Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters July E-Newletter 2015
July E-Newletter 2015 Print E-mail


July E-Newsletter 2015

     How can it be nearing the end of July?  I always feel so blessed this month, with the 4th of July reminding us how lucky we are to live where we do, watching the wheat fields turn golden, and normally seeing the corn skyrocketing to the sky.  It’s been a little different this year, with all the rain.  I didn’t even bother to spend hours picking black raspberries because they were so water-logged they had no flavor.  I did put several quarts of gooseberries in the freezer, and I’ve been harvesting loads of green beans, cucumbers, peppers, and squash.  There’s been lots of extra time, since there was no need to drag hoses to water.  The flower gardens have been lovely, and it’s a good feeling to have my gardens at the house tidy, especially before our family from Germany came home for a visit.  We had a family gathering at my mother’s, but it was sad to see her big vegetable garden under water for the fourth time this season.

We just finished David’s big MG event in Indianapolis that took lots of time and preparation, but it was great fun meeting MG owners from all over the nation, England, and Australia and their lovely cars.  The theme was "Wheels and Wings" with not only MGs but also vintage airplanes.  David was in charge of the "Funkhana" (obstacle course) which included Spitfire bombing and strafing runs, so he turned his 1946 MG into a plane, which explains the photo at the top of the newsletter.  Of course, an English car show would not be complete without an English tea, and we had a lovely one at Tina’s in Carmel.  Now, if it will just dry out a bit, it’s time to start the new garden project in the back yard.

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.  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.
     Tuesday, Sept, 15:  Toledo Botanic Garden presentation.  Details coming. 

Lovely Local Gardens
     I was fortunate to be able to visit the lovely country garden of Sue Ann Steed in Redkey, IN.  A lover of hostas, Sue Ann has been gardening here for 62 years, “hopefully improving it a little bit by bit each year, although this year has been an exceptional challenge with all the rain.”  Her gardens didn’t seem to be suffering at all, but rather enjoying the consistent moisture. 


The hostas were glorious, and the numerous other varieties of plants seemed content to be part of such a special garden.


Sue Ann creates charming vignettes here and there throughout the garden, using statuary, planters and interesting plants.  Stone paths wind through some areas, while grassy swaths allow easy walking through others.
     This large pond is filled with gorgeous “Colorado” water lilies and dozens of very happy fish and frogs.  The abundant boulders came from a neighbor who works in excavation and brings her any “really good rocks” that he uncovers.  She and her husband laid all the stone paving and walkways, plus a low stone wall around the patio that looks like it has been there forever.


The Daylily garden fills an area near a wrought iron gazebo, where colorful honeysuckle winds up the posts.  Here and there in sunnier areas of the gardens plantings of roses enhance the color scheme.  Sue Ann faces the challenge that many rural gardeners have… plant death from agricultural spray drift.  She wanted a more enclosed look, so years ago she planted evergreens along the back edge, but spray killed them.  She tried again with lilacs a little further from the field, but one by one they are dying, too.  Personally, I liked the openness of the view, but I certainly understand her concern over drift.  It’s something I am contemplating with the location of my new garden.
     I hope to be able to return in the spring, because Sue Ann fills the garden with early bulbs, whose fading foliage is quickly hidden by the emerging hostas.

More GWA Michigan: The final day
     It was another perfectly beautiful day in west-central Michigan, sunny, and mid-70’s with a gentle breeze.  I was up early, because I wanted to visit the Holland, MI Farmers’ Market before our first session. There were lots of booths selling plants, and even some selling wreaths made of peppergrass, which we consider a weed.

The market was larger than I expected, with a huge variety of vendors.  There was a surprising array of vegetables, considering the earliness of the season. 

I loved the radish “tree” and the tables filled with strawberries, baby potatoes in many colors, rhubarb, beets, asparagus, and as many salad greens as you can find in a seed catalog!  There were booths selling baked goods, fudge, hand-dipped chocolates, maple syrup, honey in a variety of flavors, and more.  Vendors selling goat milk soaps, herbal teas, and bath salts were present, as well as a few booths that I don’t normally find, like a booth selling gourmet smoked bones for dogs that seemed to be doing quite well with pet owners.  Every dog visiting the market gradually led their owners to that location.  I wish I’d had longer to browse, but our first destination was a short drive away, and began at 8:30.

I met Chris Hansen several years ago at a GWA event, and once you’ve met Chris, you never forget him.  He has boundless energy and enthusiasm, an infectious smile and the ability to remember names….not just plant names, but people names, too.  Chris is the sedum king, the breeder of the Dazzleberry series and others. 

