Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters April 2019 Newsletter
April 2019 Newsletter Print E-mail


 April E-Newsletter 2019

     I love April….the grass returns to green, early flowers and trees bloom, the bees become active and life in the garden returns!  It’s also the month to celebrate some of my favorite things:  National Gardening Month, National Frog Month,        And hasn’t April just been fun, with snow and temperatures well below normal at the beginning, and the soaring to the upper 70’s by mid-month.  It’s been too wet to mow and fields are muddy, but every day I give thanks for my lovely raised beds, which allow me to plant, plant, plant throughout the month!  I’ve even risked planting some of my favorite beans, Royal Burgundy, which can tolerate cooler, moist soils in case Mother Nature turns it cool again.  The potager is already producing early crops (radishes, lettuce, spinach, radicchio, bunching onions, and various herbs) and I’m planting more crops every day.  The brassicas are growing by leaps and bounds; the berry rows are leafing out nicely and the gooseberries and strawberries are nearly ready to bloom.  So far, I’ve transplanted 3850 seedlings that began life in my basement or greenhouse!
Upcoming Events:
Tippecanoe Co. Garden Expo:  Saturday, April 27
     This is a huge show, with dozens of plant, bulb and seed vendors plus all things garden related.  9am-3pm.  Tippecanoe Co.  Fairgrounds 1406 Teal Rd. West. Free admission. Make-It/Take It workshops for fee. Speakers.

Indiana Organic Gardeners Assoc. Annual Plant Auction:  Saturday, April 27.   
Plants, books, and garden items donated by members will be up for bids. Seedlings for many different tomato varieties will be available as well as perennials. The auction begins at 12:45 p.m. Free and open to the public, everyone invited. Cool Creek Park Nature Center, 2000 E. 151st Street, Carmel. Contact Margaret at 317-698-0526 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit for further information.

Perennial Premiere at Newfields:  Saturday & Sunday, April 27 & 28  
  Saturday: Exclusive for Newfields’ member hours 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. General Public hours 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.Sunday: Plant clearance open to all 11:00 3:00.  Newfields, 4000 N Michigan Road, Indianapolis.

Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Plant Sale:  Monday, April 29 to Saturday, May 11.  Featuring native plants, annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetable plants (including heirloom varieties) hanging baskets and beautiful planters of all sizes. Pay with cash or check; sorry, no credit cards. Proceeds benefit students in the ISBVI Horticulture Program. Weekdays noon to 5:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; closed Sundays. Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 7725 N. College Avenue, Indianapolis. For more info call 317-253-1481 x207 or visit

Hancock Co. Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale:  Friday, May 3& 4, 8am-6pm
     Perennials and vegetable plants are featured.  Gently used garden tools and supplies, garden questions answered.Hancock Co. Fairgrounds, 620 Apple St., Greenwood.

Johnson Co. Garden Club Fair:  Saturday, May 4th,    
Over 50 vendors, speakers all day.  Johnson Co. Fairgrounds, Franklin, IN 9a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door. Breakfast and lunch will be available for purchase. For questions, contact jcgardenclub@gmail.comor call 317-346-7316.

Putnam Co. Annual Plant Auction:  Saturday, May 11th
    Preview time begins 9:15.  Auction of perennials, annuals, herbs, houseplants and shrubs begins at 10 a.m.  Harris Hall, Putnam Co. Fairgrounds, 191 US231, Greencastle.

Indiana Native Plant Society Plant Sale & Auction:  Saturday, May 11  
INPS members will be on hand to answer questions on native plants and help customers shop. Pre-sale presentation by INPS president Ellen Jacquart, “Selling Invasive Plants in Indiana—Not Just a Bad Idea, It’s Now Illegal,” starts at 9:30 a.m. for a $10 fee. The fee entitles ticket holders to hear the talk, begin shopping 15 minutes before the general public, and receive a $10 discount on any auction purchase. Plant sale and book sale open 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Live auction begins at 11:15 and continues until every general sale plant is sold. Park Tudor School, Upper Gymnasium, 7200 N. College Avenue, Indianapolis IN 46240 (use the 71st Street entrance)

Trowel & Error Garden Club Plant Sale:  Sat, May 18, 8-1
     Join my local garden club for its annual plant sale, held at the Historical Museum in Hartford City (corner of Kickapoo &  High, follow the signs) You’ll find interesting houseplants, lots of tomato & pepper plants as well as other vegetables and herbs, reliable perennials, gently used garden goodies, and more at ridiculously low prices!

