Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters July E-Newsletter 2014
July E-Newsletter 2014 Print E-mail


July E-Newsletter 2014
      Didn’t we just have fireworks a day or two ago?  It doesn’t seem possible that July is nearly over, despite the glory of the daylilies which are always the star of the July garden, and the arrival of sweet corn and the first ripe tomatoes which signal mid-summer.
     Here at the farm, we’ve had two batches of visiting grandkids, which are a joy.  It’s made the time speed even faster though, as we shared picnics, hikes in state parks, baking sessions, and even a bit of garden work, like picking peas, beans, and berries and turning them into tasty meals.
     Between visits, I’ve squeezed a bit of travel and lots of weeding and shearing in the lavender field.  Normally, because of my allergy to bee stings, I hire workers to pick and shear the lavenders.  However, this year, there were fewer than a dozen bees working the entire lavender field, so I did it myself.  While I love working in the lavender field, I fret over the lack of bees.  There are more bits about the plight of bees further on in other articles.  So, the small lavender crop is harvested and safely hanging from the barn rafters.  I’ve planted some new varieties of lavender, and soon I’ll begin taking hundreds of lavender cuttings.  It’s one of my very favorite tasks.  Every day brings a few needed tasks that are time-sensitive, like collecting seeds, dead-heading, and harvesting flowers for drying.  I’ve also begun re-weeding gardens and putting on mulch, but I’m also preparing some products for upcoming shows.  There’s just too much to do this time of year.

Second Saturday—Aug. 9th
     We’ll be open from 10-5 on August 9th.  Contrary to the original schedule, I will be at the farm instead of traveling, and I’ll be happy to welcome visitors that day.  I may be making some herbal wreaths, or harvesting herbs for teas, depending upon the weather.  However, due to lack of response, the scrapbooking contest has been cancelled.  There will be a make-it, take-it craft for visitors, complimentary refreshments, and a sale on all culinary herbs in pro (3”) pots.

     We harvested the hardneck garlic recently, and we’ll have some ready for sale on our Second Saturday, Aug. 9th.   Here where we have real winter, it’s hardneck garlic (not the normal garlic sold in the grocery for eating, which is soft-neck) that we need to plant for a good crop.  Plant the individual cloves in good, rich soil in a sunny location in early September.  A layer of mulch will help conserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Let them grow all autumn, rest in the ground over the winter and renew growing next spring to produce big bulbs!  Quantity is limited, first come-first served.

Michigan State Garden Day
     We’ll have a treasure-filled booth at Michigan State’s annual Garden Day, Saturday Aug. 2nd.  I’m looking forward to seeing lots of friends, the great gardens there, and hearing author Amy Stewart.  If you’re in the area, you can still make reservations on the Michigan State Horticulture website.

Wabash HerbFest
     We just made the decision to attend the annual Wabash Herbfest, held in Paradise Springs Park in Wabash, IN.  The date is Saturday, Aug. 16th.  Look for us in the same spot as last year.  I’ll have some new products, and a few plants.  If there’s something you need, let me know, and I’ll load it on the truck!

Herb Society District Gathering:  Friday, Aug. 22- Saturday, Aug. 23
     Reservations are still being taken for a really special herb gathering in Champaign, IL.  There will be fantastic gardens to visit, three terrific speakers, herbal treats and continental breakfast provided by the local herb group, silent auction, door prizes, and lots of herbal information and networking.  I’m making some special herbal desserts for the event, and hosting a little party in the hotel lobby with a couple of make-it/take-it crafts for Friday evening attendees who’d like to come.  So, plan to come to “Pop Some Corks in Champaign!”  You do not have to be a HSA member to attend.  We have a larger room than first expected, so registrations can still be accepted.  For registration information Google “Herb Society Gathering August 2014” which will give you the HSA calendar of events.  Scroll down and click the green “for information and to register.” Hope to see you there!

My Travels to England-Day 2:  The famous Chelsea Flower Show
     Describing the Chelsea Flower Show would take pages and pages, and maybe someday I’ll find time to do that, but for now, I’ll just give some of the highlights and impressions.  The Flower Show began in 1862, first held at the RHS gardens in Kensington.  It moved to Chelsea in 1913, was disrupted by WWII, when the grounds were converted to an anti-aircraft battery site.  This was the show’s 88th year, and as a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, I was able to get tickets for the “members only” day.  We arrived early and were one of the first in line to pick up our tickets at the window.  While we waited for the gates to open, we studied the maps and planned our attack.  We wanted to see as many of the major show gardens and the pavilion displays before the large crowd arrived, and we’d already made notes of the gardens that were “high priority” on our lists.  We three can move quickly when highly motivated, and we were ready with cameras as soon as the gates swung open.

