Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last Minute Gifts & Winter Hours

The greenhouse and herb shop are open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 to 5 through December,23. if you're looking for last-minute gift ideas, we still have any unique choices in the shop. If you're interested in some potted herbs for in the kitchen over the winter, we have those available in the greenhouse through the 23rd. After that, we will not have plants until next spring..

The farm will be closed for 2 weeks over the holidays. The shop reopens Thursday, January 8 and will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9-5 from January 8 through March. The greenhouse reopens in April. Look for the spring newsletter in March with lots of spring info.

Thanks to all who came out for our holiday open house. We had a good two days, even though the weather was cold. Of course, that meant the mulled cider tasted even better.

Lucy celebrated her one year anniversary with us recently. I don't think she knew it was a special day, but she was happy just as she usually is. She can get through the high grass area at'the back of our property. She loves it because it has lots of animal smells. Occasionally, she sees or smells a mouse in the grass and thinks she can burrow in and find them. So far, the mice are winning.

Wishing you all a happy holiday season. Think spring!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Open House

Our holiday open house is coming up on Dec. 5&6 from 9 to 5. We'll serve herbal refreshments, have door prize drawing and run some specials only during open house. Packages of herbal teas, in a variety of flavors, will be buy 3, get 1 free. Packaged herb blends are buy 1, get second half off. Handmade soaps are priced at 3 for $8.75 and 6 for $17.45. Buying 3 soaps will save you -'f off one bar, and buying 6 equals a free bar!

With all the economic uncertainties, everyone will be cautious with their holiday spending. We're offering organically plants and natural herbal products. Almost, everything in our shop is handmade and about 90% is from local susuppliers, including our farm. People in this area really support small local businesses. It helps boost our local economy and provides customers with personal service and careful control of products.

We have a selection of basic culinary herbs and herbal topiaries in the greenhouse. We have a tree with natural and folksy ornaments in the shop and loads of fragrant body products, essential oils, organic candles, potpourri, books, notecards and gift items in the shop. Lots to see and enjoy!

We're coming up on the anniversary of adopting our dog, Lucy. If you're considering a pet for Christmas, or anytime, please consider adopting a pet from the Humane League or a rescue group. They have wonderful dogs (and cats) that desperately need a home. We've always had a dog, and Lucy is right at the top of the list. She has a sweet disposition and was house broken when we got her. She's a mutt, which is a perfect breed to me, but purebred dogs are available, too. I don't know if animals can be grateful, but she is a happy dog and her behavior reflects that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Great Fall Soup

I come from a family of soup lovers. This one is delicious and fairly inexpensive. Oven roasting gives the vegetables great flavor. If you're using dried thyme, cut the amount in half. Thyme is a good herb in many soups.

1 medium butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
1 T. olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 T. butter
5 C. chicken stock
1 T. fresh thyme
1/8 t. fresh nutmeg
1/2 C. light cream
salt & pepper

Cut squash in half, remove seeds, then cut into wedges. Scrub potatoes. Brush squash and potatoes with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated 350 oven till very soft, about 1 hour & 15 minutes. Cool until vegetables can be handled. Scoop flesh into bowl and mash slightly. Saute carrots and onion in butter about 5 minutes. Add stock, thyme,nutmeg and simmer 10 minutes until carrots are soft. Add squash mash and simmer 10 minutes. Cool. Puree soup in batches in blender. Return soup to medium heat, stir in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped chives.

Lucy loves to dawdle on her walks. Actually, she likes to smell every square inch that she covers, especially in the morning when she enjoys all the leftover smells from the animal excursions of the night before. She watched squirrels running in the trees for about 5 minutes one day. She smelled the neighbor's alpacas (Cloverleaf Alpacas) and thought they were interesting. She always looks up when geese fly over.

You're always working ahead in the greenhouse biz. I've already ordered little starter plants for next spring. Next up are seed orders. In just a couple months, I'll start seeds for the spring season.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall at Cloverleaf

It's been a pretty fall season - some crisp, sunny days and finally some rain. We only have trees in the back corner of our yard and along the fenceline. The maples have turned red and orangey-yellow and the witch hazel is a pretty clear yellow. Viburnum was crimson red although it's dropping leaves now. I thought the snapdragons were finally done with a heavy frost, but they thawed out and look as good as ever. the rosemarys, which over-wintered last year, are full of blue flowers. There are a couple late roses hanging on and plants in protected spots still blooming jupiter's beard, catmint, lavender, calendula and hyssop. That's a lot of enjoyment for November.