We met at Garden Solutions, his succulent greenhouses, where we were served a bounty of breakfast goodies and encouraged to wander along his newly planted rock garden.  It didn’t take much encouragement, because as plant people, we all immediately recognized that this rock garden contained some plants we’d never seen before.  Chris has spent years breeding beautiful plants and he has some beauties that will be coming on the market soon.  I took lots of photos and made a new “wish list.”  Then he led us into the greenhouses, where all the propagation takes place.

Chris’ newly released project is hen and chicks, which he is marketing under the trade name “Chick Charms.”  His collection began with over 400 varieties, shown here.  By careful selection and breeding, he has introduced this delightful, hardy grouping.  Keep watching, as each spring there will be a “newly hatched” batch.
     Then we were allowed to visit his other breeding projects, but I can’t show you his work, because no cameras were allowed and we were sworn to secrecy.  Let’s just say we all begged and pleaded for his “rejects.”  He thinks they are about 4-5 years away from hitting the market.  I can’t wait!  And then he took us to an area near the parking lot filled with flats of gorgeous sedums and sempervivems and said “Help yourself! These need to go away.”  He didn’t need to repeat it.  GWA members are known plant hogs.  A sweet little “Blue Elf” sedum, along with several other plants to keep him company, managed to find its way to my truck.


Chris also partners with Mary Walters to form “Great Garden Plants,” a mail order nursery that offers….. well, great garden plants.  You’ve probably heard of them, since they have a large on-line presence.  We were allowed to stroll through their entire greenhouse to admire the plants and see their packing and shipping area.  And then, Chris announced that we could purchase any plant for $5!  I was so happy that I’d driven my truck rather than my little sports car!  Did I mention in last month’s newsletter that we got lots of free plants from Proven Winners and Walters Gardens as well?  My truck overfloweth, but I managed to squeeze in a new hosta, wisteria, heuchera, buddleia, and a few gorgeous primulas for my collection.
     We had one more garden to visit, but unfortunately, my GPS wouldn’t recognize the address, so I had to console myself with a few more garden center visits.  Did I mention that west-central Michigan seems to have a great garden center just around every corner?  In this case, it was just down the hill and around the corner from Chris’ place.


W & W Garden Center was having a big sale.  It is definitely worth a stop even when there isn’t a sale, but it was my lucky day.  I found two new luscious daylilies that fit my color scheme for the new garden, and more primulas for the new shade area.

     I’d heard of  Countryside Greenhouse  in Appleton, and since it was only a short drive away, I decided I’d make one last garden center visit.  This is the epitome of the big-box garden center, and I have to say I just didn’t like it.  There were big displays, “big” being an understatement, of various plants, but not much selection overall. 


There were massive displays of pottery.  If you want to walk miles and miles in search of a collection of plants to put in a container, then this is the place to get some exercise.  The only thing that surprised me was this display of gallon-sized plants of horseradish, priced at $4.99 each.  That seemed like the best deal in the place, but since I already have a bed of horseradish, I came away without being tempted to buy a single plant.  
     By then, I was ready to head straight home with my plant bounty, and again mentally thanked my old friend, Jim Wilson of TV’s “Victory Garden” who years ago encouraged and sponsored me to be a member of GWA.

In the garden:
     Cut off daylily seed stalks.  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.
     Be sure to feed hanging baskets, containers and window boxes.  The 3-month time release fertilizer and regular fertilizers will have been “washed out” with all the rain we’ve had, so they are hungry.
      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!
      Seed ornamental cabbages and kales for fall beauty.
     Plant late crops of green beans.  I just planted two varieties last week, and will continue to refill the space formerly used by peas, lettuces, beets, etc. as I harvest them.
      My garlic turned brown and the leaves have shriveled, so I’ve already  harvested.  Now it is in a single layer on screens, curing on the porch where it is shaded and dry, and has good ventilation.  It needs to cure for at least 4-6 weeks.
     Prune lavender into tidy mounds (you can take 1/3 of the foliage)  just after it finishes blooming.  If you don’t cut off flower heads, the plant will seed and crowd the mother plant, reducing ventilation and causing problems.
     Cilantro seeds will soon 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 this autumn.

Did you know:
*Some orchards in upstate New York that formally relied on rented commercial honeybees have discovered they have adequate pollination from native “wild” bees.  They identified over 100 species of bees working their flowers.  Researchers say this is good news for food security.
*The biggest “winners” at the California spring trials were new varieties of marigolds, coleus, nemisias and bidens.  Look for them in stores next spring.
*A new pink-white-green variegated leaf milkweed called “Monarch Promise” will be available next year at many upscale garden centers.

