Sunday, December 20, 2009



Lavender is almost universally loved. What’s not to like—it has wonderful fragrance, aromatherapy and medicinal uses, and is an attractive plant in the garden. We carry nine varieties of lavender. All are fragrant and most are winter hardy here. The main differences will be the size of the plant and flower color. Here’s a guide to help you choose the right variety for your garden.

Compact forms are about 12”-15” tall (foliage) with flower stems standing above that. All plants are proportional, so compact varieties are shorter, not as wide and have shorter flower stalks than taller cultivars. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Lady’ are very similar with attractive dark purple flowers. ‘Hidcote Pink’ has flowers that are pink in bud.

Mid-sized varieties run 18”-20” tall and are wider with slightly longer stems than compact types. ‘Munstead’ is extremely hardy, has lavender blooms and is the most common cultivar sold. ‘Twickel Purple’ has a slightly darker flower. Taller forms include ‘Grosso’ and ‘Alba’. They reach about 24” tall, with long stems reaching up an additional foot. ‘Grosso’ has purple flowers and blooms slightly later, which is nice for extending your season of bloom in the garden. ‘Alba’ has white flowers which are just as fragrant as purple blossoms.

We carry two cultivars that aren’t winter hardy here. Both have larger, showier flowers than perennial lavenders. French lavender has purple blooms and very fragrant, fringed foliage. ‘Kew Red’ has big, showy flowers in a purple-red shade that’s most unusual. These lavenders are generally treated as annuals and are very effective in mixed container plantings.

All lavenders love sun and well drained soil. Plant in as much sun as possible. You’ll need a minimum of 4-6 hours of sun per day for best blooming. Lavender doesn’t need particularly fertile soil, but it must drain quickly. Add compost or even sand to loosen clay soil and improve drainage. Planting in a raised bed or sunny slope promotes better drainage. Lavender likes soil on the alkaline side, so mix in some lime when planting.

“Gardeners are generous because nature is generous to them.”
… Elizabeth Lawrence

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sweet Potato & Carrot Bake - Recipe

Try this healthier sweet potato dish with your holiday meal or serve with ham,
pork or chicken.


1 cup carrots, sliced
¼ cup golden raisins
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
½ cup ginger ale
¼ tsp. each salt & pepper
3 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. orange juice
½ cup dried apricots, cut into strips
Scant 1 tsp. fresh thyme or ½ tsp. dried thyme
Scant ¼ cup brown sugar

Toss carrots and potatoes with oil in a baking dish. Add apricots, raisins,
brown sugar, salt, pepper & thyme and mix well. Add liquids. Cover
and bake 1 hour 15 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring after 45 minutes.
Remove lid after 75 minutes; cook additional 10-15 minutes until
vegetables are tender and juices are thickened.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Herbal Tea

How do I make herbal tea?

An herbal tea or infusion is made by steeping fresh or dried herbs in hot water. Use 1 Tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried herb per cup of water. Heat water to just below boiling. Add herbs directly to teapot or use a tea ball; add water. Wrap in towel or tea cozy and steep—generally 5 minutes, a little longer for milder herbs. Remove tea ball or strain liquid through fine mesh strainer. Add milk, lemon, honey, sugar to taste. You can make a simple tea using one herb—like mint—or blend several herbs together. Try other culinary herbs for tea like lemon balm or verbena, scented geraniums, anise hyssop, chamomile (use flowers), cinnamon basil or bee balm. A blend of savory herbs like rosemary, marjoram, savory and thyme also makes a delicious tea.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


People notice santolina—it’s a pretty plant (it's the gray plant in this knot garden at Cloverleaf.) The strong camphor aroma indicates its use as an insect repellent, alongside other herbs like wormwood, rue and pennyroyal. But it’s an equally attractive garden plant. Both forms—gray and green—have attractive foliage and small yellow button flowers in the spring. Gray santolina has sparkly, textural foliage and green has narrow needlelike leaves.

