Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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June 2016 E-Newsletter Print E-mail


My last show

June E-Newsletter 2016

The year is half over!  My goodness, it’s gone fast!  June has been a very busy month, with shows and travels, plus lots of time in the garden.  I’ve been making lots of elderflower syrup and drying elderflowers for teas, freezing peas, snow peas, broccoli, and strawberries.  This week, I’ll harvest calendula petals for teas and ointments.  The lavenders are ready to harvest, and I’ve been putting mulch on new paths and doing lots of planting.  My very last show was this month, at the state Master Gardeners’ conference in West Lafayette.  I did a happy dance afterwards.  Loading and unloading trucks is no longer fun, and I’d rather save my back and knees for gardening.  I will still speak and do book signings, but I’ll only take a few items, not truckloads.
Upcoming Events:

Patti Beck’s Garden Party:  Saturday, June 25 & Sunday 26th, 9-5
     This annual party is a unique opportunity to see an artist’s garden and studio.  Plus Patti puts many items of her pottery on sale.  6277 N. 400 W. Sharpsville, IN.  It’s just off  Hwy 26 at the overpass for 31.  Turn east onto 200E, which becomes 400W.  Just look for all the cars on the east side of the road.

HSA Central District Gathering: Aug. 12 & 13
     I’ll be speaking on the herbal stillroom and signing books at this annual gathering, this year to be held in Waukesha, WI.  HSA members should check the calendar of events on the website, or read your district newsletter for more information.

My Visit with Author, Sue Grafton

If you enjoy reading mysteries, then no doubt you are familiar with Sue Grafton, the author of the Alphabet Mystery series.  Beginning with “A is for Alibi,” “B is for ,Sue is currently working on “Y.” As you can see from the photo, I took a copy of “U is for Undertow” with me to be signed.  I asked her many questions about the writing process, and she was extremely open and helpful.  It was interesting to hear that even after thirty books, she still has a little voice that chides, “No one will want to read that!” She shares my belief in journaling, both as a way to record the writing process, research, and life, but for its healing qualities.  Sue says, “When we write our fears and problems, it makes them more  manageable.” For a world-famous author, she was unassuming, funny, and totally charming.  Sue was a gracious hostess, allowing me to wander through her lovely home. 


Picture the Lily Mansion, but without the front portico.  They were built about the same time (1912) and in fact, the original landscape plan was done by John Olmstead, the nephew of Frederick Law Olmstead.  It is one of the few remaining estates (28 acres) along the river overlooking the city that has not been snapped up by developers.  As a native to the area, Sue was eager to rescue the historic home 16 years ago and return it to its glory, although it required years of work.  Former owners had put cheap fake pine paneling on the walls, covering some of the windows! As beautiful as the house was, however, of course I was more interested in the gardens, which are largely the work of her partner, Stephen Humphrey. 


As we walked toward this garden entrance, he explained the work began with rescue, as the gardens were totally overgrown and covered with invasive vines.  This impressive old fountain was almost hidden and required extensive restoration. 


The extensive parterre gardens were impossible to walk through, because the boxwoods had totally grown together.  Patience and endless hours of clipping have restored them to the beauty you see here. 


Stephen and Sue found the Four Season statues and made them the centerpoints of the four rectangular beds.  

After Sue’s complaint that all of his gardens required being in the sun, he designed and planted this lovely, shaded Secret Garden for her to enjoy during breaks from her writing. 

And, he planted a kitchen garden near the back door, when she remarked that the original cook’s garden near the carriage house was a long way to go for a bit of parsley.  Choosing  that particular shade of blue paint for the raised beds and the posts that support climbing plants was Sue’s contribution to the design.He and I talked a lot about critter control, and I gave him a bottle of Bt that I just happened to have in my truck when I saw his caterpillar-eaten kale.  Stephen is currently working on a new fragrance garden, although since they live half the year in southern California and half the year in Louisville, it is an ongoing project.  I can’t thank them enough for sharing their home and gardens.  Despite being a successful, world-famous author, Sue is unpretentious and approachable.  It was an experience of a life-time!

Louisville Garden Tour


June’s trip to Louisville included visits to garden centers and gardens.  My first stop was Wallitsch Garden Center, a family-operated business since 1946.  I thought it was sweet that these plaques are the first thing visitors see as they enter, honoring the parents who founded the business. 


The second sight is the new “Pollinators’ Garden” that was just planted, but was already attracting a number of butterflies.  I roamed the aisles and aisles of plants, which all looked happy and healthy, and the little shop had an adorable assortment of items, especially lots of accessories for miniature gardens.


Next stop was Plant Kingdom.  Unfortunately, the skies decided to open with a deluge, so it was hard to hold both the camera and the umbrella!  I was really impressed by the variety of plant material and garden accessories.  Their selection of succulents was delightful, and there was an entire room devoted to terrarium plants, with lots of ideas for making terrariums and a helpful staff if one was clueless. 


I loved all the topiaries, both these and several larger shrub topiaries in another area.  I also loved their selection of terra cotta pots and sculptures, which is much more extensive than this photo indicates.  If you go to Louisville, it is definitely the place for plants and garden goodies.

