Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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


June E-Newsletter 2015

     Retirement?  It really hasn’t begun!  The weeks prior to closing the farm were jam-packed with moving items from various storage areas and pricing them for sale.  I’m not sure how many times we filled those tables in the classroom, but it was several.  Sorting each item was a lengthy debate: do I want to sell it or keep it?  After we officially closed the doors, I took two days “off” and actually weeded and planted some of the long-neglected gardens at my house.  (See more about that below, and a photo of one planted area above.)  Then began the slow process of sorting what was left.  Items for shows were carefully packed, labelled and hauled to a storage unit where I’ll have easy access.  Other items are destined for my new, yet-to-be-built garden shed, and were moved into David’s trailer, along with larger items that will go into our big garage sale (see more about that below.)  More garage sale items soon filled the Sales Shed.  The goal was to empty the barn for the new owners, so they can begin installing plumbing and insulation.  In addition to work in the barn, I gradually moved all the plants that were left (which weren’t many!) out of the cold frame and into the shade house.  On cooler mornings, I moved plants out of the greenhouse, which is still an on-going task.
     The barn work halted for a long weekend due to the Minnetrista Garden Fair, which is always a fun event, especially when the weather cooperates.  Then it was back to work in the barn.  Even I couldn’t believe how much we had accumulated over the years.  We donated loads to the Mission Store and gave away some things to a children’s gardening program.  My goal for an empty barn was June 15, and I only missed it by half a day, turning the keys over at noon on June 16th.   Now I can slow down a bit as I finish clearing out items in the outbuildings and move items and furniture that I want to keep from the gardens.  I’ll also be transplanting a few plants into my own gardens, but I plan to be entirely “off the farm” by July, although I do have some short trips on the calendar which may cause some delay and If Mother Nature keeps sending us rain daily, that might also impact the schedule.
      When I couldn’t tolerate being indoors any longer, I weeded and planted in the Cook’s Garden, which has been providing salads since April, and now peas, strawberries, summer squash, and chard are being added to our menu.  I picked the first cherry tomato on June 21, along with some kale, more peas and zucchini.  I also did bits and pieces on the gardens at home, and continued to water and care for the plants left at the farm.  I’ve reached the point that I really just want to be able to concentrate on my “new” gardens and plans at my home, and that’s a good thing.
Patti Beck’s Summer Garden Party & Sale: Saturday, June 27
     Happily, “now that I am retired” (my new favorite phrase) I can attend events that have always conflicted with workshops and other events at the farm.  Patti Beck and I have been friends since my old days at New Hope.  Her “Herbs & Clay” pottery has always been a favorite, and she has been a vendor at our festivals many times.  Once a summer, Patti opens her extensive gardens and her studio to visitors.  This year it’s Saturday, June 27 from 9-5.  You’ll get lots of gardening and planting ideas.  Bring seeds or plants to share, or just come enjoy a snack on one of the patios.  Visit her studio to purchase charming garden décor, fairy garden items, and her unique Santas.  Email Patti at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to let her know you are coming or to get directions.   Here’s a few photos I took last week to whet your appetite!

Carolee’s Upcoming Events:
     Thursday, Aug. 13:  “An Evening with Carolee,” sponsored by the Grant Co. Master Gardeners, at the Grains & Grille Restaurant, Fairmount, IN.  Share a delicious gourmet herbal dinner, door prizes, lots of gardening information and memories, and a marketplace.  While you are there, be sure to admire the beautiful herb and flower garden I helped install at Grains & Grille.  See photos below. The chef is using the herbs daily in innovative cuisine.  $45 per person, limited reservations.   Proceeds go to the group’s activities.  Contact Stacy Clupper 765-651-2413 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   for more information or to make a reservation.

     Saturday, Aug. 15:  Wabash Herb Fest.  Look for our booth filled with herbal and gardening goodies!  Plants, décor, fairy items and more.  Free admission.  Food on site.  Speakers throughout the day.  Paradise Spring Park, 9-3:00.  Wabash, IN.
     Saturday, Aug. 29:   at the Indiana Museum of Art, “An Herbal Lifestyle” presentation.  I’ll give lots of ideas, recipes, and handouts for incorporating herbs into your daily life. 1-2:30 p.m.  Limited registration, and pre-registration is required.