Green is taller and faster growing, while gray is a broader plant. Both develop woody stems, do not die back in winter and love hot, dry weather. Plant in full sun (6-8 hours) and really well-drained soil—raised beds, sunny slopes or soil amended with compost and sand. After spring flowering, the foliage is attractive throughout the season. I particularly like gray santolina with deep toned flowers of late spring and summer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Open House

I’m happy to report another successful spring season—our twelfth! Thinking back to the beginning, and seeing how far we’ve progressed is very satisfying. Doing what I love and producing a popular product feels great. Many people asked about our spring season, concerned for us due to the slow economy. We had a great season, slightly surpassing our tenth anniversary year. Thanks to all who visited and told their friends, or dragged their friends along!

Join us for our Holiday Open House
Friday and Saturday, December 4 & 5 from 9 to 5.
Shop specials, potted herbs, refreshments, prize drawings.

Because the wet summer kept us busy with outside chores, it’s hard to believe it’s time to plan for the holidays. If you’re looking for a unique, handcrafted gift, dried herbs and spices for baking or some herbal relaxation after holiday preparations, please stop by. We have loads of herbal gift ideas. And do-it-yourselfers can stock up on supplies for creating their own herbal goodies.

During our open house, Friday & Saturday, December 4 & 5, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., we’ll feature specials on some popular items, like handmade soaps and herbal tea blends. The greenhouse holds basic culinary potted herbs and live topiaries. Also enjoy herbal refreshments and register for prize drawings.


MYSTIQUE SOAP – Dramatic color, fragrant tropical flower scent. Dominant scent notes seem to vary, making the fragrance changeable, but always yummy.

SPA SALT BARS - Big bars of soap loaded with salt, which acts like a water softener in the bath or shower. Lathers slowly, but produces rich, lotiony lather. Three fragrant scents.

ARNICA RUB - Easy to apply solid healing lotion contains natural ingredients and healing arnica. Arnica has a long history of treating minor muscle strains and sprains and also to treat discoloration and swelling from bruises.

SUPPLIES - For do-it-yourselfers eager to make your own natural gifts, we carry a great selection of base oils, butters and essential oils along with containers for packaging. Also, soap-making books and a DVD for those who say, “I always wanted to try that.”

GIFT BASKETS - Makes gift giving simple! A variety of fragrant herbal products in attractive baskets or holiday tins. Different sized gift baskets cover all price ranges.

LIP BALMS – Made with natural, moisturizing ingredients that are great for your lips all winter. From the richest blend—extra essential through orange creamsicle, strawberry, mocha, chocolate mint and other yummy flavors.

HERBAL NOTECARDS - We have boxed card sets based on garden themed watercolors and also herbal leaf print cards in sets. Leaf print cards are similar to stamping, but printed using actual herbal leaves.

GOAT’S MILK LOTION - Fragrant and moisturizing lotion good for dry and even sensitive skin. Customers with eczema report good results using goat’s milk lotion. Floral scents like lavender, lilac and gardenia through herbal fragrances—almond vanilla, citrus basil, etc.

Many people assume we close after the spring season. We’re actually open five days a week April – December. We close between Christmas and New Year’s and the shop is open three days a week January – March. By February, I’m working hard on spring preparations and before you know it, the greenhouses are full again. Think Spring !!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And now...

If you are interested in drying any of your culinary herbs for winter use, this is prime time. Annuals and vigorously growing perennials like mint and oregano can be cut back by 1/3 to 1/2. Woody stemmed perennials, like sage, thyme, and rosemary should be cut back, no more than 1/3 at a time, since they grow more slowly. Hang in bushes to dry, or on screened racks, in a dehydrator or on very low heat in an oven. For oven drying, I usually just turn on the light and close the oven door - no heat on at all. It takes a while, but it is low, slow heat.

I'm also harvesting flowers for drying. I've done lavender, bright yellow yarrow and nigella (love in a mist) seed pods. Right now, it's annual statice among others. The plant is rather plain, just lobed leaves before the flower stems shoot up. But the colors are great - dark blue, white, lavender and rose, and statice holds its color longer than almost any other flower. Since it's not a very attractive garden plant, I grow it in rows in the vegetable garden. It's a good nectar plant for butterflies.

Plants that I'm admiring right now-

*Snapdragons - I plant dark, crimson and light pink together and the combo is beautiful. They bloom so nicely for so long - even longer than mums in the fall.