Many of you are familiar with Thieneman’s, another family-operated business that provided wholesale herbs for other garden centers throughout the Midwest, and retail plants in the Louisville area.  They closed last August, but Peggy Thienemann opened a new retail greenhouse this spring in nearby Cox’s Creek, bringing her years of experience in growing herbs, vegetables, and flowers.  As you can see, the selection of herbs is outstanding, and this cabbage growing in a pot was not only happy, but huge! 


Next was a visit to Yew Dell Botanical Garden in Crestwood, Ky.  Originally the farm of a plant geek, Theodore Klein, who collected and bred shrubs and trees beginning in 1941, it was established as a public garden in 1998.  In 2012, it was chosen by Horticulture Magazine as one of the top 10 destination gardens in the U.S.! 


Visitors will discover a wide range of plant material in tasteful gardens, which I found very calming and restful. 


There are wide vistas with inviting, comfy rockers and tempting walks.

Brian’s Botanicals is a father-son hort business.  The father specializes in beautiful landscape plants, like these shrubs, and the offerings are very extensive.  The son’s love is tropical plants, from big bananas to tiny orchids and everything in between. 


While a bit chaotic and difficult to browse, if you know what rare ginger plant you want, they will have it and be glad to find it for you, and provide knowledgeable cultural information.

Bernheim Arboretum is much older, the vision of Isaac Bernheim who purchased 12,000 eroded, logged-out acres to establish a place where Nature could thrive and people could find peace and learn about Nature.  More than 200,000 people visit each year, and it is easy to see why, with their extensive calendar of events and learning opportunities. During my visit, there was a display of endangered trees from throughout the world, with signage to explain where they were normally found, why they were important, and why they are almost extinct.  It was very enlightening.  Of course, there are gardens. 


The highlight is the new Edible Garden that is all raised beds.  Everything at Bernheim is ecologically sound and first-rate.  There are miles of trails, with a great guide stating their difficulty level, distance, and approximate walking time.  In addition, there is a little café and a great gift shop.

Herb to Know:  St. Johnswort
     The month of June is when the St. Johnswort’s star-shaped bright yellow blooms appear, usually opening with the summer solstice.  Since early Christian times, there has been a link between St. John the Baptist, whose saint day is June 24, the summer solstice, and the plant that was named for him.  In the 16th century, the summer solstice was celebrated with bonfires, often called St. John fire, music and dancing.  Wreaths made of St. Johnswort were woven and worn about the head during the celebrations.  Afterwards, pieces of the charred wood and ashes from the special fire were kept as good luck.  Ashes were sprinkled on fields to ensure a good harvest.  A piece of charred wood from the bonfire was put over the doorway of stables to keep livestock healthy, and over the homes’ entries to bring health and luck to its inhabitants.
     St. Johnswort (Hypericumperforatum) is a shrubby perennial growing 1-3’ tall, depending upon the amount of sunlight.  In shadier locations, it stretches.  Mine is in full sun and usually stays about 2’.  The leaves are oblong, medium green, and when held up to the sunlight one can see that they appear to have tiny holes, thus giving the plant its “perforatum” name.  It is as though fairies stuck their swords through the leaves time and time again.  The “holes” are actually translucent glands that contain oil. The plant can be propagated from runners at the base in autumn and by seed.  
     The plant’s flowers were often used as a dye, yielding beige with alum and violet-red with alcohol.  In addition, the flowers were infused in oil as a medicinal.Surprisingly, when picked and steeped in oil, the yellow petals turn the oil red.  This oil has been used (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much so) as a treatment for bruises, varicose veins, ulcers, anxiety, depression, snakebite, and sunburn.  The flowers have also been used as a tea for anemia, reducing pain, rheumatism, and nerves.
     More recently, a tincture of the flowers has been used to treat mild depression.  The active compound, hypericin, has been shown in clinical studies to significantly improve anxiety and depression with few side effects.   It has also been shown to help insomnia. However, caution should be used, especially if taken internally, as some believe St. Johnswort to be unsafe.  It should definitely not be used during pregnancy.  Usage does cause photo-dermatitis in most people.
     That being said, I have often used a lotion made with a mixture of calendula petals, St. Johnswort flowers, and elder leaves for bruises, sprains, and other minor wounds like stings.  And, James Duke, noted herbal authority, suggests a tea made with the dried flowers (1 t. per cup of boiling water) taken twice a day for 4-6 weeks is beneficial for mild depression.  People taking St. Johnswort should avoid alcoholic beverages, amphetamines, and narcotics.

Recipe: Warm Snow Pea Salad
We are being inundated with snow peas!  Next year, I won’t plant as many kinds and I’ll space the plantings better, because we can only eat stir-fry so often.  I’ve blanched some for the freezer, but we still have too many snow peas!  So, here’s a salad that we really enjoy.  It’s gone through several revisions, and may have more, but here’s the current recipe.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté ¼ c. sliced shallots (or scallions or garlic scapes!) in 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil for about 5 min.  Add 2 c. snow peas and ½ c. thinly sliced radishes.  Stir occasionally and cook gently for another 5 min.  Add ¼ c. lemon (or lime) juice, a bit of lemon (or lime) zest, a dash of salt, a grind of pepper.  Serves 2.

Enjoy the final few days of June, and begin making plans for the 4th of July.  The summer is whizzing by, so be sure to take time to observe the beauty of plants, harvest the beneficial, fragrant herbs, be dazzled by the bounty of flowers in your garden.  Life is short; make the most of it!  

Herbal blessings, Carolee