Look for your fall newsletter soon. Info on our holiday open house on Dec. 5&6, plus details on what's in the shop and green-house for the holidays, a recipe and a peek ahead to spring.

Lucy is doing great. She's a sweet, happy dog. Not the bravest dog ever. On windy days, when bags or paper blow through the yard, she runs away. So we were surprised one windy day when she picked up a plastic milk jug that had blown into the yard and ran around with it for 20 minutes. She ran from the gardens to the fence line at full speed over and over: It was a great game because we didn't have to do anything but stand there and watch her. I think she has some kind of running dog in her, because she loves to run and she is fast.

Fall garden clean-up- remove annuals when the frost gets them. Cut back herbaceous perennials after a hard freeze, although I leave seedheads, like coneflower, that the birds will enjoy. Dig out non-hardy, summer blooming bulbs. Leave woody-stemmed herbs: rosemary, thyme, lavender, santolina, sage-alone. The foliage helps protect the crown of the plant over the winter. Wait till spring to trim these back.For mulching woody-stemmed plants, use pine branches or burlap, which allow air to circulate. Don't use leaves which will mat down when wet, preventing air circulation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gardening into Fall

It certainly feels like fall, although we haven't had frost yet. Looking around the garden, I can see the growing season is coming to a close. But looking at specific plants, I'm amazed at how many things still look attractive.
The hyacinth bean vine, pineapple and Mexican bush sages are at their peaks. Pineapple sage is edible - both leaves and flowers. Mexican bush sage is not, but it produces beautiful, fuzzy purple flowers which dry well. Also still blooming - zinnias, gomphrena, Jupiter's beard, marigolds, love-lies-bleeding, nasturtium, lavender, sedum, anemones and an occasional rose.

In one bed, viburnum has turned dark red, but also blooming in that bed are bog sage, verbena, nicotiana, pincushion flower and four o'clocks. Next door, in the brick wall garden, bright blue hummingbird sage and dark blue hyssop flower. White cone-flower are done, but the seedheads look pretty alongside the blooms.

Although customers have told me the hummingbird sage does attract them, this summer we saw it firsthand. We rarely see humming-birds here, But we saw them a couple times, including once at the sage. The other places we saw them - pineapple sage and hyacinth bean vine. That one surprised me - not a tubular flower, they stayed there awhile.

Herbs are looking good, too. Since the rosemary survived last winter, it's blooming nicely now. Purple basil is gorgeous - dark and shiny. Basil will be the first thing to go, so if you want to dry or freeze it, cut it now. Parsley and cutting celery look so nice in the fall. If you've never tried cutting celery, you should. It grows and looks similar to parsley, but tastes like.celery and doesn't produce a stalk. I use it in place of celery in soup, stew, chicken and tuna salad (along with some lime basil) and anything else you use celery for. Dill has reseeded from the mid-summer crop and produced more pungent blue-green foliage.

Friday, September 5, 2008

August into September

It's hard to remember a nicer August. Mornings were cool, days were warm, but it didn't rain enough. We did get an inch of rain recently and everything perked up nicely. Lavender is beginning to rebloom-not as much as June, but still enjoyable and another chance to harvest. Pink roses in the garden are reblooming, too. What a pretty combo. Catmint is also reblooming. Its spiky, lavender flowers resemble lavender so it's also good with roses.

I really appreciate plants that look good late in the season.

Some things to enjoy now:
Annual vines-Mina or firecracker vine (shown to the right) is full and blooming with sprays of red, orange and yellow flowers.

Hyacinth bean are huge. Seem to be blooming a little late, but are loaded with flowers now and should be loaded with beans in a couple weeks.

Pineapple sage-Pretty, tasty red tubular flowers.

Mexican bush sage-Mine hasn't bloomed yet, but the flowers are fuzzy, purple and plentiful.

Winter savory is covered in white blossoms now, and the trailing variety will follow soon.

Snaps-Maroon and pink are both nice, along with some odd colored sports.
Along with marigolds, I think snaps, parsley and nasturtiums look better the later they go in the season.
If you have garlic chives (picture to the left), which are tasty and pretty now, with plentiful, white blooms, cut off the flower stalks before the seed ripens or they will reseed everywhere.