*Zinnia - I never have luck with the big, old-fashioned kinds due to mildew. But the little profusion zinnias make rounded mounds 12-15" tall, just covered with blooms. No mildew and very little deadheading.

*Euphorbia - Although it has small white flowers, the overall look is of a foliage plant. Fairly tall and nicely branched, it has pretty variegated green and white foliage. Great as
filler with cut flowers or dried for use in wreaths and arrangements.

We're in the process of updating our mailing list and will offer an e-version of our newsletter soon. If you would prefer this to your paper copy, please send your e-mail address to
chfmailing@aol. com

Lucy has recovered from her bee sting. She is enjoying chasing rabbits in the yard. She loves when they go in the high grass and she goes in and sniffs every square inch that they covered. She's so pleased with herself - I guess she thinks she's hunting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August, and ...

Well, at least it's not my imagination. You have to wonder sometimes when you get to my age. I read an article recently about the lack of butterflies this year. According to those who do butterfly counts, both numbers of species seen and total numbers of butterflies are down this year. Most experts seem to agree it has much to do with our cool, wet spring and early summer. The cool, wet spring led to fewer caterpillars hatching and the increase in fungal diseases which may have affected those that did hatch. Adult butterflies prefer hot, sunny days so the few that were around probably weren't too active. I have seen several monarchs, black swallowtails and finally, a couple of tiger swallowtails. Small butterflies are more numerous, but usually the gardens are full of them by now, and that's not the case. Also, I haven't seen any monarch caterpillars and just a few swallowtails. Can't have butterflies without caterpillars first. We can't do anything about the weather, but we can provide host plants which are a food source for caterpillars and nectar plants which feed butterflies.

The E-town fair is coming up-August 24-20,. It's great family fun with rides, great fair food and a strong emphasis on agriculture with judging of animals, plants and preserved and baked foods. It's held on the fairgrounds on E. High St. with the competitive exhibits displayed in the BIC social hall next door.

With adequate moisture throughout the summer, some of my plants are HUGE. I have a cinnamon basil plant that looks like a small shrub. It's about four feet tall and perfectly round and of course, smells divine. I planted two next to each other, and the second never thrived. People often ask why, when you plant two or gore plants together, one will survive and the second won't. Cultural conditions are the same, the soil cant, be vastly different. I always say plants are like people, some are stronger than others. Cinnamon basil is great chopped over fresh fruit, or infused in milk and used in baked goods.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Herbal Harvest

Midsummer and the herbal harvest continues. I'm constantly harvesting mints since they recover so fast. By now, annuals are well established so I've been harvesting all basils. Cutting back also removes flowers and encourages the plant to branch out and produce more foliage. Chamomile flowers are winding down, but plenty have been dried for tea. Bright, cheery calendula petals are useful in all sorts of skin preparations. Annual statice, probably the best dried flower for holding color, is at its peak. If you grow catnip for your cats, dry some to have for winter use.

I knew it was just a matter of time before Lucy had a nasty run-in with a bee. Well, she tried to eat one and got stung on the tip of her tongue-ouch! Of course, it was after office hours for the vet, so it was an emergency call. But the dr. did get the stinger out plus gave her benedryl which put her to sleep for awhile. About two days later, I was yelling "No bees" again, so I guess she'll never learn. We have a bumper crop of rabbits this year, so she has fun chasing them, usually early in the morning. She's very fast, so we don't let her chase the small ones. I had to capture one little bunny that hopped into greenhouse 2 and settled in between stacks of empty flats. I put him out at the fence line and hope he doesn't find his way back.

Several people have asked me about drying hydrangeas. I do dry a lot lot from our bushes out front. Unfortunately, I've never found a way to dry them at the peak of color and - have them hold both the color and form you want. I wait till later in the season- late August into September. The flowers begin to dry on the stalk. You can feel the getting papery. Then I cut them, stand them in a vase - no water - and put them in a closet away from the light. The color is often darker or more muted than the brilliant summer color. Right now, I'm cutting off blooms that have turned really brown. This will encourage some reblooming and these later flowers will hold a better blue color.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seasons in the Garden

I must be an "in the moment" type of person. When spring begins, I'm infatuated with all spring bloomers. Forsythia, then spring bulbs, flowering trees and shrubs, followed by fragrant lilac and dianthus, the clear white of candytuft, delicate columbine and bleeding heart, dame's rocket and tall valerian and oriental poppies. I think nothing can beat these beautiful spring blooms.