Cincinnati Garden Tour with Friends of Holliday Park:  June 13-14
Join Friends of Holliday Park on June 13-14 for this unique opportunity to visit some of the most spectacular gardens in Cincinnati. Horticulturist Chris Turner will lead an unforgettable tour of historic gardens, specialty nurseries, and eight exclusive private gardens rarely open to the public. Highlights include Krohn Conservatory, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and Spring Grove Cemetery. Contact Adam Barnes (Friends of Holliday Park Executive Director) at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 317-475-9482 for cost and more information.

Recap of HSCI Spring Symposium
     As always, the Herb Society of Central Indiana hosted a terrific event.  The fairground’s building was decorated with the colors of the 2019 Herb of the Year: Anise Hyssop, so green, blue and purple covered the tables and gift bags. 

Pretty floral centerpieces graced the front tables and entries.

  The silent auction was huge and very popular.

  The wooden rabbit holding the yellow bucket filled with anise hyssop syrup, a “Golden Jubilee” anise hyssop plant and various other items was one of my donations, and just one of dozens of fun entries.  The food was terrific, and the speakers were quite varied in topics. 

Various vendors, including this interesting booth belonging to Jan Powers of Illinois and the extensive plant sale area drew lots of interest.

     I was honored to be invited to speak on the Herb of the Year, and did a brief cooking segment followed by slides of various Agastaches and a question/answer session. 

Later, I signed books and visited with many former customers and good friends.  It was a lovely, sunny day and so special to be surrounded by fellow gardeners and herb lovers. 

Already looking forward to next year, and marked my calendar:  April 11, 2020!  Mark yours as well.  You won’t want to miss this special event!

Free Salads!
If you don’t use harmful chemicals and poisons in your lawn and garden, then you can have some delicious salads for free!  There’s nothing I like better than weeding a garden and gathering a huge bowl of salad greens at the same time!  This week, from the lawn, I gathered purslane, chickweed, violet flowers and leaves, and dandelions.  Thrown in for good measure (and good flavor, too!) were volunteer seedlings of chicory, sorrel, cilantro, mint, anise hyssop, and salad burnet.  I snipped in a few chives, garlic chives, and parsley.  A simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil was all it took to complete a tasty, and I might add, extremely healthy salad.  My paths were clear, my beds weed free, and I didn’t have to cook!  The joys of the garden!  What a giggle!

Herb of the Year:  Anise Hyssop
      It is early still, and much of the garden still slumbers or is slowly waking.  Most gardeners are already feeling the “itch” to plant seeds and play in the dirt, but since that’s always possible we content ourselves with garden planning.  It’s a great time to ponder goals for the garden.
     When time or space is limited, we want to grow the most versatile plants possible,   plants that look good for several weeks rather than only a few days, plants that are useful for more than just foliage or flowers, plants that nurture wildlife and our souls.  And, if that plant is durable, easy to grow, easy to propagate, bothered by few harmful insects, critters and diseases, wonderfully fragrant and can tough it out in a range of locations and soils, it’s even better!
     The plant that fits this description is Agastache, a large and diverse family of aromatic, tidy plants that bloom for months rather than days.  The name comes from the Greek word “agan” or “very much” and “stachys” or “spike.” There are thirty species of Agastache,  however the most familiar family member is Agastache foeniculum, commonly called Anise Hyssop.  This plant has been an essential part of the garden since ancient times.  In colonial gardens, Anise Hyssop was an important tea plant, brewed for its lovely, light licorice flavor.  In Asian gardens, it is a culinary herb often combined with beef or pork.  Today’s chefs use the young leaves in salads and garnish canapés or cocktails with the pretty purple flowers.  Since it is so much easier to grow, Anise Hyssop is often used as a substitute for French Tarragon.  This common name, Anise Hyssop, was given because its tiny flowers tightly-packed on tall, straight numerous stems definitely resemble the more familiar herb hyssop officinalis.

  Anise Hyssop is truly an amazing plant, growing 2-3’ in height.  The attractive foliage is dark green, with dainty, scalloped dark green leaves that impart an anise flavor and scent.  The flowers that appear in early summer are fuzzy purple spikes.  If they are clipped for the kitchen, bouquets, or dried for wreaths and potpourri, the plant will continue to produce blooms until hard freeze!  Until they are harvested, the blooms provide a continual source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, adding a lively dimension to the garden scene.
     This very hardy perennial (Zone 2-9) thrives in average to poor soil, in full sun or light shade.  It is a member of the mint family, as shown by its square stems, but does not travel aggressively by underground roots.  It does self-seed if flowers are allowed to mature and produce seeds, and can also be propagated easily cuttings or by division in early spring.
     Over the years, plant breeders have selected plants so that today’s gardeners have additional choices.  Anise Hyssop is now available with pure white blooms, in addition to lavender-blue to purple.  “Honeybee Blue” is slightly more compact than the old-fashioned anise hyssop, with slightly more blue-toned lavender blooms.  “Honeybee White” has pure white flowers tightly packed on its stalks.

