Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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 August E-Newsletter 2013

     What a lot of fun I’ve been having since we last talked!  Right after our last e-newsletter, I left for Townsend, TN for the International Herb Conference (see below.)  Of course, I had to make a couple of stops at gardens or garden centers on the way there and back!  Once home, I deadheaded and weeded to make the gardens pretty (like the Children's Garden above) for our Second Saturday Open House (see below.)  And just as August arrived, so did my family from Germany and my daughter from Florida for a 5-day visit.  What a great time we had talking, laughing, playing games, doing puzzles and reading bedtime stories!  We also spent a lot of time driving the golf cart, playing with the hedgehogs, picking elderberries and making jelly, picking blackberries and making pies, picking tomatillas and making salsa verde, and picking purple beans to eat for dinner.  We visited Mounds State Park for a hike and a picnic, spent a day with great-grandma, and went for gelato.  Plus, since my technologically-gifted daughters and son-in-law were here, I thought it was a perfect time to join the 21st century, get a smart-phone and start learning to use it!  All in all, it was a very busy and fun week.  I certainly was sad to see them go after breakfast on Aug. 10, but there was no time to dawdle before our guest speaker arrived a few minutes later (see below.)  That was a fun day, too, and I really thank all of those who came to support the farm.
     After a couple of days weeding, it was time to sort and load for the Wabash Herb Fest. Two days later, I headed to Chicago where I attended the big IGC show trade show and several educational sessions, the GWA regional meeting, and was blessed to be able to spend time with some terrific gardeners. (See more below.)
     That’s the good news.  The bad news is that while I was gone the big computer died so now I’ll have to learn to use a new one, and this newsletter has been delayed.  I’ve just replaced the dead tower with a laptop so I can be more productive while I travel.  I’m attempting to view it as an opportunity to learn and grow, but you all know how much I struggle  learning new techie stuff.  I’d much rather be weeding!
We’re open on Saturday, Sept. 14th!
     Our next “Second Saturday Open House” will be on Saturday, Sept. 14th.   It’s our Culinary Herb Plant Sale.  All culinary herbs will be 20% off, and that includes lemon grass, bay trees, rosemary, lemon verbena, and all other herbs for cooking that you’ll find in the “Culinary” section.  We’ll be open 10-4.  I’ll be doing a couple of presentations, “Making an Herbal Wreath” at 11:00 and 1:00, “Herbs On the Windowsill” at 12:00 and 2:00.  We’ll have a make-it-take it project for you, too! 
     We still have 4 bags of hardneck garlic for planting, and we’ll have a few new herbs that we haven’t offered this year, like licorice sweet flag, cardamom, gotu cola, ashwaganda, dwarf pomegranates, some new mints and more.  Of course, we’ll have some tasty refreshments.  Do remember that there will be no restroom facilities on this date.

State Master Gardener Conference
We’ll have a booth at the Indiana MG conference in Elkhart, Sept. 5-7th.  If you have requests for shop items, books, or plants, let us know as soon as possible and we’ll put them on the truck!  We look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces and making new friends.

Face book Friend Give-Away
We’ll be picking (at random) someone who’s a Carolee’s Herb Farm Face book friend on Sept. 16th.  The winner will get a box of goodies from our Big Barn Gift Shop, so if you haven’t befriended the farm yet, do so NOW!

IHA 2013 Conference
     This year’s annual conference was held in Townsend, TN, so we headed south, noting the overabundance of kudzu (below right), which is becoming even more aggressive as it covers entire sides of mountains, killing all the native plants in the process.  We stopped in the Renfro Valley area, known for its music to have a yummy lunch while listening to live performers at the Historic Renfro Lodge (below left.)


     Then it was on to Townsend, billed as the quiet “Gateway to the Smokies!”  Located just a few miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the small town is still low-key although it’s trying (sadly  I think) to eventually become as bustling and touristy as the others.  It is home to the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Museum, which was lovely.


    I always love the IHA conferences, because the networking is terrific.  You’ll never meet a more friendly, helpful bunch of plant lovers, many of whom also own herb businesses, so there’s lots of sharing of workshop ideas, creative events, plants, recipes and more.  The photo above is of our booth before the shopping began.  Luckily for us, we didn't have to load nearly as much when we left!  Thanks, IHA for being such good customers! 


Susan Belsinger did a cooking with tarragon demonstration, since French Tarragon is an Artemisia (the Herb of the Year for 2014.)   Stephen Lee also did some cooking and explained the history of absinthe and making liqueurs.  Chuck Voigt from the Univ. of IL. gave us all the technical information on growing and propagating the artemisias. 


