Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

NOTE: To use the advanced features of this site you need javascript turned on.

Home News Newsletters January E-Newsletter 2015
January E-Newsletter 2015 Print E-mail


January E-Newsletter 2015

     This year is off to a galloping start, hectic, fast-paced, and interesting.   The Christmas décor has been stored away, although in olden days it was traditional to keep the decorations up through the month of January, gradually feeding the pine boughs and  evergreen roping, holly and ivy to the fireplace.  However, every last leaf and pine needle must be removed from the home by February 1st, or terribly bad luck will engulf the house and its inhabitants.  It’s not worth the risk, so if you haven’t put away holiday ornaments and greenery, do it now!  I always move some colorful primroses (shown above) from the greenhouse to the kitchen and living room to brighten my world.
     We’ve had colder than normal temperatures, with little snow cover to protect plants from below zero nights and frigid winds.  I’m crossing my fingers that autumn planted perennials will survive.
     I traveled to Atlanta to the massive Gift Marts mid-month and walked a hundred miles, I think.  New inventory has already begun to arrive, so it feels like Christmas morning every time the UPS truck arrives.  Seeds sown in November are already being transplanted into individual pots, so on sunny days I’m busy in the greenhouse.
    January is National Hot Tea Month, National Mail-Order Gardening Month, and National Oatmeal Month!   That is excuse enough to celebrate often with a cup of hot tea, oatmeal cookies or oatmeal cake, and a growing stack of seed catalogs to study on cold, cloudy days.  And, (sigh!) I’ll be celebrating another birthday this month, too.

National Hot Tea Month—Win A Prize!
     Most of you know I’m a tea-aholic, always trying new blends and searching for new recipes.  If you have a favorite tea recipe, share it with me, and your name will be put into a drawing to receive a selection of teas and tea items, including this month’s recipe blend, Berry Fruity Tea, that I developed using elderberries, rose hips, and more.  Deadline for entries is February 15th.  We’ll be drawing two winners, so email or mail that tea recipe now.

Whitley Co. Master Gardeners Symposium: Sat, Feb. 21
     A full day of garden education and fun in Columbia City, IN will include “Native Plants” with JoEllen Myers Sharp; “Alpines” with Esther Bennedict; and then the round robin choices including water gardens, vertical growing, and cold frames.  And, I’ll be there with lots of new garden and herbal treasures! For more information, google the flyer on the Purdue Master Gardeners events listing website.  You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to attend.

Madison Co. Master Gardeners Advanced Education Day: Sat., Feb 28
     This is always a day filled with information from good gardeners.  This year’s topic is “Think Tropical” with “Carmen Miranda in the Garden,” “Adapting the Landscape to Changing Climates,” “Whimsical Water Features,” and “Growing Tropical Plants.” $25.  Contact Kathleen Sprouse at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 765-641-9514.  We’ll be there, too!    

Fort Wayne Home & Garden Show:  Feb 26-Mar 3
     This annual show will feature a “Dr. Seuss” theme.  A good chance to walk amid plants during the bleak days of winter and pick up a plant or two from the Fort Wayne Botanical Conservatory booth.

Visiting Atlanta, GA
     The buying trip to Atlanta Marts is always interesting but exhausting.  There are thousands of booths located in three buildings in downtown Atlanta.  Normally, it’s a welcome break from Indiana’s winter weather, but since it was only 16 degrees when I landed, it felt almost like home.  Happily, my cousin Eve supplies her spare bedroom and chauffeurs me to and from the train station.   Atlanta boasts many good restaurants and we experience a different one each evening.  My favorite this trip was the Irish pub, MacMcGee located near the train station in Decatur, a suburb just east of Atlanta proper.  My choice was a really delicious roasted beet salad with baby arugula, bleu cheese, candied pecans and a lavender vinaigrette dressing plus fabulous cod cakes with a lemon aioli sauce. 


Since the first two courses were so amazing, we split a dessert, a decadent Irish whiskey bread pudding with Bailey’s ice cream, topped with a rich, thick Guinness reduction that was reminiscent of a chocolate sauce but better!  If you are in the area, don’t miss this cozy place.
     Of course, I can’t go anywhere without visiting a greenhouse, and Pike’s Nursery in Decatur was a delight, even on a cold, blustery day. 


There was a nice selection of hardy herbs, like these full pots of sweet woodruff, and a rainbow of heucheras. 