The season progresses, and now I'm admiring summer flowers that are equally impressive. Big stands of coneflower (purple or the equally attractive white) are colorful, showy, yet natural looking. St. John's wort, named for blooming around St. John's day is a pretty yellow mass attracting bees. Even though we thinned the russian sage this spring, it is a huge,mass with light stems and tall, long-lasting purple flowers. Calendula, nasturtiums and little gem marigolds are covered in masses of colorful blooms. Huge, fragrant white oriental lilies are almost ready to open. High summer can be bright and beautiful in the garden. In six weeks, I'll be admiring the end of season plants.

There are close to 1,000 varieties of salvia and so many of them are great garden plants. Flowers are long-lasting and many of them have colorful bracts which look good even when blooming is done. Some perennial varieties are good rebloomers if cut back after first flowering. Clary sage is the world's easiest biennial and a wonderfully sturdy plant.

Our plant sale is still going on and we have REALLY good prices now. So, if you have any holes in your garden or a container to fill, stop by and visit. It's also a good time to walk through the gardens-everything is lush and pretty.

I've been seeing a few large butterflies-monarchs and swallow-tails. Saw one monarch caterpillar on the wild milkweed along the fencerow. Don't squash any caterpillars you find on milk-weeds or parley, dill, fennel, rue since they will become butterflies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Garden Musings

Some garden projects take time and patience. Our pergola is an example. John built it several years ago. We planted vines, changing some over time, and waited for them to grow. We're finally seeing results this year. Sweet autumn clematis at the ends and jasmine on the sides have grown and created a nicely shaded spot. The jasmine started blooming in mid-June and smells wonderful. And I finally got to put out the metal table and chairs I've been hanging onto to create a shaded retreat.

Someone came last week, looked down through the pergola and said, "I'll take one of those." Patience has paid off.

I was getting very concerned about the small number of honeybees I've seen this year. Bee populations are being greatly reduced by the mysterious colony collapse disorder. Finally, this week, I've seen bees. We worked on cleaning up the thyme walk and bees were busy working the thyme blossoms. I've also seen them on lavender, hyssop and catmint. Perhaps the sunny, warm weather brought out more bees. Bumblebees are around too, and more plentiful than honeybees. They're pollinators too, but not as important as honeybees.

Since the bees have shown up, now I can worry about the lack of butterflies. I know they are more plentiful on warm, sunny days, but even in this sunny, dry stretch I haven't seen many. Most I've seen are small (like cabbage loopers) or medium (like red admirals). I've only seen one caterpillar which will become a swallowtail butterfly. It was munching on the rue, but. none on parsley, dill or fennel which are also host plants for the caterpillars. And I see no signs of any caterpillars on either the swamp milkweed or the wild milkweed which serve as hosts for monarch caterpillars. I think butterflies are like lots of animals-reduced habitat and more chemicals seem to be reducing their numbers. if you find big black, white and green striped caterpillars on your dill, parsley, fennel, rue, etc. don't smush them. In a bit, you'll be rewarded with a black or yellow and black swallowtail.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's Happening in the Garden?

Now that we've finally gotten a break from every day rain, I've been very busy in the gardens. Here are some things I've been working on:

Harvesting - culinary herbs like oregano, tarragon, mints, savory, <<< vigorous="" ones="" have="" been="" harvested="" at="" least="" cut="" small="" or="" unattractive="" off="" to="" concentrate="" oil="" production="" prevent="" also="" calendula="" great="" skin="" care="" chamomile="" flowers="" tea="" rose="" petals="" for="" start="" harvesting="" annuals="" herbs="" after="" they="" are="" established="" and="" actively="">

Cutting back perennials -
to neaten up after flowering and prevent reseeding (like valerian, hyssop, & comfrey >>>>)
to encourage rebloom - catmint, ornamental salvias, Jupiter's beard
deadheading to extend flowering-removing individual spent looms like zinnia or stems of spent blooms like emilia

I let some seeds stay on the pIant - for poppies, columbine and dianthus, I'll cut off seed stalks when ripe and save for next spring.

