hours beginning July 15th .    All farm visitations will be by appointment only for group garden tours and/or special group events.  Dates are limited due to extensive travel & commitments away from the farm. However, if you’d like to schedule an appointment for a visit, leave a message on the farm answering machine (765-348-3162), or e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will get back with you to arrange a date and time.  A credit card number will be required for a deposit to set an appointment, and appointments are available for groups of 10 or more. 

A Royal Herb to Know
     Summer, and this one especially, brings hot temperatures and often dry conditions that wilt many plants into submission.  One beautiful plant that stands tall, graces summer bouquets, and decorates the roadways is Queen Anne’s Lace.  Beloved by the English, who dote on it so much special vases have been designed just for its display, this pure white snowflake bloom has naturalized from Europe, throughout North America and into Australia.
     Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carrota) is a member of the carrot family.  In fact one of its many folk names is “Wild Carrrot.” The leaves and crushed root have that distinctive carrot smell, and in fact have been used as a vegetable since it is the forebear to our modern carrot varieties.  Another name is “Bird’s Nest” or “Bird Nesting” for the faded blooms turn brown and form a nest-like shape.  The flower is a favorite of many beneficial wasps and other insects, including honeybees.  Because the flower stem bends over at the first sign of rain, its pollen is protected rather than washed away.  Older blooms that have already been pollinated and are no longer producing pollen remain upright even during heavy storms.
     This beautifully flowered plant has a long history of herbal use.  In olden days, and sometimes still used by knowledgeable campers today is to soothe burns with the grated root.  It was also used to remove internal parasites, like worms (according to James Duke, regular carrots are also beneficial for this!)  An infusion of the leaves is helpful to reduce kidney stones.  The dried seeds were used in the earliest stages of an unwanted pregnancy to induce contractions.  The tea has also been found beneficial to diabetics.  The Shakers valued the leaves as a poultice on wounds that would not heal, as a diuretic, and for urinary stones.
     Folklore states that the Queen once sat next to an exceptionally large flower, trying to duplicate the design as she made lace with her handmaidens.  She pricked her finger and a drop of royal blood fell into the center of the frilly blossom, turning it a dark purple/crimson.  If you look carefully today you will still see that tiny purple flower in the center.  Others claim that the plant’s name is actually in honor of Saint Anne, the patron saint of lacemakers.  Some botanists declare that the small purple flower in the center is a “trick of nature.”  The dark spot mimics a small bug on the flower, attracting the predatory wasps it needs to pollinate!
     While the young roots can be scrubbed and eaten like other carrots, it very quickly becomes tough and stringy.  Only trained people should attempt to harvest the roots early in the season before flowering, since the leaves and root are nearly identical to poison hemlock and cow parsley.  If a crushed piece of root does not smell distinctively of carrots, do not ingest any part of the plant.
     Much safer is to harvest the flowers to make a delicious jelly.  I use the low-sugar recipe my friend Dorry Baird Norris published in her delightful “Sage Cottage Herb Garden Cookbook.”  If you can’t find it, email me & I’ll send it out to you (the recipe….I won’t part with my book!)
     So, as you travel the byways this summer, admire the Queen Anne’s Lace flower and know that it is a member of our treasured herbal family, another one of our cherished herbal blessings!

Garden Tips for this July
1.  If you used a 3 month time-released fertilizer when you planted containers in April you’ll need to start using a liquid fertilizer now.  With all the rain we’ve had, much of the fertilizer has just washed out of containers and hanging baskets.
It’s time to cut off the stalks of Lambs Ears & lemon balm, unless you want them to self-seed all over the garden and paths. 
2. Cut off daylily seed pods as they form.  Making seeds drains lots of energy that the plant could use to make more flowers or stronger root systems.  Most of the daylilies are hybrids, so the seed won’t come true to type anyway.
3. Basil & parsley will appreciate a light side dressing of compost or fertilizer now.
   Remember the caterpillars you see on parsley, dill, and fennel will become butterflies
   so don’t disturb, squash, or spray them!
4. My garlic has already turned brown and the leaves have shriveled, so I’m going to
    harvest it this week and spread it out in the cold frame to cure for the next 6 weeks. 
5.  Prune lavender just after it finishes blooming.  Shape plants into a nice mound.
6. Cilantro seeds are beginning to ripen and fall off the stems.  Gather some of them to
    plant next spring or to use in baking, if you wish.  (Or, use in the liqueur recipe
    below!)  Those that fall to the ground will germinate to provide another crop of
    cilantro in early autumn.
7.  If you have not had rain lately, be sure to water shrubs, especially blueberry bushes,
     flowering shrubs, trees, and perennials that you planted this spring.  Remember that it
     takes 3-5 gallon buckets of water to equal 1” of rain around each shrub.
8.  Without rain, many perennials are struggling, even sturdy daylilies!  Deadheading will
     help conserve their energy.