Kathryn Clayton and her daughter Adrienne gave an entertaining talk on “Witches’ Herbs.”  Kathryn owns the legendary “Heartsease” shop in Cambria, CA. once owned by author Sharon Lovejoy.  Botanical artist, Pat Kinney from the Washington, D.C. area taught everyone to do botanical drawings and to make lavender wands.  There were several helpful sessions on the business of herbs and herbs in general. Of course, the food was delicious, the fellowship even better and it was all tucked into the mountain scenery that made each day special.
     I chose not to go on the pre or post-conference bus tours, since I’d already visited the sites on their itinerary.  Instead, I drove into the Great Smoky National Park to enjoy the peace and big trees. 


Later, quiet hours were also spent enjoying the gardens at the Lily Barn.  Even though thousands of the daylilies had already bloomed, there were still plenty of varieties to savor, as well as many other interesting plants in their gardens.  Lunch at Miss Lily’s Café was rated top-notch, and the near-by Trillium Cove Garden Shop had me digging into my pockets for the credit card! 
    All in all, it was a terrific conference and I can’t wait until next year’s conference near Toronto.

     On the way home, we made a few more stops......


Two Brothers is a garden center located in the beautiful “horse country” near Lexington, KY.  Like my farm, it seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere, but it was jam-packed with plants, including lots of interesting trees and shrubs, as well as perennials.  Most of their herbs and annuals had been sold, of course, since it was late July.  However, it was still worth a stop.


Spring House Gardens, also near Lexington is even better with lots more display gardens and even more tempting plants.  There were life-sized topiaries of horses, various breeds of dogs and other critters here and there (and also for sale, but we’re talking BIG bucks!)   I managed to restrain myself and only picked up a couple of new succulents.  It’s a place to go to get lots of garden ideas.  There were front-door gardens, water gardens, meadows and butterfly habitats, and more formal areas to stimulate the garden design urge.  I took dozens of photos, but restrained my self to show you just the two above.


Kentucky Botanical Gardens, Lexington
     We took a bus group to the garden shown above a few years ago, but I was eager to return to see the changes and the new Children’s Garden.  However, the Children’s Garden was packed with kids for a special “starting school” program, so I didn’t even try to go in to take photos.  What I could see from the outside looked enticing, and from the merry shouts and exclamations of the kids, it must be well-done!


     I did enjoy the herb garden, the home veggie plot (above left), and the various “inspiration” gardens.  This raised herb garden (above right) is an idea worth copying!  Don’t miss these gardens, right on the UK campus if you are in the area.  I just wish they’d add a shop and café!  (Yes, I know, people say that to me all the time, too!)


August 2nd Saturday Recap
     The weather was perfect for our first ever Second Saturday Open House.  Our guest speaker, author Kylee Baumle gave a very interesting presentation on styling with houseplants, and assured us that they are not hard to grow.  I’ve been to her home, and it has plants in nearly every room, from a special orchid table in the front room to a beautiful terrarium in the family room, pots here and there in other rooms, and even an actual conservatory built on the side of the pool house to hold her collection of larger tropical plants during the winter.  This woman knows her houseplants!  And, her outdoor gardens are fairly extensive, too.  You can see parts of her gardens in her creative gardening posts on the Lowe’s blog pages and in her award-winning blog “Our Little Acre.”  She also writes for “Horticulture”, “Ohio Gardening” and “Indiana Gardening” magazines, as well as just publishing her first book.  Everyone enjoyed her talk and the book signing afterward.
     Mrs. Pennyroyal and Marjoram were willing to come out and meet people, and several people held a hedgehog for the first time.
     Refreshments were Callie’s Pesto Loaf, Lavender Shortbread Cookies, and Cinnamon Basil Lemonade.  It was fun to see so many of you again!  Be sure to attend our “Second Saturday” Open Houses in Sept. and Oct.

     I couldn’t wait to attend the Independent Garden Center show in Chicago, billed as the world’s largest.  Not only did I hope to find lots of wonderful new products that are not available in big box stores, but I would be rooming with two terrific garden personalities, Kylee Baumle (Our Little Acre blog and book author) and Shawna Coronado (The Naked Gardener book and TV personality)!  In addition, there were six concurrent tracks of seminars featuring some of the best business consultants in the country, and a regional GWA meeting!