I use Labor Day as the time for last BIG harvests from woody-stemmed herbs like sage, thyme and santolina. This allows them time to develop new foliage before cold weather sets in. I usually include rosemary in the category. Mine is so big, since it survived the winter outdoors that I'll continue to harvest it till we get a freeze.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Plant Sale!

Our plant sale is going on now until we are sold out.
Great prices on everything,
but when they're gone - they're gone.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Wet Spring

The wet weather has produced lush growth on established perennials in the garden. I have already harvested oregano, lemon balm, tarragon and catnip. Mints are next. Most of these vigorous perennials can be harvested at least three times during the season. My Italian parsley never died off this winter. It was beautiful throughout April. Now, it has sent up thick stalks which are developing flowers. Seed heads follow and the plant declines. So it's time to yank out the parsley shrubs and replace them with new plants.

It should be a wonderful year for lavender. The winter was not severe, so I had very little dieback on my plants. They are budded up, waiting for some warm, sunny days. Don't forget to harvest lavender flowers when they are in bud.

Right now, early perennials like catnip, dianthus and Jupiter's beard are either blooming or will be soon. Snow white candytuft is finishing its bloom. Most perennials benefit from being cut back after they bloom. It encourages the plant to push new foliage. And many times, the plants will rebloom later in the season. If you want to gather seed or have your plant reseed, you must allow flowers to die on the stalk. The flowers will be followed by seedheads, with green seeds ripening to a darker color. Flowers on vigorous plants like lemon balm and garlic chives should be removed so they won't reseed everywhere.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Landis Valley & Under the Sun

We returned from Landis Valley Herb Faire slightly soggy but very satisfied. I was impressed by the number of intrepid gardeners who braved the rain and cold to come out and buy plants. Friday was the worst weather we experienced since we've been going. I even saw people wearing gloves , in mid-May!

I stayed warm in multiple layers. Big thanks to my friend, Candy, who helped me on Friday. Saturday there was no rain, just a lot of mud to navigate around. Our two day sales were good. Just goes to show that gardeners are a tough lot.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and helped make our weekend a success. Because of the rain, we didn't have our mailing list update out. To any LV friends who wish to remain on our mailing list, please call or email (chfmailing@aol.com) with your info.

I've been enjoying my copy of Under the Sun, a new herb book edited by Tina Sams of The Essential Herbal. The book compiles highlights from the first five years of the magazine. The articles are arranged in chapters like Gardening, In the Kitchen, Herbal First Aid, etc. There are quick tips and hints sprinkled throughout, and loads of recipes. I'm always looking for great new herbal recipes, so next I'll read through the recipes and decide which ones to try first.

The wet spring is producing lush results in the garden. Next week, I'll tackle garden chores - what we can accomplish and look forward to in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thank you!

I wanted to take some time to again thank everyone for your support during our 10th anniversary sale and celebration. The response was phenomenal!

Throughout our ten years, I have noticed that our customers seem very invested in our success and you certainly showed that during the past week. The turnout and sales exceeded our expectations. We also felt good offering a savings to our loyal customers since we know how carefully everyone is watching their budget now. Thanks for all your positive comments on our plants, the blog and our anniversary.

Don't forget that if you bought plants from in the greenhouse that they should not be planted int he ground until about Mothers' Day, unless you are willing to cover them if necessary.

It's also a good idea to harden them off before planting. Put them outside on nice days, starting in a protected spot. Bring them in at night if temperatures dip. Gradually expose them to more sun over a 7-10 day period. This will toughen them up and acclimate them to outside conditions before planting. It makes planting much less stressful for the plants. After 7-10 days. you'll know if the temperature is safe for planting.

Special anniversary thanks to Maryanne & Tina for the soap samples, to Ramona for all her help, to Sandy for her office and newsletter expertise, to Zach for helping to amuse Lucy and mostly to John for all his help and support.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our Spring Celebration!

This Spring, we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of Cloverleaf Herb Farm.
To show our appreciation, we're holding a Flashback Sale during our anniversary celebration. From April 22 to 26, our plant prices will roll back to 1998 levels. You'll save 50 cents each on small plants (excluding bay laurel) and $1.00 each on large perennials.