     Because we were so organized, we were able to see all of the major gardens and get photographs without people in them.  First on the list was the “Best Show Garden,” sponsored by Laurent-Perrier.  We’d already had their award-winning champagne at Claridge’s special “Chelsea Flower Show Tea” the previous afternoon (see last month’s newsletter), so we had high expectations.  It was a lovely garden with white-washed walls, bright yellow lupines, white lace flower, and chartreuse euphorbias. 

    Two outdoor gardens struck a chord with me.  The first was the winner of the gold medal for “Best Artisan Garden,” entitled “Togenkyo: Paradise on Earth.”  Although I don’t normally love oriental gardens, this one had an amazing presence.  The beautiful stone walls, many covered with mounds of moss in a surprising array of greens, golds, and gray-greens more than compensated for the few flowers.  Designed and planted to make one forget their troubles, a watermill produced relaxing sound, and there was an abundance of appealing shady nooks that beckoned.

     My second favorite garden was also a gold medal winner in the Artisan Category, and contained a beautiful stone cottage, a bee-mound kiln, and glorious patches of foxgloves in “The Potter’s Garden.”  It was supposed to represent an abandoned potter’s garden, and showed how nature would renew itself and reclaim an area once the gardener left.  I thought it looked perfectly fine with all the “self-seeded” plants springing up in the cracks and twining around the posts and walls.


     Inside the pavilion, dozens of colorful displays caught our attention.  I loved the “Peter Rabbit Garden,” of course, created by Hooksgreen Herbs.  The beautiful garden guide featuring Beatrix Potter’s illustrations will be a keepsake forever.

     These trees made of hundreds of carefully placed green and purple beans were beautiful, and there were other fascinating displays using garden produce.  Displays by numerous plant societies, nurseries, and organizations abounded, like the stunning delphinium and dahlias shown here.

     This garden replicated the trenches of World War I, complete with metal rats, and a bomber flying overhead.  Many of the gardens featured red poppies, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, or were dedicated as a memorial to those who served in that conflict.


     Of course, I spent several moments drooling over the lavender display from Downderry Nursery, noting new varieties that I need to acquire.  This British nursery is also working hard to promote lavender as an important food crop for honeybees, and is developing longer-blooming varieties.  At the show, they introduced their new “Heavenly” collection, three shorter lavenders that bloom much longer, with broader corollas that make it easier for honeybees to feed, and an extremely high oil content resulting in stronger scent.

     No one could miss the spectacular garden representing Thailand

     Once we’d seen all the gardens, we whizzed through the extensive vendor area.  Knowing we were soon flying to Germany on Ryan Air, with extremely limited luggage space pretty well dampened any shopping urges, although I did pick up a few small boxes of Tregothnan Tea, the only tea grown in England (in Cornwall, where “Doc Martin” is filmed) which we’d also had at Claridge’s.  I also purchased a lovely Christmas ornament (a travel tradition begun decades ago.) 


And, I had to visit Jekka McVicker’s herb display.  Sadly, I had to pass up these garden sculptures.  The horses were made of driftwood, and the dinosaur was made of sea shells.


     We took a brief break to sip some traditional Pimm’s and a cheddar cheese sandwich for lunch.  We also managed to squeeze in a visit to the Chelsea Hospital post office for some postage stamps and post cards.
     Once I felt we’d seen all the show, we went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the new WWI exhibit, which was very interesting.  In addition to portraits of famous generals and medal-winning heroes, and hopeless victims, we saw a painting of Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination began the war.  There were also portraits painted by WWI soldiers, some as they recovered from horrendous wounds.

     A short walk brought us to St. Martin of the Fields, where we stopped for tea.  I had a delicious rose-flavored lemonade since it was warm outside.  Then we hopped on a red double-decker bus to ride toward our apartment.  After a brief rest, and a cup of tea at “home” we hurried to make our reserved time at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Orchid, where we had great food.  Our meal began with freshly squeezed green apple juice with elderflower syrup, which was fantastic.  Several courses later, we ambled home on a gorgeous evening, just delighted to be three gals on the town, especially since that town was LONDON!