Others, like blue flax and sweet Cicely, I let stay on the plant to encourage reseeding in place.

After I have cut and dried lavender flowers, and after the bees have worked it, I cut stems off. After flowering is the time to trim lavender for shaping. The plant will have plenty of time to push out new growth before fall.

Now that it's not raining every day, keep annual vines like moonflower, hyacinth bean and mina well watered. They like lots of moisture, especially in the beginning.

Flowers I've been drying-yarrow, bee balm, lavender & nigella pods.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Using your herbs

It's not too early to start thinking about using your culinary herbs. You can take cuttings to use fresh as soon as the plant becomes established. You can also freeze or dry culinary herbs so you have them to use after the growing season is done. I have already harvested tarragon, oregano and lemon balm which are now drying on my drying rack. Vigorous growers like these can be harvested at least three times throughout the season.

Speaking of lemon balm, many people are distressed at this fragrant plant's ability to spread rapidly. Although it is in the mint family, it doesn't spread by runners like spearmint, etc. When people complain about lemon balm going everywhere, I always think much of it is due to reseeding. The p!ant is perennial, and will increase in size each year, but if it's getting out of hand and going everywhere, it may be due to seeds dropping. Lemon balm has small, white flowere which are not particularly attractive, so remove them before they turn into seeds. If you can plant it in a corner or against a barrier, that will help contain its vigorous growth.

Lavender's first and best bloom time is in June. Harvest lavender flowers while it's still in bud. Eventually, each bud will open into a floret. However, these florets eventually fall off, so you'll lose a lot of fragrance by harvesting after flowers open.

Varieties of English lavender and hybrid lavandins are hardy here in zone 6. They're all fragrant, but the main differences are in size of the plant and flower color. Compact lavenders are 12-15" tall with shorter stemmed flowers. Mid-size are 18-20" tall and tall varieties have foliage about 24" with the flowers standing above that. Compact varieties we carry have purple or pink flowers, mid-size have lavender blooms and tall varieties have purple or white flowers. Lavender plants like lots and lots of sun, very well-drained soil and soil with a little higher ph. Mixing in a little lime when you plant lavender is a good idea.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thanks for Landis Valley!

Thanks to all who turned out at Landis Valley and helped to make the show a great success for us. The weather was great (unlike 2008) and everyone seemed anxious to get out after a week of rain. Lots of our local customer's just stop by to say hello and wait to shop until they visit the farm. Saves hauling all your plants around with you. You can always tell the experienced shoppers because they bring baskets, wagons, carts, etc. for their purchases.
People sometimes worry that we'll sell out of an item at Landis Valley and not have any left at the farm. we never take all of our stock to LV. In fact, we have to carefully decide what to take, because we can't take even one of every plant we carry. So there's still plenty of selection at the farm.

It was chilly at night at the beginning of the week. If you have basil planted in the ground and didn't cover it, don't be surprised if it's not happy. I always encourage people to wait until close to Memorial Day to plant basil directly in the ground. Basil, like tomatoes and peppers, likes hot weather.
Even if it's not cold enough to frost, if the soil is not sufficiently warm and nighttime temps aren't in the 50's, basil will just sit there waiting for it to warm up. It's hard to get a jump on heat loving plants unless Mother Nature cooperates.

Lucy had a wonderful time as we were packing up plants to go to Landis Valley. John backs the truck up to the greenhouse and we load the plants in. Lucy just loves to sit in the truck. She doesn't seem to care if it's going anywhere or not. Occasionally, she jumps in the back to check things out, but mostly she stays up front. Sometimes she sits in the driver's seat behind the wheel. If we could teach her to put her paws on the wheel, it would make a good photo.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Open House!

Spring Open House Week Specials

Join us for our spring open house,
Friday and Saturday, April 24 & 25 from 9 to 5
featuring shop specials,
herbal refreshments
and prize drawings.