During our Anniversary Open House, April 25 & 26, we'll feature sale items in the shop, along with refreshments and prize drawings. Please stop by and join in our celebration.

Wow - ten years! We've learned a lot, met so many nice people and planted loads of plants. Please visit and help us celebrate this spring.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Almost April!

Have you noticed all the signs of life in your garden?

I'm surprised as I walk around the yard at how much is showing already. Although we had lots of ice, overall, temperatures this winter were not too bad. "We didn't have extended periods of cold weather. I guess that's the reason all my rosemary plants survived. Most have die-back at the tips, but the plants survived.

I had fresh parsley and cutting celery throughout the winter. There was always fresh, green foliage underneath the old. I see tiny, curled leaves of sorrel waiting to unfurl. I've had fresh, young chives for several weeks.

I've spotted tiny tips of tarragon poking through the soil. Burnet and Clary sage are fresh and green, and the chamomile foliage never died off this winter. Stepping on it releases that delicious apple fragrance.

The knot garden looks good already. The plants in it - germander, lavender and santolina do not die back in fall, but often suffer die-back or freeze-out in very bad winters. Even the thyme walk is perking up early, although a lot of the green is weeds which never died out.

If you didn't clean up dead foliage last fall, there's a good job to start on some of these nice days. I know there's new foliage underneath the old on my catmint. Even cutting back the old is a fragrant job. Also, cut back butterfly bushes hard between mid-March and mid-April. They will push out new foliage which is sturdy, avoiding the top-heavy, lanky branches which are found on untrimmed bushes.

Early March...

Early March (Sorry we're late in getting this posted!)

The march toward spring continues. The basement has been filled with an assortment of seedlings, and small, starter plants have arrived, so in early March, we reopened the greenhouse. It's great to see it fill up with plants and to enjoy all the familiar herbal smells. There are other chores, but most of my time in is spent potting plants. It's hard to believe, but the greenhouse reopens April 1! That keeps me on track.

John and I pulled all our stock plants which are buried in the garden for the winter, and put them in the greenhouse. In a short time, they'll be ready to divide into new plants.

Lucy was a great help with this project. We had rows of holes where we pulled out plants, so she had a great time digging in the dirt. Mostly, she liked running back and forth between the garden and greenhouse over and over. She was good and tired the next day.

Many of you know we've had a toad living in the greenhouse since we opened. He (or she, I don't know) digs into the dirt and hibernates for the winter. Once we turn the heat on, he digs out during the day and reburies at night. Right on schedule, he appeared last week. Luckily, Lucy hasn't seen him yet. I've blocked access to him for now. He never moves too fast, but I'm sure he's really lethargic till things heat up. Figure I better keep dog and toad separated for now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring 2008 Class Schedule

DRIED FLOWER WREATH: Thursday, April 17, 7 p.m. $20.00
Design and craft your own dried flower wreath. Starting with a 10" grapevine base, participants will create a wreath, using a wide variety of dried herbs and flowers, including many grown on our farm. Bring a glue gun and plant scissors / shears.

EDIBLE FLOWERS: Thursday, May 15, 7 p.m. $15.00
Bring the beauty of flowers into the kitchen. Learn what flowers to use and ideas for adding them to various dishes. We'll learn to candy flowers and participants will take home several examples.

MAINTAINING YOUR GARDEN: Thursday, June 5, 7 p.m. $15.00
This class will give you step-by-step instructions for maintenance tasks throughout your garden. When to harvest herbs, deadheading flowers and cutting back perennials will be covered. Specific instructions and a timetable for accomplishing your tasks. Free plant to add to your garden.

SWEET ENDINGS — DESSERT HERBS: Thursday, June 19, 7 p.m. $15.00
Many people say they don't know how to use herbs in the kitchen. This class will give you lots of ideas. In addition to main dishes, herbs can enhance many desserts. Learn which herbs to use, culinary tips and lots of recipes.

Classes are limited in size, so please register early. Your payment is your reservation and is due in full when registering. If you're unable to attend, you may send a substitute in your place. Complete the attached registration form. Make checks payable and mail to:

1532 Cloverleaf Road, Mount Joy, PA 17552

Spring is on the way

Spring is on the way.

