June E-newsletter 2012
Lavender Daze Cancelled!
My Recent Travels
Note this comfrey with raspberry, white, and purple blooms!
There were also paths leading to other gardens and displays filled with color and fragrance. I wish I could have read the signs, but I could identify the plants, even though many of them grew much larger than here in the States.
In one building, there was a display of photographs entered in the annual contest celebrating “Spring Snow.” Amsterdam has over 75,000 elms within the city.
Each spring the flat white seeds fall from the trees forming drifts against curbs and buildings. From mid-April until mid-May Amsterdam celebrates this “snowfall” with a series of concerts, parades, and festivities. In addition to the photo contest, there is also a video contest with drifting “snowflakes” set to award-winning music. I watched this year’s winning entry and it was delightful.
Amsterdam is an interesting city, where most people travel by bicycle. In fact there are racks of bikes throughout the city that are free to use. You simply “borrow” one and then return it to another rack near your destination!
Eighty-five bulb companies install their most exquisite bulbs and plants in this 17-acre park to make it one of the most-visited gardens in the world, and rightly so. I took hundreds of photos!
In addition to the open-air gardens, there are buildings containing lavish displays that featured orchids, fashions made from leaves, flowers & other natural materials, such as this one made from egg shells!
Another huge building was filled with fragrant lilies. The intoxicating aroma scented the air even before entering the building! There is also a famous “kitchen courtyard” (the actual translation of “Keukenhof”) filled with beds of bulbs, herbs, fruit trees, and roses within the old walls. Keukenhof was originally the herb farm of one of Holland’s richest women, so it immediately felt at home there! Although the Keukenhof “castle” is modest by European standards, it would make a lovely “country home!” The castle itself is surrounded by gardens that require a separate admission fee. Lots of sculpture and artwork make interesting additions to the gardens.
There is a section of “Inspiration Gardens” and since Poland was the featured country this year, many displays highlighting Polish art, history, and world contributions were sprinkled throughout the grounds. Of course, there were lots of shops containing souvenirs, garden supplies and décor, bulbs and plants. I especially liked this one with rows of flower-filled yellow wooden shoes nailed on the front.
We took a break overlooking a pond with spurting fountain and surrounded by fabulous flower-filled containers, sipping wine and nibbling Dutch Apple Pie. I came away with a long list of bulbs I’ll be looking for, including this darling tulip called “Ice Cream” which really did look like yummy vanilla ice cream in a rosy cone!
We traveled next to Germany, where we visited our daughter’s family, including our granddaughter’s sixth birthday party, the local farmers market, and all of my favorite garden centers in the area. More about that and more of our travels next month.
The elder was in full bloom while we were in Europe. I was delighted to see it in so many gardens. While I was in Meerbusch, Marco at Café Aroma served a delicious drink that was perfect for a hot afternoon that featured elderflower syrup. When I returned home, my elder had blooms, but also many heads that had finished blooming and were beginning to form berries. However, as you can see from the photo I took yesterday, many flowers dropped in the heat/drought so there are few berries per cluster. I’ve decided that with the drought forecasted to continue, I’ll harvest the remainder of my blooming clusters and make elderflowersyrup rather than gamble that I’ll get a harvest of berries, which seems unlikely.
Here’s the recipe I use, which is pretty simple. Use a glass or enamel pan if possible. If not, use a metal pan, but pour it into a glass dish with a cover to “steep.” Carefully pull the white flowers from 12 clusterheads of elder bloom. You just want the flowers, not stems which can be toxic. Prepare the zest and juice of one lemon (or a lime.) Bring 2 c. water and 2 c. sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Turn off the heat and immediately add the flowers, zest & juice, stir and cover quickly. Allow the syrup to “steep” for 3-4 days at room temperature, stirring daily. Strain into a glass jar and refrigerate for up to a month. In Europe, elderflower syrup is easily found at most groceries in pretty bottles at an extraordinary low price. I would have brought home more bottles if I hadn’t already reached my luggage weight limit (and I’d already stuffed as much as possible into David’s!---please don’t ask him about the aromatic purple elder vinegar that broke in his suitcase!)
1. Japanese Beetle traps…it’s time for these destructive pests to hatch. I’ve found 4!
2. 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 disies, 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 the flower buds off garlic plants now…..they are a gourmet delicacy, raw in salads or lightly sautéed as a side dish or in stir-fry. If you don’t cut them off, the plant will use up loads of energy trying to make flowers and seeds rather than making a nice big bulb!
8. 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.
9. 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.
I hope you are taking a few moments to enjoy your herb garden, that you receive gentle
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