Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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 Carolee’s February E-Newsletter

     Wow!  Can the days fly any faster?  February has been a blur so far, and there’s so very much to do this time of year!  The month started with a visit by my best friends.  Then David and I spent a week in the Monterey Peninsula! (See the photo above and more below!)  Needless to say, I hated to return to the winter winds of Indiana, but I came home with batteries charged and rearin’ to go, which was a good thing since I only had one day to catch up the greenhouse work and the email back-log before the wonderful IMA symposium on shade plants.  The next day I packed crates, loaded the truck and drove to the Madison Co. Advanced Master Gardeners’ Training Day, which was fun.  Now I have 5 “free” days before I travel to the next show.  So, I’ll put in some long hours in the greenhouses and unpacking boxes in the barn.  You’ll be glad to know there’s over 10,000 new seedlings growing already, plus all the plugs I started last fall, and the new patented material starts arriving this week!  The plants in the coldframe are still dormant, and that's good because it is after all still February! 
2013 Schedule is on the Website!
     The full schedule for this season is now posted on the website.  Register for workshops on-line  and mark your calendar for events you want to attend.  Remember Opening Day is Tuesday, April 2nd.  And, if you really want to help, start spreading the word on Facebook, blogs, etc.  Tweet your friends to remind them of special events and classes.  Many independent garden centers are being forced to close, but we’re fighting to remain.  We’ve given the Big Barn Gift Shop a fresh, new look, with all-new colorful displays featuring lots of exciting items for your garden and home!  Stroll over to enjoy the early bloomers and plant displays in the Cold frame and our quaint Cottage Country Shop.  We’ll have a display of culinary herbs ready for your windowsill, early spring perennials, door prizes, special refreshments and more.  Make plans now to come and bring a friend or two.  We appreciate every bit of support.

February Tidbits
     Old weather lore says to watch the moon the first two weeks of February to predict the growing season during spring and summer.  If the curve of the moon is up (like a smile) the weather will be unusually dry.  If the curve is downward, then the rains will pour out, and the growing season will be a wet one!   In addition, if there is a full moon between Feb. 1 and 19, the crops should be good.
     Old lore also says every January thunderstorm means a frost in May---we had two.

And the Winner is…..
January’s Question was “Does the “Herb of the Year” matter to you, influence your purchases, planting, or cooking?”   Nearly everyone said they enjoyed learning more about each year’s selection, especially if it introduced them to a new herb discovery.  Thanks to all who responded.   Congratulations to the winner, Deborah Willig of Fort Wayne, IN.  She'll be receiving her prize box of garden treasures soon.

February’s Question
     If you’d like a chance to win a $10 Gift Certificate to the farm, answer this month’s question. I’ve been attending many conferences, and the “experts” tell me that if I’m still organizing my plants A-Z that I might as well just close my doors today.  They say today’s shopper generally does not know the names of plants, but impulse buy or purchase to solve a problem (“I’ve got this bare area under a maple tree…….,” or “The deer eat everything I plant…..”) or they shop by color.
      I’ve been agonizing over the decision to continue as we have or to re-do, maybe by use.  However, that brings up more problems, will take more time & add costs, which I’ll be forced to pass on.  For instance, coneflowers would need to be in “drought tolerant,” “deer resistant,” “medicinal,” “native,” “butterfly plant,” “cutting flower,” etc.  That means lots more work, additional costs for a sign at each location, and that would be multiplied by hundreds of varieties.  Some experts say to organize by bloom-time, or by color, or by height.  So, my question to you this month is:  “How do you shop for plants?  Do you search by use (sun-lover, shade plant, culinary, hummingbird plant, fragrant plant, etc.) or would grouping plants (mixing annuals & perennials together) by color be more helpful?  How would you prefer our plants be organized?  All entries will be put in a hat & the winner drawn before March 15th.  Thanks for your help!

The Hot Trend Color of the Year!
     Each year Pantone researches the hottest trends in fashion and design and then selects the color for the year.  The choice for 2013 is Emerald Green, a vivid, verdant green that enhances our sense of well-being!  According to Pantone, the color creates the perception of luxury and symbolizes growth, renewal and prosperity, plus promotes balance and harmony!  We could all use a little more of all of that!  Plus, it goes well with last year’s popular “Tangerine Tango.”
     I did see lots of greens and orange at the gift marts this spring, but also lots of what I call “fiesta” colors (orange, red, and hot pink) mixed with turquoise. 