 “Golden Jubilee” Anise Hyssop brings surprisingly lovely golden foliage that sets off its purple blooms, stays shorter than standard anise hyssop, and comes true from seed, retaining its golden foliage.  It is no doubt my favorite agastache.
     There are many other members of the Agastache family that are gems in the garden as well.  Although not all are reliably hardy in freezing zones, nor are they as useful in the kitchen or teapot, they deserve a place in the border for their exciting colors, fragrance, and abundant nectar supplies.  The most well-known of this group is Agastache cana, often called “Hummingbird” Plant, because the hummers just love them!  The foliage is more silvery-gray rather than dark green, and the leaves are generally very narrow.  As this would indicate, these plants are very drought and heat resistant.  The heights vary from 1-4’ in height, depending upon conditions, and the fragrance is a delightful mixture of anise and spice.  What sets these plants apart is the flower color and shape.  Unlike Anise Hyssop, whose blooms are tightly packed tiny tubular flowers at the top of a stiff stem; Agastache cana’s flowers are much larger, more widely spaced on lightly curved stems, and come in an array of “sunrise” colors: coral, rosy-pink, salmon, apricot, lavender-pink, creams, and bright orange.  Most of them are only hardy in Zone 6 or higher, so I prefer to grow them as tender perennials, often in pots that I bring indoors for the winter.  I’ve grown many varieties, from “Purple Pygmy” which should stay about 18” tall, and is known for its really abundant flowers in a deeper rosy-purple than most other A.canasto “TuttiFruitti” with its lavender-pink flowers in abundance that are as sweetly fragrant as the silvery foliage.
     Another stunning Agastache is “Black Adder” whose smokey-purple 2-3’ flower stalks provide a show.  In addition, as the temperatures cool down in early autumn, the foliage also takes on a purple tone.  This one is definitely a Zone 7 plant, but well worth space in the garden, or a large container to lure the hummingbirds closer.
Agastache rupestris is yet another cousin from the south with narrow gray-green foliage.  “Apache Sunrise” has warm apricot-orange-pink tubular blooms with lavender undertones from June to October.  It grows 18-30”.
Agastache mexicana is another of the cousins found in Zones 8-10.  Although it is often called “Mosquito Plant,” research into its oil content finds no reason that it would either attract or repel those pesky little biters!  
     Look for these special plants for all-season pleasure, for both you, the butterflies, and the hummingbirds!     

Pear, Chicory and Anise Hyssop Salad
Perfect for this time of year when dandelions, chicory, and other “free” greens or early spinach, etc. are ready in the gardens!
     For each serving, toast 2 T. chopped almonds in ½ tsp. hot oil in small skillet over high heat.  Stir and watch carefully so they just toast, not burn or blacken.  Set aside to cool.  For each serving place into individual bowl approximately 1 c. washed chicory (you can substitute any green:  dandelion, spinach, romaine, endive, or a mixture but the new-growth chicory is perfect this time of year.)  Add ½ a ripe pear per bowl, sliced and arranged neatly over the greens, and 2 tsp. finely chopped anise hyssop leaves and flowers sprinkled on top.
     Make a dressing (per serving) of 1 ½ T. balsamic vinegar and 2 T. olive oil, whisking well.  Add freshly ground pepper, and pour over salad.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds. You may also add dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds for more color.

Anise Hyssop-Pear Dessert
I invented this recipe for one of my books, originally using pears, but we love it with apricots, peaches, or plums even more!
     Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray an 8”x 8” baking dish with non-stick spray, or butter it lightly.
     In small mixing bowl, melt 1 stick butter or margarine in microwave.  Roll 1 pkg., about 11 rectangles, graham crackers into crumbs.  Combine with butter; 1/3 c. sugar; 1/3 c. flour; ½ tsp. vanilla.  Mix well and press evenly into bottom of baking dish.  Bake 10 min., until it just begins to brown.  Remove from oven.
     Drain a 29 oz. can of pear halves.  Slice fruit lengthwise into ½” slices.  Set aside.
     In small mixing bowl, combine:  8 oz. room-temperature cream cheese; ½ c. sugar; 1 egg; 2 tsp. coarsely ground dried anise hyssop (flowers and/or leaves.  If using fresh, use 2 T.)  Beat until smooth.  Pour over crust.
     Arrange pear slices prettily over top of custard.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.  Bake for 30 min., or just until center seems set.

The month of April is nearly over, and the gardening season is in full swing.  As you work, be sure to take time to enjoy the gorgeous magnolia trees, spring bulbs, the songs of birds, and the wee little insects and shiny rocks you may discover as you work.  Life is beautiful, but you have to take time to notice!  

Herbal blessings, Carolee