     The show is held at Navy Pier, which is an attraction in itself.  Each day the walk from our hotel shuttle bus to the show took us through the beautiful “Stained Glass Museum.”  It is amazing and fills several rooms. That is also worth a drive to Chicago! 
     It was a jam-packed three days, with great food and networking.  I especially enjoyed the inspiring slide presentation at the GWA meeting by Brent Heath of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs.  Although it was a fun experience, the show itself did not meet my expectations.  I see most of the vendors at “The Gardens” in Atlanta.  One of the few new products was a vibrator that is attached to a plant to prevent Japanese beetles.  It’s a novel idea, but won’t work on mature trees, and at $69 per unit, (and some larger rose bushes, etc. will require more than one unit) I think I’ll stick to traps or hand-picking.


Ted’s Greenhouse, Tinley Park
     Over two decades ago, I was fortunate to meet Ted Biernacki at an Illinois Specialty Growers conference.  Ted is a legend in the Chicago area.  His 11 acres of greenhouses and field grown-crops (garlic and mums among others) were once “in the middle of nowhere” but now they are surrounded by the suburb of Tinley Park, IL.  I’d always wanted to visit his operation, because of the amazing variety of plant material, from tiny tropicals to huge trees that he forces into bloom for the Chicago Flower & Garden show, so the Chicago trip was a perfect excuse to pay a visit.  Luckily, Ted was available to show me some of his prize plants, which includes this variegated pony tail palm (below left), one of only four in the world, which he has named “Trick Pony.”  

When I asked Ted what he’s seeing as hot trends, he didn’t hesitate.  “Succulents!  We grew 30,000 in 2 ½ “pots and we can’t keep up with demand.  We’ve even done ten succulent weddings this year!”  I’d never seen so many varieties as I walked through multiple greenhouse bays filled with succulent plants of all colors, textures, shapes, and sizes.
     One greenhouse is devoted to herbs, and I had to restrain myself to only purchase two flats to add to my collection.  Ted’s catalog is an inch thick, but you need to go visit to purchase his treasures.

Herbal Moth Repellent
It’s a good time to use some of the harvest from the garden to repel the moths that will be attempting to live in closets and drawers this winter, nibbling on woolen sweaters and such.  I’ve been drying bunches of herbs during this dry spell just for this purpose.  It not only keeps the bugs away, but makes the closet smell lovely.  Simply mix combinations of any of these dried herbs with crushed or ground cloves: mugwort, tansy, rue, southernwood, artemisia, mountain mint, thyme, rosemary, or santolina.  Fill small cloth bags and hang in closets or tuck into drawers.  Replace annually.


Herb to Know:  Garlic Chives
     August is always the month to admire the starry white blooms of garlic chives.  And, I’m not the only one who loves them.  Beneficial wasps visit the flowers, as well as bumblebees and other insects.  When I first saw dozens of honeybees elbowing one another aside to collect pollen and nectar, I thought, “Ugh!  Garlic honey?”  But then I remembered how delicious the little meatballs glazed in garlic jelly taste, and suddenly it didn’t seem like such a bad idea.  Can you spot the honeybee on the photo?
     Like its cousin common chives with the mild onion flavor, garlic chives are extremely easy to grow.  Plant it in average soil, in a sunny location (although it also seems satisfied in light shade) and watch it go!  It’s a hardy perennial and easy to divide.  It’s easier to grow than regular garlic, has leaves available for harvest from early spring to early winter, and adds a lovely mild garlic flavor to any dish, marinade, or salad.  Garlic Chive vinegar is one of our favorites, adding a delicious taste to stir-fry or salad dressings. Harvest by cutting the desired number of leaves at the base and they will quickly regrow. 
     Garlic Chives get taller than common chives and have wider, flat leaves that are easy to cut finely.  The white flower is also edible, which is a good idea, because if left to mature they will produce an amazing number of seeds that all seem to germinate and fill paths, surrounding beds, and even parking lots!  The flower head can also be dried to use in wreaths or bouquets.

     It’s hard to believe, but my 2014 calendar is filling fast.  If you want to book me for presentations, shows, book signings, or visits to the farm, make the arrangements soon.  I just can’t handle as many events as I used to and there seems to be more demand than in the past!  That’s a good thing!