Another trend?
     This one surprised me….it’s Urban Foraging!  TrendSpot says “Foraging is a trendy lifestyle choice and restaurants offering wild edibles are hot.”  In addition, urban people are eager to learn to appreciate the wild greens, berries and fruits that often grow right in their neighborhoods.  Wow...I'm trendy and I didn't even know it!  I've always gathered mushrooms, salad greens, berries and nuts from the "wild!"  I've made sumac "lemonade," fruit leathers from wild berries, pestos and salads from dandelions, cress, chickweed,and many more. 
And another one bites the dust……
     You may not know the name Elzinga & Hoeksema, but in 2008 they were named “Grower of the Year” and listed as a leader in modern greenhouse production.  E & H were huge, with acres of greenhouses in Michigan that were on the cutting edge in terms of organic production, renewable energy systems, and cost-cutting flow.  They were the main supplier for Meijer stores, but suddenly closed their doors the day after Thanksgiving, citing insurmountable losses suffered since the economic downturn.

Did you know? 
*HGTV is coming out with their own “brand” of plants.  They hope to rival such giants as Proven Winners and Southern Living Plants.  I hope their plants are more abundant than their (almost non-existant!) garden shows!
*Researchers in Great Britain recently published an article titled “Drugs from Daffodils.”  Apparently, daffodils synthesize a range of alkaloids (which is what makes them unappetizing to deer, rodents, humans etc. since they cause vomiting, abdominal pain and more unpleasant symptoms) one of which is galanthamine, which has been approved by the UK’s National Institute for Health as a treatment for the early stage and moderate dementia due to Alzheimer’s!

Speaking of plants……
     I’m really excited about the plants I’ve been growing for you!  Look for more drought tolerant varieties.  Even if we don’t have another drought, it’s becoming wise to select plants that require less water.  It saves time and money, both in the garden and in patio containers.  I've added some gorgeous baby agaves, aloes, yuccas and other succulents.  Plus terrific penstemons, scabiosas, and more. 
     One of the biggest water users is impatiens.  We won’t be offering any impatiens this year, because the horrid impatiens downy mildew is sweeping across the land.  I just decided not to fight it, and I encourage gardeners with shade to select alternatives, rather than lose their plants to this difficult disease.  Come see us for ideas!
     We’re also growing more deer resistant plants, more plants to help feed songbirds, butterflies & hummingbirds, more native plants, and more fragrant plants.
     Of course, we’ll have Elderberries, four varieties of great berry-producers for jellies, desserts, main dishes and more tasty tempters (look for free recipes in the HOY barn display) and some ornamental Elder selections as well that will add interest to perennial and shrub borders.  There are also thornless blackberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, gooseberries, and more.  We even have some new lavenders!  (Hard to believe since we already had 75!)  I’ll be writing more about new plants in upcoming newsletters, and on the website.


Monterey Bay & Pebble Beach
     Having missed last year’s tournament, we were even happier to return to the AT&T Golf event at Pebble Beach.  Although it was a bit chilly, every day was sunny, and compared to the temperatures in Indiana it was heavenly.  We saw all of the famous celebrities  (Clay Walker, Brett Baier, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Belichick, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Daly, Ray Romano, Kenny G, Andy Garcia, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Harbaugh, Brian Kelly and many more,) outstanding golf, beautiful scenery, and I walked uphill and down beach so I’m now in better shape, too!  I visited some of my favorite gardens along the course.  The first photo below shows a primrose path...something I've got on my wish list to do for myself.  The second photo is of another nearby garden along the course that always gives me plant envy.  In the center back is a gorgeous echium, just coming into bloom with huge blue flowerheads.  There were some lavenders already in bloom, as well as several other perennials. 


There are lots of deer on the course, so many gardens there are covered with bird netting to deter both crows (which have learned to pull down the zippers on knapsacks to get food inside!) and deer.  I probably spend as much time looking at plants as I do at the golfers!

     I squeezed in one morning of “garden fun” with a drive to Carmel Valley to see Earthbound Farms.  You may have purchased their plastic containers of beautiful organic salad greens, since they are sold in many major groceries.  There were already rows and rows of lovely lettuces, spinach, endives, and more.  The perennials in the display gardens were thriving, although no annuals had been planted yet.  Here’s the Herb Garden, with waist-high skeleton rose-scented geraniums, happy rosemary, mats of thyme and lots more.  The kitchen garden has a nice look and is already producing salad crops even though its too early to plant most beds.


The Children’s Garden featured brightly painted signs and winding paths.

     Inside their shop is a large produce section, plus shelves lined with organic products of all kinds and on the front porch were displays of winter squashes and cut flowers for sale from their gardens.


     Just down the road a bit is my favorite nursery in the area, Valley Hills, which just gets better every year.  These cheery displays of bright colors just made me want to plant!  It's a large area and I took lots of photos, but somehow I erased most of them.  Technology is not my forte!