The Annual Elder dilemma
     Every June, the fragrance of elderbloom fills the area near my back door.  Elder is one of my very favorite herbs, because it is so versatile and beneficial.  The shrub is a delight all during the growing season, but especially when it is covered with huge clusters of pretty, sweet white blooms.  My dilemma is that I want to harvest those blooms for healthful teas, to add to fruit cobblers, and to make elderbloom syrup for Hugo cocktails or to pour over desserts.  However, if I harvest flowers, then there are fewer berries for jellies, immune-supporting syrups, cordials, and other yummy recipes.  Last year, I only made 2 quarts of elderbloom syrup, but dried 2 cups of berries plus made 12 batches of jelly.  I think I need more Hugos this summer, so I’m making 4 quarts of elderbloom syrup.  It has been raining so much, I’m not sure the flowers are getting pollinated, so there may not be so many berries.  I think I need to plant more bushes!

GWA Regional Meeting
     I celebrated turning over the keys to the barn by traveling to Holland, MI to attend the Region III meeting of the Garden Writers of America.  I love these meetings, because we get to see amazing private gardens, the behind the scenes workings of some of the country’s major garden suppliers, and there’s lots of good food and networking with interesting people.  Although it was windy and rainy at home, in west-central Michigan it was sunny and low-70’s weather that was perfect for visiting gardens. 


My first stop was Jonkers Garden Center in Holland.  This was a very well-designed retail space, with lots of things to catch the eye and inspire ideas.  This gazing ball tree was right at the front entrance.  There were several of these “window” displays, each featuring a different colored-window and plant combinations.  I loved the raised bed vegetable and herb garden that illustrated how much can be grown in a small space.  It was easy to find a couple of plants that volunteered to jump into my truck.  This garden center is definitely worth another visit.

     Officially, the meeting began with a delicious breakfast at the Mason Jar in Benton Harbor.  This restaurant is in a former gas station, and our group ate in the old service bay, with the big glass overhead doors providing lots of natural light.  Our meal featured a local specialty, duck bacon, along with an ample serving of spinach quiche, fresh local fruits, and a muffin. 


Suitably fortified, we made a short drive to Lake Cliff Garden.  This 5 acre private garden, the creation of Barbara & Ron Weinrich, has been featured in “Fine Gardening” magazine three times.  There are several garden “rooms” with varied styles, such as this burgundy grouping and this garden along the driveway.  Nearly all of them showcase Barbara’s paintings, sculpture she has designed (and Ron actually builds), or other unique artistic touches, such as these two areas shown below. 


There are well-staged vignettes around every corner and carefully planned views.  The main garden focuses on tropical plants from around the world, which are housed in a greenhouse 7 months of the year and brought to the garden each May.  The view of Lake Michigan is framed with blue grasses, dozens of blue and beige glass balls that echo the blue of the water and the carefully selected beige stone. 

There were so many unusual trees, shrubs, and perennials that it felt like a botanical garden.  Some gardens were jammed with colors and textures, others were more simple and calm.  Some seemed casual and rustic, with surprises like this chicken cage planted with a begonia, while others were quite formal. 

My favorite was the Autumn garden, even though the dozens of pumpkins they bring in to put on posts of varied heights weren’t in place.  I just respond to fall colors.   Everyone agreed we needed more than two hours to see all the intricacies tucked here and there.

     However, one of the givens of a Regional GWA meeting is that it will be jam-packed with experiences, so we hurried to Zeeland, to visit one of the nation’s largest perennial suppliers, Walters Gardens.  This is a family-owned business, begun in 1946, has three generations participating in the daily decisions and work.  We admired the extensive display gardens, which feature both the Walters introductions and the plants they produce for the Proven Winners brand. 


A guided tour of a section of the 14 acres of greenhouses followed, including this range of blooming daylilies that are used for breeding.  We were delighted to hear that the company adopted a no-neonicotinoids program in 2014, and use beneficial insect controls instead.  All their cuttings are propagated in biodegradable Elle paper plugs.  They also have 1700 acres that are used for open field, bare root production.  Following a box lunch, Walters’ employees presented their newest introductions, including Hosta “Curly Fries” which has been selected as the 2016 hosta of the year.  There were new hibiscus, heuchera, monardas, and salvias.  Happily, we all left with a bag of new plant introductions including a new buddleia and a gorgeous red-stemmed, golden hosta.