What I’m doing in the gardens:
1.  Deadheading daylilies and removing dead foliage
2.  Checking irises corms for borers.  Those rascals are nearly 2” long and voracious!
3.  Taking cuttings of scented geraniums, thymes, lemon verbena, lavenders, and dozens more.  Doing them now gives me an opportunity to do more if the first batch doesn’t root!
4.  Starting to compile bulb orders, especially for things Brent Heath mentioned!
5.  Weeding each garden and tidying the edges.  Lots of weeds are trying to drop seed now!
6.  Collecting seeds…I put them into envelopes, label them, and put them on a table to finish drying.  Later, when I have time, I’ll alphabetize them into seeding categories (Early perennials; Early annuals; Mid-season perennials, late annuals, etc.) and store them in plastic bins.
7.  Cutting bunches of herbs for drying:  mountain mint, feverfew, tansy, annual statice, mints, thyme, sage, etc.  I’ll be blending some teas, bath herbs, and culinary blends if we ever have some rainy days.
8.  Deadheading perennials that have finished blooming and those, such as garden phlox that will keep blooming if I clip off faded flowers.
9.  Planting, planting, planting!  I just don’t have time in spring, so August is the month I do most of my perennial planting.  As long as I keep them watered between (sigh  rains) this is a great time.  They’ll be well-rooted before winter comes.
10.  Pruning old canes from the blackberries and tying up new canes to a horizontal route so they will be more productive.
11.  Watering as needed, since we haven’t had rain for 6 weeks.
12.  Enjoying hibiscus, especially the huge white Blue River II in the Moonlight garden.
13.  Planted a new crop of green beans in early August, and now planting various lettuces, radishes, turnips, greens, etc. for fall crops.
14.  Prepping a bed to plant hardneck garlic the end of next week.  I’ll be planting the Music that I’ve grown for years, plus some Spanish Red that I got from Ted Biernacki!
15.  Cutting and braiding sweet grass.

Did you hear?
     The Farmers’ Almanac has predicted an early, especially bitter winter, with more storms than usual and lasting through March for our area.  Oh joy!

Recipe: Lish’s Grilled Veggies
     There’s still many warm evenings to grill outdoors and plenty of fresh produce available from the garden or farmers’ markets.  Here’s a recipe from my vegetarian daughter that we have been making often because the flavors are terrific and it’s so easy.  Feel free to experiment with various herbs and veggies!
     Slice veggies into slabs at least ½-3/4” thick.  We love zucchini, eggplant, red and green peppers, asparagus,  Portobello mushrooms, red onions, and cherry tomatoes (Put the tomatoes on a skewer to make turning easier).   You’ll need enough veggies to almost fill a gallon- sized zip-lock bag.
     Mix a marinade of: ½ c. finely snipped garlic chives (or 2-4 cloves minced garlic); 3 T. olive oil; 1 T. balsamic vinegar; 1 tsp. salt; ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper.  That’s the basic recipe, but then you’ll need to add herbs.  Lish’s favorite mixture is: 1 T. finely chopped oregano; 2 T. finely chopped basil; 2 tsp. finely chopped mint; 2 T. finely chopped parsley.  Pour into bag and shake until veggies are coated.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours, 4 is better.  Gently move bag around occasionally to be sure all sides are coated.  If veggies absorb all the marinade, you may need to add a little more oil.  It will depend upon the veggies chosen.  If I’m using lots of mushrooms and eggplant, I know I need to double the basic recipe because they really soak it up.  Lightly brush the grill with oil (not non-stick spray). Remove veggies from bag and place on hot grill.  Grill about 3 min. per side, just until tender and lightly browned.  Watch carefully to avoid burning.  Place veggies on platter. Pour any remaining marinade over the top.
Suggestions for other herb blends:  French tarragon, lavender mint and winter savory; Sweet marjoram, lemon balm, lemon basil and lime mint; Thyme, rosemary and oregano-thyme mint!

Bonus recipe:  My daughter Alicia reminded me of a recipe that our dear friend Mona Houston introduced us to when Lish was still in high school.  It’s so simple, but so absolutely delicious, and perfect for this time of year when the basil is abundant!
Simply slice a good baguette into ½” rounds.  Spread each generously with a thick layer of brie (room temperature).  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and top with a fresh bay leaf.  That’s it?  Yes!  So simple, but so elegant with flavors that explode in your mouth!  Thanks, Mona dear!

Just under the wire for August!  Now that I have a new computer, I promise to be more timely next month.  September will be a very busy month, but not as hectic as August! Happy Labor Day Weekend to everyone!  I plan to spend mine laboring in the gardens and listening to lots of college football!  Don’t forget to friend us on Face book!  Herbal blessings, Carolee