I spent some time studying how they presented their plants and enjoying all the color of pots of blooming hellebores, cyclamen, pansies and lots more.  Then I drove to a nursery that I had never visited, but that came highly recommended.  Drought Resistant Nursery specializes in native plants and varieties that need very little water.  This area of California is about to lose its water supply.  As of 2014 the Monterey and Carmel areas can no longer take water from the Salinas River, so water usage will be forced to change dramatically.


Of course, there were lots of succulents, and I managed to find one I didn't have so it came home in my suitcase.  I loved seeing all the lavenders, and rummaging around to learn the names of some other drought-tolerant treasures that might be hardy here in Indiana.  I've already started a list of garden places to visit next year!

An herb to know:  Bellis
     It seems as I get older, I take special pleasure in the smaller things, the simpler things….a really good book, a lovely cup of tea in a treasured cup, a good friend’s hug, and tiny plants.  Last year, I was fascinated by the tiny, tiny white daisies (Bellis perennis) that are often found in unsprayed lawns, especially in England where it is called the ‘Wild English daisy.”  The English cherish it as a harbinger of spring.  Many experts agree that the bellis’ habit of opening at dawn and closing at dusk gave the plant its original name, “day’s eye.”  This name spread to cover many composites with the traditional daisy form, a layer of petals evenly surrounding a central disk.
    I knew that this charming little daisy had a long tradition as an herb, beneficial for treating wounds, aches, and fevers.  It was often brewed as a calming tea.  And although the leaves were sometimes added to Italian or Spanish country dishes, the fact that they are also used to repel fleas has deterred me from trying them in my salads!
    However, I’m sure the fairies are delighted with these dainty perennials, so I decided to grow some for my fairy gardens.  As much as I like the wild bellis, I don’t want them self-seeding all over the garden and I thought some color would be nice.  Fortunately, plant breeders have been working with bellis perennis so there was a variety of choices.  I chose the variety “Bellissima” rather than the wild white, so that the flowers would be bigger, fully double, and colors ranging from white to shades of pink, rose, and red.
    I was happy to find them already in bloom at Valley Hills Nursery, so I could photograph them to show you what they’ll look like.  Right now, my seedlings have been transplanted into 4-packs, and they are growing every day.  Since they bloom early and can tolerate frosts, they are good companions for pansies and small spring bulbs, both in the garden and in containers.  Reaching a height of only 6” these charming perennials are hardy to Zone 5, spreading to about 7” in diameter in tidy clumps. 

Coming up:
Sat., March 2:  We bringing a truckload of garden/herb treasures to the Hoosier Hillsides Master Gardeners “Spring Tonic” in Paoli, IN.  It’s open to the public…5 speakers, door prizes, continental breakfast & lunch ($40) plus vendors and craftsmen.  Call 812-278-6794 for more info or to register.  I don't usually travel this far south, so if you're in the area, come see me!
Mon, Mar. 11:  I’ll be presenting my photos & impressions of my trip to Amsterdam, the Keukenhof Tulip Festival, and the Floriade (world’s largest horticultural show held once every 10 years) at the Trowel & Error Garden Club meeting.  Blackford County Senior Citizens Center, 6 p.m.
Tues., April 2:  Opening Day at the Farm
Sat., April 6:  Spring Planter Day at the Farm

Part of the fun of traveling is getting to see new things, meeting new people, and discovering new foods.  Here’s a special cocktail that I will be making at home, especially since it uses lavender and basil!  It originated at Suda, in Santa Cruz.  It starts with a lavender simple syrup, made by dissolving 1 c. sugar in 1 c. boiling water.  Stir in 2 T. fresh lavender flowers (or 2 tsp. dried.)  Cover immediately and allow to cool.  Strain out flowers and discard.  Syrup can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
    To make the cocktail, cut 3 thin slices of peeled cucumber into small pieces.  Muddle (smash nicely) the cucumber and 3-4 basil leaves in ½ oz. fresh lemon juice in a shaker.  Add ½ oz. lavender syrup, 1-1/2 oz. gin, and ice.  Shake 9-12 seconds until frost begins to form on shaker.  Strain into a wine or cocktail glass.  Add champagne or prosecco to fill.  Garnish with a split cucumber slice on the edge.  Enjoy!

That’s it for February, the short month.  I’ll be traveling to the Philadelphia Flower Show and speaking a lot in March, but we’ve already made good progress in preparing for Opening Day.  Maybe it’s because I’m really excited about the new products and plants we have to show you!   We can’t wait to see you again!  Till next month,

Herbal Blessings,