Thursday, February 23, 2017

We've had a180 degree turn in the weather. From our brief bout of winter,  we've jumped right into spring. Our preparations continue in the greenhouse, as John and I fill pots. I've looked for our greenhouse toads as the weather has warmed up, but no signs of them yet.

Signs of spring continue to multiply. Tree buds are filling out, he first tiny shoots of sorrel have emerged from the ground and just a few days after the temperatures rose, the pussy willows popped.

Inside, it's looking more and more like spring as seeds germinate and seedlings begin to grow. It doesn't take long before you can see the individual differences with each variety.

Don't forget that our shop is open Thursday-Saturday from 9 to 5. The greenhouse reopens April 1. To get you thinking about spring, click on the link to view or 2017 plant list.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

With our recent brush with winter, I'm juggling seasonal chores. Shoveling snow alternates with filling pots in the greenhouse or sowing flats of seeds for spring. I liked this snowfall. It made everything look so pretty, but wasn't too much to shovel.

I don't want to wish for more snow, but we do need precipitation. Going into spring with a rainfall deficit isn't good for farmers or gardeners. Hopefully, the precipitation will come on days when the temperatures are above freezing.

It's nice to go into the greenhouse to work on a chilly day. As long as the sun shines, it warms up quickly. And there's the smell of warm soil to enjoy. Before fragrant plants emerge, that's an enjoyable springtime smell.

John has been helping me fill pots in the greenhouse. It's amazing how much difference an extra pair of hands make. After almost twenty years of doing all the spring preparation myself, it will be interesting to see how much faster we can accomplish things this year.

One day, while walking with Lucy, I saw a number of birds in the crabapple tree feasting on the fruit. When I got closer, I saw it was about 8-10 cedar waxwings. They are interesting looking birds, with their masks.

The seedlings continue to grow. In this photo, on the right is Lady lavender. It's the only lavender I grow from seed. Behind that is a fragrant dianthus. On the left are two varieties of pansies. On the far left, is biennial angelica. In their second year, those little plants will put up a five foot tall flower stalk!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When my sister visited over the holidays, we, of course, got to talking about our childhood. One of the things she reminded me of was discovering a witch hazel tree behind our "new" house (the second house we lived in.) Growing up in the woods, we didn't see many flowers, other than a few wild varieties. But here was a tree blooming in the winter! It was like a miracle to us. Although the flowers are quite small, the fact that they bloom in January or February increases their impact greatly.  Here's a photo of our witch hazel in full bloom.

When I took classes at Longwood Gardens, and studied flowering shrubs, the professor was not at all enthused about forsythia. He felt the flowers didn't make up for the fact that it was a plain green shrub the rest of the year. But sometimes with plants, they only need to do one thing, if they do it really well. And those sunny gold flowers early in the season, when we're tired of winter, seem to be quite enough. Witch hazel flowers are in the same category.

Baby seedlings continue to grow in our basement. Even at this tender age, characteristics of the mature plant develop. In this photo of blue flax, you can see the fine, blue-gray foliage typical of the plant. Individual flowers bloom only a day, but the plant flowers a month or more.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

After the holiday break, we're settling into winter here on the farm. I must say, the weather hasn't been too bad thus far. It seems like whatever system that moves in either veers to the west or east and just touches us lightly.  I hope that continues, although you know winter has some tricks up its sleeve.

The herb shop is open part-time now. Our hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5 pm. This time of year,we get lots of customers working on projects. Essential oils, supplies and containers are big sellers. Also folks come in looking for moisturizing products to relieve dry winter skin. Bulk herbs and spices are popular as people try out new recipes or make hearty cold weather dishes.

Another thing keeping me busy is writing a gardening/plant column for The Essential Herbal. Founder and editor, Tina Sams asked me to contribute on a regular basis, writing about herbal topics from a growing point of view. I've always enjoyed writing so it's been fun.

But mostly, I'm thinking about spring. I told my sister that spring is just around the corner, because I started my first batch of seeds. Early things, like pansies, a seed grown lavender, echinacea and some other perennials. Here are the babies under lights in the basement.

Then I went looking for other signs of spring. On one of the warm days, the second greenhouse toad (referred to as toad Jr.) came out of the dirt. I tried to get him to turn around before I took the picture by scratching his head. He seemed to like the scratching, but wouldn't turn around.

And check out these fat, fuzzy buds on our star magnolia. They will become clear white star shaped blooms before the leaves emerge on the tree.

And although the top of my horehound plant is dead, there's lots of new growth at the bottom.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

John and I would like to thank everyone who came out for our holiday open house. Our customers are so loyal! This time of year, there are so many things going on and such demands on people's time. We appreciate the fact that you made time to visit and support us.

The greenhouse and herb shop will be open Tuesday -Saturday from 9am to 5 pm through December 21. We still have plenty of gifts available in the shop, along with supplies and containers if you're making your own. We also have some potted culinary herbs for sale, along with live topiaries. Potted herbs are available only on December, so get them now if you want some fresh herbs to enjoy throughout the winter.

After a Christmas break, the herb shop will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9-5 beginning January 5.

Wishing you all happy herbal holidays!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

When customers purchase essential oils in the shop, they often inquire about making their own. My reply is always the same - you can do it, but it's more or less a curiosity. A case in point. Tina (of The Essential Herbal) and Maryanne (Lancaster County Soapworks) stopped by one day. We were doing some garden clean-up, and Tina asked if she could have the rose geraniums I just pulled out. She took a garbage bag full of foliage to distill. Out of that, she got 2-3 drops of essential oil. She did however, get a nice amount of hydrosol. This is the aromatic water produced as a by-product of the steam distillation of plant material. Though not as strong as essential oil, it is fragrant and useful. But you obviously need huge amounts of plant material to produce even a small amount of oil.

All our annuals, except snapdragons, are done. Some plants, like rosemary, need cooler nights to start flowering. Creeping rosemary blooms more readily, but my upright one which survived last winter outside, mostly intact, is now starting to bloom. Rosemary will take a lot of cold before it dies, so I'm hoping to see more flowers over the next few weeks.

On a walk with Lucy, I spotted this praying mantis egg sac in the wild area at the back of the property. We saw a number of mantises this year. One was quite large - one of the biggest I have seen. Also saw one in the side border when we were cleaning up. It was moving slowly in the cooler weather, but we nudged it along out of the cleanup area and it was fine.

About fifteen years ago, John's aunt gave me some saffron crocus bulbs from her plot. I was very excited. I had grown a few before at our old house, but this time I was anticipating a good crop. It was not to be. Voles ate them all and I got nothing. This fall, when John rototilled the garden, he must have unearthed a couple bulbs. Three appeared, produced flowers, and I was able to harvest about a dozen threads.  I saw a show once about harvesting saffron. It showed why it is so expensive - it is incredibly labor intensive. Women harvest the entire flower, then remove the three stigma each one produces. A huge pile shrinks down to a fraction of its size when it dries. Lucky it just takes a pinch for flavoring.