Greenhouse specials Wednesday through Saturday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bay Laurel


Herb of the year for 2009 is a popular culinary herb—bay or Laurus nobilis. Where it's hardy, bay grows into a tree. Here in Zone 6, it's not winter hardy and must be brought inside before frost. Bay is usually the most expensive herb in the greenhouse. It's difficult to propagate, and slow growing when young. However, when they reach a certain maturity, they grow easily and fairly rapidly. My 15 year old bay is about my height. Bay is not difficult to overwinter. Put in a sunny window, water thoroughly when dry and check for scale insects. Check to see if it needs transplanting in spring or summer, but move up only one pot size.
Bay leaves, fresh or dried, are used in many soups and stews. Remove leaves before serving due to sharp edges. Fresh leaves have an almost spicy flavor. We'll feature a bay flavored treat during our spring open house.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cutting Celery

Cutting celery is a great, but rather uncommon culinary herb. It's in the parsley family and grows like parsley, but tastes like celery. You use the foliage, because it does not develop a stalk. It looks similar to flat leaf parsley, but with a darker, larger leaf and a distinct celery flavor. It often survives through much of the winter. It seems more perennial than biennial, although with age, the flavor becomes stronger. Occasionally, I'll replace the plant and start fresh. Cutting celery can be substituted for celery in almost any recipe—the flavor is that good! I use it in soups, stews, tuna or chicken salad, green salads, etc. The foliage is easily harvested. Use it fresh, or freeze it or dry it for winter use.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring at Cloverleaf

Spring is here - although it's coming slowly. One or two beautiful days and then more of the cold, rainy stuff. Since we didn't have much snow this winter, we really do need the rain. So I try not to complain about that. I'll stick to complaining about the wind - that doesn't serve any good purpose. Spring is in full swing in the greenhouse, though. I haven't moved perennials outside yet. We had some frost here this week and I hate to move small plants out in the rain. Maybe next week- or when I run out of room in the greenhouse - whichever comes first.

We still have openings in each of the classes on our spring class schedule. One class each in April and May and two in June. We always have a good time in the classes - it's always a nice bunch of people. So treat yourself or plan an evening out with a friend. We'd love to see you!

Don't forget our spring open house will be held Friday and Saturday april 24 & 25 9am to 5pm. Herbal refreshments, prize drawings and some shop specials. We'll also have specials on plants during open house week. Tuesday and Wednesday will be $1 off large perennials (second year plants) and Friday and Saturday will be 25 cents off small herbs, flowers, vegetables and scented geraniums (excluding bay.)

Lucy has been wild the last couple days - even more so than usual. Our poor helper, Zach, was sitting outside working when Lucy decides to jump on him and play. She grabbed my hat right off my head and ran happily around the yard. with it. She also got to chase a rabbit which was very exciting for her. I'm chalking it up to spring fever and hoping it doesn't last too long.

We've been cleaning up outside as time and weather permits. I've cut back sages - pretty hard this year. New growth is coming out on lavenders so I'm trimming just the deadwood from those. Thymes and hyssop are trimmed back to just above where new growth is emerging.

If you haven't been out yet, hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fragrant Flowers

Along with their usefulness, fragrance was a quality that attracted me to herbs. In addition to herbs, we offer fragrant, old-fashioned ornamental plants. Fragrance adds another dimension to your garden along with flowers, color, form and texture. Think about adding one or more of these plants to your garden to enjoy.

Nicotiana – or flowering tobacco is fragrant at night. This is the plant's mechanism to attract particular pollinators. White, tubular flowers rise on 24"-30" stems. The annual flowers are sweetly fragrant and usually reseed readily.

Moonflower – is a white, fragrant, night-blooming morning glory. It's an annual vine that needs a post, fence or trellis to climb. The large, white blooms unfurl slowly at dusk. Both moonflower and ruicotiana are wonderful planted next to a seating area you enjoy in the evening.

Dianthus – The perennial dianthus we offer goes by the common name clove pink. The name describes well the spicy-sweet fragrance emitted by the single pink and/or white flowers. Flowers bloom in spring and are about 12" tall. Plant in front of a bed or along a walk so you can enjoy their fragrance. There are many varieties of dianthus, but often hybrids are not fragrant.

Heliotrope– It's old-fashioned name is cherry pie plant. To me, it's more of a sweetly vanilla-like aroma, but it's certainly fragrant. Dark purple flowers top 12" annual plants. Very nice in a sunny container near a seating area.

