Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters November 2018 Newsletter
November 2018 Newsletter Print E-mail


 November E-Newsletter 2018

November is the month for giving thanks…to our veterans for our freedoms, thanks for the changing of the seasons, for our families, for the bounty of the harvest.  November is a busy month in the gardens, planting bulbs, trimming frozen stalks, digging dahlias, storing away statuary and summer furniture, and removing all weeds that have dared to show themselves.  The gardens have been tidied and 1000 bulbs were planted.  A new poly tunnel was erected over a thriving bed of spinach and additional rows of garlic were planted, so the potager is ready for winter.  Tender plants have been moved indoors and all the pots and flats have been stored.  The first seed catalogs arrived about the same time as the first snow flakes, so some comfy time has been spent studying the new offerings and making lists for next year’s gardens.   Some fun time was spent adding the snowmen, ribbons and garlands to the potager’s fence.  And, we visited our daughter and son-in-law during the Thanksgiving holiday.  All in all, it was a happy month.

Mark your calendar:
     Valparaiso Garden Show:  always an annual favorite will not be held in 2019, but look for it again in January, 2020!

    Indiana Hort Congress:  Feb. 12-14.  This is a super show for anyone involved in farm markets or commercial crop production, wine, agri-tourism, food safety, and organic or greenhouse growing.  Attend the entire conference, or go for 1 day.  The trade show is worth seeing for packaging, production machinery, wholesale seeds, irrigation equipment, etc.   Schedule and registration available at at Indy Marriott East.

     Philadelphia Flower Show:  March 2-10, 2019.  Established in 1829, this amazing show quickly became the largest indoor display in the world, covering 10 acres with gardens and garden-related displays.  This year’s theme is “Flower Power.”  Tickets can be purchased on-site, but book your hotel room now to get one within walking distance.

 Indiana Flower & Patio Show:  March 9-17, 2019 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds
     Chicago Flower & Garden Show:  March 14-18 at the Navy Pier.  “Every Garden has a Story to Tell” is the theme, with 20 major gardens and dozens of vendors, speakers, seminars, and more.

Kentuckiana Spring Herb Symposium:  Saturday, March 30.  Always a great event.  Mark your calendar now!

     HSCI Herb Symposium:  Saturday, April 10.  Fabulous event!  Mark your calendar now.  More info upcoming in future newsletters.

1.  Keep collecting leaves and mulch to apply to beds once the ground has frozen.
2.  Several varieties of rosemary are currently in bloom.  I love to tuck rosemary sprigs into napkin rings to make the dining area smell delicious.  And, I always make cranberry-rosemary muffins for the holidays.   
3.  My amaryllis bulbs have been resting since the first frost, so it’s time to trim the brown leaves off, repot if needed, and give them a weak fertilizer tea and a sunny location.  I start a couple each week, so I’ll have plants in bloom during the bleakest part of winter.  If you don’t already have bulbs, they are readily available this time of year, so gift yourself, or someone you love!
4.  Clip sprigs of horehound, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and bedstraw for embellishing the crèche scene.  Simply place them in flattened balls of clay to form small bushes and put sprigs in the manger.
5. Think about giving live plants to those on your shopping list.  Science reports that those who have plants and flowers in view heal more quickly, have a better outlook on life, have less depression, and are less stressed than those who don’t.  Who doesn’t need that?!?!

Herb to Know:  Camphor
     There are many herbal trees and shrubs that are familiar, such as witch hazel, sassafras, willow, elder, and yew but some are more exotic and unfamiliar.  On our recent trip to Florida, I was delighted to finally get to see a camphor tree (Cinnamonomumcamphora) and not just any spindly specimen but a gorgeous 100 plus-year-old tree.   This beauty was planted in 1900 by Harry Leu, and not just one, but an entire allee!  
     As you may have noticed from the Latin name, the camphor tree is a relative of the cinnamon tree, and also cousins of the bay tree and sassafras.  The tree produces a valuable yellow resin and oil, which have a long tradition of medicinal use, especially for skin irritations and cold sores, often combined with beeswax to form a salve or with olive oil as a cold medicine and even more importantly, an insect repellent.You may have even used “Campho-phenique” a common, over-the-counter remedy.  In addition, the wood is considered to be excellent lumber and was often used, like cedar, as an insect-repelling storage chest for woolens and other fabrics, or to line closets.
     Camphor trees are native to the warmer parts of China, Japan and was imported and now grows in southern parts (Zones 8-10) of the U.S.  As you can see from the photo, if happy, it can grow 50-100 feet in height and quite wide, creating a lovely shade in these hot climates.  Happily, it produces yellow blossoms that have a lovely scent and are useful for potpourri.  The pretty, bright green glossy leaves, when crushed, produce an even more heady perfume that will help clear the head.  Surprisingly, although beneficial and attractive, camphor trees are seldom grown because they are now considered invasive.  I’m glad the camphor trees shown I saw are preserved as historical specimens.

“Ribbit Exhibit”
It was such a delight to spend some sunny days in Florida, and especially fun to experience the “Ribbit Exhibit” at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.  Having just read “The Sixth Extinction,” which delves into the massive disappearance of the majority of the earth’s amphibians, especially frogs, an exhibit highlighting frogs was a special delight.