Our Greenhouse opens April 1.
See our Classes above and
Download our Plant List for 2008

It stays light later, there's an occasional spring-like day and there are bits of green in the garden.

To me, spring arriving means a shipment of soil and pots. So, Lucy is learning to amuse herself in the greenhouse while I fill pots. On a sunny day, it's deliciously warm in the greenhouse. And there's the damp, earthy smell of warm soil.

Lots of seedlings growing under lights. They go from tiny little stalks to filled-out, recognizable little plants in a couple of weeks.

I like plants like swamp milkweed with big seeds. After germinating, the seed sits on top of the little stalk for awhile before dropping off. So you can see the seed and plant stage together. Swamp milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars (and a moth too) so it's worth growing. We've had monarchs every year since we planted it in the garden.

Easter's early this year, daylight savings time is already here - spring will be here soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Many people shy away from 'designing' their gardens because they believe things must be drawn precisely to scale and in great detail. Actually, a fairly simple sketch can be quite helpful in planning a bed, border or an entire garden. Your design must take into account your individual site and conditions and of course, preferences for specific plants. Keep in mind the following design principles and apply them to your plan.

1. Unity – The various parts or rooms in your garden should be tied together as a cohesive whole. Repeating color themes or plant combinations helps to achieve this goal.
2. Proportion and scale – Very small plants in a large bed or large trees in a tiny yard won't be in proportion. Keep things in scale within beds and overall in your garden.
3. Texture and form – Contrast pays off here. Broad leaves next to finely cut foliage provide an attractive contrast. Different forms - vertical, rounded and trailing, should be combined within a planting.
4. Color – Use your favorite colors as a guide. Or provide contrast by using colors that are opposite on the color wheel - like purple and yellow. Green as a garden neutral fits in with any color scheme.
5. Focal points – Your eye will instinctively search for a focus. Use an impressive specimen plant, a vine trained on a trellis or an architectural element - a bench, fountain or bird bath.
6. Flow – This is a tough one for many people because it asks you to limit the number of varieties you plant. Choose a few varieties and plant in multiples (odd numbers are best). This will create a flowing design that is pleasing to the eye.
7. Style – Formal designs are symmetrical and use straight lines and geometric shapes. Informal designs are less symmetrical, use curved lines and a mixed color palette.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Our favorite Christmas present - and signs of Spring!

Hope you enjoyed your holidays as much as we did. Our best gift was our new dog, Lucy. we lost our older dog last summer and decided it was time for a new addition. She looks like a black lab, but smaller, so she's mixed with something.

She's a year old, so she was housebroken. She's over the initial puppyness, although she still has her moments. She has a sweet disposition and likes everyone. This leads to her biggest problem - her greetings. They're very enthusiastic, to put it mildly. So that's what we're working on. She's improved since we got her - at least the wildness doesn't last as long!

We got Lucy at the Humane Society. Her previous owner died and no one in the family could take her. There are a lot of nice dogs looking for homes. If you're considering adding a pet, think about adopting one. The procedure was easy and the staff was very helpful. The Humane Society even paid for her first vet exam.

Spring is on the way. John was so happy when we passed the shortest day of the year. Now, at 5 o'clock, he says, "Look, it's still light."

The other sure sign of spring is seed starting. I started my first batch of pansies after Christmas. This week, it was more pansies and some early perennials - coneflower, blue flax and lavender "Lady". This is a fragrant, compact variety grown from seed rather than from cuttings.

Now there will be a short break. Soon, I'll start seeds every week. It won't be long before the greenhouses begin to fill up.

Stay tuned, and think spring!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Looking Ahead

"With Years a richer life begins, the spirit mellows."
John T. Trowbridge.

Looking Ahead to Spring

We'll be celebrating next spring! April 2008 will mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of Cloverleaf Herb Farm. We'll feature a special sale during our spring open house to show our appreciation for your continued support. More details to follow in our spring newsletter and on our blog as it comes closer!

We'll expand our plant inventory with some new selections for spring. They will include an ornamental perennial, an herbal ground cover and a complementary color selection of a cool weather favorite.

Many of you know of my fondness for calendula or pot marigold. Its yellow or orange daisy-like flowers are ornamental and its healing resins are used in products to relieve skin irritations. Calendula will be celebrated as herb of the year for 2008.

The one pictured managed to live well into our mild November this past year.