     I squeezed in a stop at nearby Garden Crossing Garden Center, and was glad I did.  As soon as I saw this gazing ball tree and the brightly painted windows highlighting colorful plant displays, I knew this was my kind of place.  I loved the raised bed vegetable and herb garden to help new gardeners realize how much can grow in a small space.  I left with two great agastaches I hadn’t seen before, but that will work perfectly with my color scheme in my new garden.

     I still arrived in time to tour the greenhouses and display areas at Spring Meadow Nursery, the primary shrub grower for Proven Winners.  Tim Wood, breeder for many of their amazing hydrangeas gave us a primer on hydrangea varieties and how their breeding program works.  It was surprisingly interesting.  There were many new varieties that caught my eye, including a Nine-bark “Ginger Wine,” a beautiful orange-sherbet colored rose “Orange You Sweet,” a “Golden Treasure” dwarf river birch, and a non-spreading privet, “Golden Ticket.”

     Our group was invited to dine at the home of Spring Meadow’s owner, Dale Deppe, located in a scenic setting along the Grand River.  Note the huge climbing hydrangeas covering the trees on the left side of the photo below.  We were led on a tour of the extensive gardens by plant breeder Tim Wood.  Afterwards, we had a scrumptious  buffet dinner on the terrace. 


Note that our centerpieces were all REJECTS from their breeding program, so the flowers were cut since they weren’t good enough for breeding.  Same with the beautiful floral arrangements.  I’d love to have a few of their rejects for my garden!
     That’s the end of day 1.  Look for day 2 in next month’s newsletter.
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 things happy you may want to:
1.  Hang Japanese Beetle traps…it’s time for these destructive pests to hatch. I’ve found 4!
2.  If 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 daisies, 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 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.
8.  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.
9.  Harvest garlic scapes, so the plants will put their energy into making larger bulbs.  Those scapes are considered a delicacy in many cultures.  See this month’s recipe below!

June is National Dairy Month, National Rose Month, National Candy Month, National Fudge Month, and National Turkey Month.  The lavender begins to bloom in June, along with a myriad of other perennials.  Basil is abundant, along with parsley, dill, and many other herbs, and strawberries, gooseberries, and black raspberries abound along with a variety of vegetables.  The flowering annuals planted in May are really hitting their stride.  It’s a lovely, lovely month to be a gardener!

Recipe: Savory Swiss Chard
This recipe makes good use of crops that are ready to harvest now:  chard, garlic scapes, and summer savory.  It’s a tasty side dish, or with a slice of crunchy bread, a vegetarian luncheon.
Mix together in a small bowl and allow flavors to blend until chard is prepared:  1/3-1/2 c. coarsely chopped olives (I like pimento-stuffed green olives, but any pitted olive will do.); 1 T. finely chopped fresh summer savory; 2 T. finely chopped garlic scapes (or substitute green onions or chopped shallots); 1 T. coarsely chopped capers; 1 T. olive oil.
     Cut the “ribs” out of the leaves to remove stems from a large bunch of Swiss Chard.  (About as many stems as you can circle with one hand.  I like to use a rainbow chard for its bright colors, but any chard will do.)  Cut stems and ribs into ½” pieces.  Place 1 T. olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat.  When oil is warmed, add stems and stir to coat lightly.  Cover and cook 3-5 min, just until stems begin to soften.  Meanwhile, coarsely slice leaves into 1” pieces.
     When stems are softened, add leaves and olive mixture to skillet.  Cover and cook 2-4 min, stirring often, just until leaves are lightly wilted.  Sprinkle lightly with 1 T. savory vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) and freshly ground pepper.  Serve warm.  4 Servings.

June has been hectic, and I am looking forward to a more leisurely July….except that our family from Germany is coming for a visit, mid-month is David’s huge MG Meeting in Indianapolis with MG’s coming from all over the nation and I’m giving a presentation there on English gardens, and teaching some lavender crafts to the women attendees.  And, most exciting, the contractor is scheduled to begin leveling the backyard and putting in water lines and electric lines for my new potager in July.  I’ll keep you posted! 


Herbal Blessings, Carolee