Jasmine – Jasmine's sweetly fragrant flowers bloom in summer. Sources say jasmine isn't hardy here, but ours has survived outside since we had the farm. The jasmine on the sides of the pergola is five years old. Consider it a woody, perennial vine and give it something substantial to climb. Attractive cut foliage succeeded by sweet, star-shaped flowers.

Catmint – Catmint is often mistaken for lavender when in bloom since it has similar, spikey purple flowers. But it's the foliage that's truly fragrant. The scent isn't floral, but more in the minty vein. Catmint makes a great border or edging plant since it spreads easily, but is not invasive. It produces the same look as lavender, but it's a much more tolerant plant.

Valerian – Sometimes called garden heliotrope, but very different in appearance. Valerian has tall (36"+) flower stalks with pinkish-white blooms. Like heliotrope, it's flowers are made up of multiple florets. The fragrance is clean and musky, rather than floral. Valerian is a perennial, which increases in size, so place it at the back of bed or border.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Our Shop and Classes

The shop is filled with our unique mix of herbal products. Our display gardens offer a chance to see many plants we sell in a garden setting and give you ideas on plant combinations and garden themes. Inside, you'll find a spring class schedule. We offer classes on a variety of herbal /gardening topics. Classes are informal and great fun. I learn a lot from class participants— people always have a great tip, recipe or idea to share. We will again participate in the Landis Valley Herb Faire in May. Look for us in our regular spot. When you plan your garden or choose an herbal product, please think of us!

Marrying Herbs & Ornamentals April 16
Topiaries May 14
Salves & Balms June 4
Fragrant Potpourri June 18

"Now the earth with many flowers puts on her spring embroidery. Sappho

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Hardening off" plants

Q & A "How and why should I 'harden off' plants?"

Hardening off is a process that helps plants acclimate as they move from a protected greenhouse environment to the more demanding one in your garden. Start by placing plants outside in a protected spot without too much direct sun or wind. Each day, move them out to a more exposed position. If it gets below 40 degrees at night, bring them inside. Water thoroughly as they dry out during this time. At the end of the week, they are ready to plant. For annuals, harden off your plants 7-10 days before our last frost day (mid-May) and they'll be ready to go when planting is safe. Hardening off really helps—it lessens a lot of transplant shock. You can do "reverse hardening off' in fall as you bring plants inside, gradually acclimating them to lower inside light levels.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New for Spring!


Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) An easy to grow groundcover, plumbago's foliage reaches about 12". Lovely blue flowers cover the plant late in the season. Tolerates full sun to light shade and wants well-drained soil, although rich soil isn't necessary. Good fall foliage color. Shear established plants in spring to encourage new growth. (12" P)

Brazilian button flower (Centratherum intermediurn "Button Beauty") I wasn't familiar with this flower, but the glowing catalog description and photo convinced me to give it a try. It produces a fuzzy, lavender flower and fragrant foliage. Once established, it's heat and drought tolerant. Suitable for sunny beds and large containers (up to 24" A)

Cockscomb (Celosia argenta cristata) To complement the spike celosia we offer, here's a burgundy cockscomb perfect for drying. Velvety texture, dark flowers on well branched plants with center bloom and many smaller side stems. Excellent for dried arrangements and wreaths. (30-36" A)

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball') We've offered the standard blue cornflower for several years—here's a kissing cousin. Same rounded, multi-petaled flower, but in a rich chocolaty color. Color is similar to dark pincushion flower we offer—very showy, especially combined with white flowers. Sun-loving and should reseed if it's anything like the species. (24" A)

Scented geranium 'Concolor Lace' (Pelargonium sp. 'Concolor Lace') Scented geranium varieties are getting harder to find, but this sounds like a great one. Rather compact with light green leaves and small red flowers. Mild, sweet-nutty scent. Nice in mixed containers. (12" TP)

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy ... to have such things about us."
Iris Murdoch

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Greenhouse Opens!

The greenhouse opens today, April 1!

Beginning now, our spring hours are in effect:
April through June - Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday 9am till 7pm.
From July through December, the greenhouse and shop are open Tuesday through Saturday 9am till 5pm.