Blooming hellebores reminded me of Germany, and this darling pig planted with succulents nearly followed me home!
     I also had my first venture into an IKEA store, which was very interesting.  Unfortunately, since I really was in town on business, there was no time for further sightseeing, so I had to skip the Atlanta Botanical Gardens this trip.

Univ. of Illinois Herb Day-Recap
     As always, we had a great time at Herb Day, one of our favorite events of the year.  We had a jam-packed booth, and lots of networking.  The herbal buffet was bountiful, and the speakers gave us lots of historical perspective and beautiful slides.
     This show always gets the New Year off to a great start, and next year’s show on January 23,  2016 will be a special send-off, blow-the-budget day, since herb expert, Charles Voigt (shown above) is retiring.  This will likely be the final Herb Day there, so mark your 2016 calendar now & don’t miss it.

Did you know?
*A layer of mulch reduces evaporation by 70%, so plants stay more evenly moist and less watering is required
*A bit of vodka in the water for paperwhite bulbs will keep them more compact so they don’t flop, shorter, and happier.  This is the only circumstance I know of where a little alcohol actually makes something less tipsy!
*A recent survey showed that 88% of Americans listed more family time as their top goal, followed by healthier diets, more exercise, better household finances, better work-life balance, and improved personal appearance.  I think gardening can be a positive influence in all those things!
*The recycle trend continues to be strong.  I saw four booths in Atlanta using recycled wine bottles in a variety of products, from candles, wind chimes, drinking glasses and rooting containers.

Herb to Know: Rose Hips
     It’s winter.  It’s cold and frozen and nothing is growing in the herb garden.  Well, look again.  There just might be a few leftovers that can brighten your day, and provide a bounty of vitamins as well.  If you were not adept at autumn foraging, and if the birds have not already harvested them for you, there may be bright red or deep orange rose hips still remaining on those frozen plants.  Normally, rose hips are harvested just after the first good frost, but it’s not too late to gather them now and place them in a single layer on screens to dry, unless you plan to use them immediately.  Harvesting the hips is a good idea, not only because they are useful herbs in many recipes, but because the plants would use lots of energy to turn those hips into ripe seeds and the wise gardener would rather the plant use that energy to make more roots.
     Different varieties of rose bushes produce various sizes, colors, and flavors of hips, but they are all filled with vitamin C and are also antioxidants.  The largest hips grow on the Dog Rose, or Rosa canina and Rosa rugosa.  These are succulent, tasty, and easy to harvest.  Some people describe the flavor as reminiscent of tomatoes or roasted red pepper, while others declare hips are fruity.   Some rose bushes produce only tiny, nearly black hips that have little flavor.  Of course, when harvesting hips for cooking, body products, or teas be certain that the plants have not been sprayed or treated with a systemic rose food/insecticide.
     It’s doubtful that you will find enough hips now to make rose hip tarts, which were very popular in Tudor England, or Victorian rose hip fool, or rose hip and apple jelly which was a favorite of the Shakers.  Rose hip syrup has been used for centuries as a medicinal but it is also delicious poured over ice cream, waffles, cakes, and custards.  Or the syrup can be mixed with sparkling water or wine for a refreshing beverage.  A quick web search will disclose dozens of recipes for tempting dishes and helpful remedies.
     The clusters of colorful hips are often used in decorative wreaths, mixed into potpourris, or used to decorate herbal candles.  They can be strung on wire or thread to make garlands, hearts, or rosaries.

Berry Fruity Tea
This colorful, flavorful tea will make summer days float in your memory.  I always make a big batch so I can share it with friends, or store it in tins to enjoy on cold winter days.  The rose hips and elderberries also make it easier to fight off colds and other winter ailments.
     Mix together in a bowl: 2 T. finely chopped dried apples; 2 T. finely chopped dried peaches; 2 T. coarsely crushed rose hips; 2 T. dried elderberries; 1 T. dried finely chopped lemon rind (or orange peel); 4 T. green tea.  Store in a tightly sealed jar.  Use 1 tsp. mixture per cup of boiling water.  Allow to steep at least five minutes so dried fruits will release their flavor.  Sweeten with honey, if desired.

The first month of 2015 is nearly over, and compared to January last year, it’s been a big improvement.  I’m looking forward to February, which includes a visit from my “Italian” kids, more fun gardening shows, and lots of transplanting time in the greenhouse.  Maybe if I’m lucky, the first spring bulbs or hellebores might bloom.  Wouldn’t that be lovely!?! 

Till next time,

Herbal blessings, Carolee