Making Herbal Liqueurs
     This is the time of year when the bounty of the herb garden just seems endless.  Mints especially need to be cut back in this dry weather, and lemon balm needs to be cut so it won’t reseed everywhere.  I make sun tea every day, bowls of tabouli, skillets of stir-fry and there are still baskets and baskets of herbs!   I should make herbal jellies, but when it’s over 100 degrees, I just don’t feel like stirring boiling kettles and sterilizing jelly jars. So, I make herbal liqueurs to enjoy.  I love them over ice in summer, splashed into a glass of chilled prosecco, or savored by a cheerful fire this winter.   Herbal liqueurs were originally made for medicinal purposes, and that works for me!  I’ve made liqueurs for decades, and it’s really quite simple.  This week, I’m making a peach & ginger liqueur with just a touch of stevia and Lebanese spearmint for sweetness.  I’m experimenting with a blackberry and sage liqueur, since I like those flavors as a tea, and the third jar is a variation of “limoncello.”  Normally, I make limoncello with the peel from lemons from my lemon tree (It has fruit on it now & is blooming again!) but I decided to try it with lemon balm, since I have so much of it that needs to be cut now!  Here’s what I put in the quart jar:  A big handful of lemon balm, 2-6” sprigs of lemon verbena, 2-8” sprigs stevia, 1-6” sprig sweet spearmint, a cluster (about 1 tsp.) of coriander seeds.  I poured 80% proof vodka to the top, screwed on the lid & placed the jar under the counter (where it’s cool & dark.)  The jars will stay there for at least 3 weeks, when I’ll taste them.  If they need more flavor, I’ll let it steep another week, or replace the herbs with fresh ones and let it steep another three weeks.  Then I’ll remove the herbs and strain the liquid.  A simple syrup of 1 c. sugar and 1 c. water brought just to a boil so the sugar dissolves, and then cooled will be added slowly.  I do a lot of tasting.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  Sometimes it needs only half the syrup, sometimes with the stevia, it needs even less!  I don’t like my liqueurs really sweet.  Once it tastes perfect, I pour it into a pretty bottle and add a label so I’ll remember what it contains.
     It’s fun to experiment.  I do try to keep a notebook of my trials so I can duplicate those we really love, but occasionally in the rush of the harvest, I just throw a mixture of herbs into a jar and add vodka to cover.  Some of the most famous liqueurs contain over 100 different herbs & spices!  I’m not that ambitious.   Over the years  I’ve done dozens of combinations:  cranberries & rosemary, red raspberries & rose petals, various lemon herbs, lavender & blueberry, elderberry, and various mints are some of my favorites.  You can also vary the flavor by using brandy, rum, or gin.  If you use the cheapest liquor, your end product tends to be sharp or have an unpleasant aftertaste.  Use at least 80 proof and something that is acceptable on its own.  Make small batches at first.  You may want to start with a pint jar!

Hope to see you at the farm before we close.  July will be a busy month, with lots of visitors coming and a couple of get-aways with the MG.  I’m hoping to finally get the gardens mulched, and the harvest will continue.  Herbal blessings to you all, Carolee

***********************Carolee’s Plant E-coupon************************
Hollyhocks! Buy 1 plant at regular price, get another free!  Cannot be combined with other discounts.  Valid through July 14th, 2012

**************************Carolee’s Plant E-coupon*************************
20% off  Culinary herb planters/containers.  Choose from many sizes, shapes and combinations.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.   (Does not include the artificial potted herbs in Barn Shop or dried arrangements)  Valid until July 14h, 2012

************************Carolee’s Plant E-coupon**************************
20% off live potted Culinary herbs.  Choose from many varieties and colors.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.   (Does not include the artificial potted herbs in Barn)
Valie through July 14, 2012
**********************Carolee’s Big Barn Gift Shop E-Coupon***************
20% off the “Rooster & Hen” display.  Includes many colorful and useful items!  Valid until July 14th, 2012

**********************Carolee’s Cottage E-Coupon************************
40% off any non-herbal item in the Cottage.  Includes lamps, candles, pottery, wooden items, wreaths, garlands, metal items, and more!  Valid through July 14, 2012.

**********************Carolee’s Big Barn Gift Shop E-Coupon***************
20% off all essential oils, carrier oils, soaps, candles and body care products.  Stock up now for Christmas gifts and projects!”