Cultivate 14
     I squeezed in a trip to one of the largest horticultural trade shows in the U.S., formerly called the OFA’s Short Course, but this year changed to “Cultivate 14.”  It’s a chance to see all the newest plant introductions, attend informative sessions, see new products, and network.  One can also get chemical certification for greenhouse or field-growing operations by attending the proper classes. 


There were also classes on the importance of honeybees, and educational sessions on the deadly neoncotinoids and mite control.  A variety of business, retailing, food safety, and other sessions were held for garden center owners.

     After arriving and obtaining my badge, I breezed through aisles of new plant introductions.  There were hundreds of new varieties, and I made notes on ones I’d like to try, especially some of the gorgeous, huge salvias that seemed to be everywhere.  I didn’t spend much time in the floral arrangement area, although there were many stunning entries for the contest.
    Then I attended an educational session on social media taught by my good friend, Shawna Coronado, who did a sensational job.  After that I started making my way through the trade show, with an interruption for a special luncheon provided for garden writers by the America Hort Group.  A Regional meeting of the Garden Writers of America followed that, and as soon as it was over, I returned to the trade show.  It was a long, long day (many people spend two-four days there) and a tiring drive home through pounding rain, which ended just after I crossed the Blackford County line.  We didn’t get a drop….and we really needed it.

An Herb To Know:  Hyssop
     I’ve written about hyssop (Hyssop officinalis) before, because it is a favorite tea plant, but it is also an important bee plant.  A hardy perennial that grows only 18” tall, this deep green, narrow-leaved plant is lovely in the perennial garden or along a pathway.  In late July and early August, hyssop’s bluish-purple, pink, or white blooms provide pollen and nectar for honeybees.  After the blooms are finished, I shear the plant into a nice shape so it will branch even more, and produce more flowers.  All the shearings go into my teapot or a sun tea jar.
     Plant hyssop in any sunny spot with average soil.  It can also tolerate some light shade, but in deep shade it may sprawl rather than be upright.  Hyssop can be grown from seeds or transplants.

In the garden:
     It’s time to cut off the stalks of lemon balm, unless you want it to self-seed all over the garden and paths. Put it into a sun-tea jar and make lemonade, or dry some for winter teas.  It “maketh the heart merry” so don’t waste a single stem!
     Weeds are making seeds now, too, so remove them to save lots of work later on.
     Cut off daylily seed pods as they form.  Making seed 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.
     Be sure to feed hanging baskets, containers and window boxes.  The 3-month time release fertilizer may be “used up” and regular fertilizers will have been “washed out” so they are hungry.
      Basil & parsley will appreciate a light side dressing of compost or fertilizer now.  Keep those basil flowers cut off…throw them in the food process to make pesto, or sprinkle them over salads.
      Remember the caterpillars you see on parsley, dill, and fennel will become butterflies so don’t disturb, squash, or spray them!
      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.  Those that fall to the ground will germinate to provide another crop of cilantro in early autumn.
     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.  Some areas have been getting abundant rains, but there are pockets where it is very dry.

There is so much in the news about honeybees, and their importance for pollinating, but don’t forget about the delicious, beneficial honey they produce!  When I was in France a few years ago, I picked up this simple Honey Cookie recipe, said to be a favorite of artist Claude Monet.  I make a variety of herbal honeys (lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, rose-scented geranium, thyme, anise hyssop, cinnamon basil, etc.) and it’s interesting how different the flavor of the cookies can be depending upon which honey I use.
In a large mixing bowl, beat rapidly on medium high speed for 3 minutes:  2 eggs, 1 c. powdered sugar.  Add ¼ c. herbal honey, mixing well.  Slowly beat in 1 ¼ c. flour until blended.  Let batter sit and rest for 30 min.
     Prepare two baking sheets by greasing lightly.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheet.  Bake about 15 min., just until bottoms are lightly browned and centers are set.  Makes about 3 dozen small tea cookies.  Remove from baking sheets and allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container.  I think the flavor is actually better the second day.

Just a reminder:
    Sat., Sept 13 is our Second Saturday Open House, “Hildegard Day” celebrating the Sept. 17th  birthday of one of the most famous women herbalists in history.  Learn about her life, the medicinal plants she used, hear the music she composed, and taste some of the beneficial foods she touted.  Talks/cooking demos at 11:00 and 1:00p.m.  Note:  No restroom facilities today.
    Sat., Oct. 11, Second Saturday Open House, celebrating “Italian Day!” 
Talks on Italian herbs and cooking at 11:00 and 1:00.  Special refreshments.  Note:  No restroom facilities today.

Herbal blessings,