The imposing Welcome Center announces that visitors have come to a special place.  The Leu Gardens are spread over 50 acres, with easily navigated paths that entice visitors through a tropical rain forest, Florida’s largest rose garden, a butterfly garden


idea gardens, an enormous collection of camellias, woodlands, a color garden, a white garden, a small cottage vegetable garden, various colorful borders, a bird garden,  and an herb garden and some of the largest bamboo I’ve ever seen


  There is also a collection of palm trees, an arid garden, and a collection of cycads.  Several of the outer walks have been designated “Heart Healthy Walking Paths” and there are programs sponsored by the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to encourage exercise for all ages.  But, if you need a short rest, there are many appealing seating options throughout the gardens where one can relax and listen to bird song and watch butterflies dance.

     Naturally, the majority of planting throughout the garden is typical tropical varieties.  Things we definitely cannot see outdoors in Indiana in November, like the ferns growing wildly all along the branches of this beautiful oak, or these pretty ground orchids. 


         Or trees hanging with Spanish moss  or this beautiful floral clock, but it was certainly a lovely setting for these whimsical sculptures.  An excellent map guided visitors through the gardens, as well as along a beautiful lake.  There were 26 sculptures in all, arranged in 18 displays,that took you through the beautiful gardens, beginning with “Winston, the Greeter Frog.”

 Each of the sculptures had a sign bearing its name, like “Big Zen”   and “Digger Smith,


“Henry Potter,” and “Melvin the Mowing Frog.”

  These “Little Leapers” just made you want to join in, as did the “Ribbitsville Ramblers” folk band. 


You may have noticed they had a guest singer.

    I loved the “Dance of the Little Swans” and “Tango…the Dance of Love.”

     “Pecos Straight” and “Frog on a Bicycle” were very appealing,


as were “The Hedge Frog” and busily working in the vegetable garden, “The Watering Frog.”

     “Espress Yourself” was a clever title for this interactive work, and the “Garden Belle” was such fun, where Belle’s transparent metal skirt allowed her skinny little frog legs to show just a bit.


  Here’s “Wallace and Grommet” enjoying one of the heart-healthy walking paths.

     “The Lookout” stared across the lake, which was lovely, with its cypress-kneed shoreline,


while nearby “The Thinker” pondered….well, your guess is as good as mine. 

The sculptures are the work of artist J.A. Cobb of Wilmington, NC.  Wouldn’t it have been fun to watch them come to life?
     The garden offers a variety of classes that make me wish I lived closer, or could visit lots longer!  “Drawing Trees in Plen Air,” “Landscape Photography,” “Tuscan Cooking,” “Winter Vegetable Gardening,” “Growing Orchids,” “Beekeeping,” “Basketry,” “Irish Soups and Broths,” “Aromatherapy,” “Jelly Making,” “Holiday Breads from Around the World,” and many, many more were just some of the offerings for November.  There are special classes for children, including “Frog Robot Building!”
     Do put this garden on your bucket list!  I’ll certainly return, especially to browse through their extensive gift shop!

Lemon Liqueur
The lemon verbena moved indoors for the winter is dropping its leaves and the lemon grass is taking too much space and needs trimming, so it’s a good time to make this delicious liqueur now for holiday gifting, or celebrating the New Year.  Sipping this “limencello” brings back memories of summer during the long winter months.
Carefully peel the yellow skin from two lemons, avoiding the white bitter part.  Place peel in 1 pt. vodka with a handful of lemon herbs.  Shake daily for three days.  Meanwhile, make a simple syrup of 1 c. sugar and 1 c. boiling water, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Place in a large jar with a handful of lemon herbs (lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon scented geraniums are best).  Seal and shake daily for at least two weeks.  Strain. Sip as is, mix with sparkling water or prosecco, or for a cocktail, mix 1 part lemon vodka and 1 part lemon herb syrup.  Serve at room temperature, or over ice.  

If you are interested in making “Herbal Hot Buttered Rum” please visit my blog at to see a recent post and get instructions.

Tasty Toast Cups
     I developed this recipe for “Herbal Beginnings” and now use it for holiday entertaining.  Make the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.  Toast cups can also be made ahead, finishing the recipe to serve warm from the oven to hungry guests!
With biscuit cutter, cut 24 circles of whole wheat bread, avoiding crusts.  Flatten with palm of hand or rolling pin.  Press each circle into a miniature muffin tin cup that has been sprayed or brushed lightly with olive oil.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, open 1-3 oz. can smoked oysters, draining oil into a skillet.  Lightly chop the oysters and set aside.  Add to skillet and sauté ¾ c. onion, chopped; 1 clove garlic, minced; and 1/3 c. chopped green pepper; just until tender.  Add ½ c. chopped tomato, freshly ground pepper, dash of salt, the chopped smoked oysters; 3 T. chopped parsley, and ½ tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh).   Cook just until moisture is absorbed.  Remove from heat.  Spoon mixture into toast cups.  Sprinkle with grated Swiss cheese.  Return to oven and bake just until cheese melts.  Makes 24.

November has ended, but it was filled with blessings.  I hope your holidays as the days of 2018 speed by are filled with happiness, and of course, lots of

Herbal Blessings, Carolee