Herb to Know:  Pleurisy Root
     You may have heard of Pleurisy Root.  It is a very trendy herb to grow right now, and demand for it in garden centers is outpacing production.  In olden days, pleurisy root was normally simply collected from the wild, because it grew in abundance wherever there was adequate sun... along roadsides, in wayside areas, around outbuildings and along fence rows.  However, today’s agricultural practices, the continual removal of fence rows, pastures, wild areas, and mowing along roadsides has reduced its appearance.  It was already being reported as scarce in the 1930’s.
     Pleurisy is the inflammation of the two layers that surround the lungs. Normally, these two layers slide easily as the lungs inflate and deflate because a small layer of moisture fills the area between them.  However, sometimes a viral infection, injury, or other disease (such as cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, etc.) can cause the moisture to disappear and the result is like two pieces of sandpaper rubbing, producing a very painful burning sensation with each breath.  Or, the opposite can happen and there is a build-up of fluid between the two layers of pleura, which creates pressure and inhibits the inflation of the lungs making breathing difficult.
     Native Americans used Pleurisy Root for a variety of ailments, and when European settlers came, they quickly adopted the plant into their medicinal arsenal.   Shakers suggested it was helpful for not only pleurisy, but flatulency, indigestion, asthma, coughs, and dysentery.   Taken internally, the herb promoted perspiration (which was thought to reduce fluid in the body) and expectoration (the discharge of mucus.)  It was also used externally for bruises, rheumatism, and swellings.  However, there has not been much evidence that Pleurisy Root is effective for any of these medical conditions, and it is seldom listed in most modern herbal texts except occasionally as a treatment for warts.
     So what is Pleurisy Root?  It’s Asclepias tuberosa, or Butterflyweed.  It’s a member of the Asclepias family, named for the Greek physician Aesculapius, or for the Roman god Apollo’s son Asclepius, who was the father of two daughters, Panakis and Hygeia (transmitted to English that’s Panacea and Hygiene!  Quite a medicinal genealogy!)  Another folk name for it is Chiggerweed, because apparently chiggers love to live on it.   It’s recognized value today is that Asclepias is the only plant family that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on, and the main food for monarch caterpillars.   Many other species of butterflies enjoy it, too.    
    In addition, the leaves of all Asclepias (and there are 140 species) contain Cardiac glycosides in their milky sap which are poisonous to many living creatures, but the monarch caterpillars can devour the leaves without harm.  The glycosides stay in their bodies and make them poisonous to predators not only in the caterpillar stage, but also through their life as an adult butterfly.  Common Milkweed (Asclepias  syriaca) and the other members of the Asclepias family all have these glycosides, but Pleurisy Root has the showy orange flowers that make it a valuable plant in the garden.  Interestingly, the flower nectar and pollen do not contain glycosides, so bees, beneficial wasps, moths, and other species of butterflies are not harmed when they feed on the plant.  Only the monarch caterpillars eat the leaves.
     Consider adding Pleurisy Root to your garden for the monarchs.  It’s easy to grow once it gets established.  Just mark it well, because it is a very slow riser and oftentimes gardeners forget it is there or suspect it has died, and dig it out before new growth appears.  This year, many of my plants did not show themselves until mid-June, so be patient.  It is a hardy perennial, only requiring sunshine and adequate drainage.  It has a fleshy tuber-like root that can rot over the winter if the area is too soggy for too long.  Also be aware that this tuberous root is very long, making it difficult to successfully dig and move the plant once it is established.  It normally grows about 24” tall.  It is normally grown from seed, but I’ve also done it from cuttings.  Plant breeders have come up with “Hello Yellow” which is a brilliant golden yellow form of Pleurisy Root.  They’ve also added the “Silky” series of Asclepias curassavica which may have bright orange, bright yellow, or scarlet flowers and Asclepias incarnata “Cinderella” in deep rose or “Ice  Ballet” in pure white.  Note that these last two, along with Common Milkweed can reach 4-6’ in height.

Recipe:  Savory Dandelion Greens
     This is my adaptation of a recipe that appeared in the Indy Star last spring.  Be certain the dandelion greens used have not been sprayed or treated with any chemical.  You could substitute spinach, kale, or turnip greens.
Wash, drain and towel dry 8 c. dandelion greens.  Snip into bite-sized pieces.  Place 3 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add 1 c. diced onion, ½ c. finely diced garlic scapes (or 1 minced clove garlic) and 2 c. sliced mushrooms.  Sauté just until onions are tender.  Add ½ c. broth, stock, or water, 1 can cannellini beans, and prepared dandelion greens.  Stir.  Cover and simmer until beans are warm through and dandelions are wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with savory vinegar(or apple cider, or other herb vinegar.)   Serve with grated Parmesan sprinkled liberally on top.  Makes 4 servings.

Hope to see many of you at my upcoming events.  Meanwhile, enjoy every bit of sunshine,  harvest and enjoy those herbs growing in your garden, or find some at your local farmers’ markets.  Too soon winter will send us back indoors!  

Herbal blessings, Carolee