One of the new plants listed in the newsletter-white sage-will not be available. Several customers had requested it, and I found a source. However, when I received my shipment of small plants, the white sage was not available. I'll try again next year.

Cur spring open house will be held Friday and Saturday April 24 and 25 from 9am till 5pm. We'll have prize drawings, herbal refreshments and some specials in the shop. On Wednesday and Thursday of open house week, our large size, second year perennials will be $1 off. On Friday and Saturday of open house week, small herbs, flowers and scented geraniums (excluding bay) will be 25 cents off per pot.

For those of you anxious to do some outside work on springlike days, you can clean up perennials, including cutting down old stalks if you didn't do it in the fall. Also, trim back butterfly bushes (fairly hard) between mid-March and mid-April. This will not affect the bloom and will produce sturdy branches rather than lanky, top-heavy branches that occur without trimming. You can rototill as soon as the ground can be worked. If you are adding amendments to your soil, do it before your final tilling so they are mixed in well.

Hang on-planting time is almost here!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where do those plants come from?

This time of year, it's easy to know what each day brings in terms of greenhouse work - potting!

We produce plants three ways - seedlings, which I grow, divisions from stock plants that we hold over winter, and rooted cuttings, which I buy and then pot. The cuttings come in a couple small orders and two larger orders. Once they arrive, I start with the smallest sizes and continue potting madly until they're all done. Some go quickly, others take longer because they must be cleaned or trimmed - always want the plants to look nice.

Seedlings are spaced out more evenly', I first plant seeds in January and continue weekly until the beginning of April. So there's a batch or two per week, depending on how quickly they germinate and mature. Sometimes I have to encourage them, if they're slow to pop through. Basils germinate in 2-3 days, while some perennials take several weeks. Right now, I'm waiting for the pokey angelica - it's started to germinate, but it's slow and spotty. The tiny seedlings are very individual. Some are tall, like fennel, the gomprena has red coloring on the underside of the leaves, some leaves are round, some toothed and some are veined, I generally know the variety,just by the leaf, without looking at the tag.

We also hold over stock plants in the garden, bring them into the greenhouse to push growth and then divide them into smaller plants. This is a fragrant job, since the foliage and sometimes even the roots are aromatic.Some plants have really, tough roots and you must take a knife to them to divide them. But they're tough and they survive.

I've decided the only greenhouse job I really don't enjoy is moving plants around. They have to be moved to make room, rotate stock, move from stock area to sales area, etc. But it's just not as much fun as the rest.

Friday, March 6, 2009

White outside, but green inside!

I'm thinking about our recent brush with winter as I write this.

Last week, the "glancing blow" that was supposed to give us a couple inches of snow dumped the biggest snowfall of the season on us. We got 6-7" and then it blew all around! Although it was winter outside, it's spring in the greenhouse!

The week before, the first little plants arrived and now they have been transplanted along with all the seedlings that were ready to go. I've only filled a couple benches so far, but the sight and smells of fresh, green growing plants chases away the winter blues. As I pushed on the bottom of the packs to release the rootball, the fragrance of fresh lavender drifted up - just heavenly! I also transplanted what I consider to be the most fragrant lemon herb - lemon verbena.

Now we just have to keep them warm and cozy at night for the next couple of very cold nights and then temperatures should moderate and they will be well on their way.

Lucy just loves the snow. She considers it great fun to come along when we shovel snow away from the greenhouses (of course, she's playing and not shoveling.) She had a new toy, a football, to take along today and she loves chasing it. She's what is termed in the pet world an "aggressive chewer" meaning she'll chew on a toy until she destroys it. So far, the football has survived, but it's not as tough as the Konga toys which hold up very well.

The spring newsletter will be mailed in the next couple weeks and will also be posted here, so keep an eye out. Our spring class schedule - will be included with the newsletter. This year, we'll feature guest presenters, Maryanne and Tina, the soap ladies, for one of our classes. I'm also working on shop orders so the shop will be brimming with herbal goodies come April.

Next time-more on the potting frenzy that occurs this time of year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cloverleaf in the Winter - Part 2

Winter interest in the garden sounds like an impossibility in our area. But the longer I garden the more I find of interest in the winter. There are a few plants which actually bloom in the winter. We have a witch hazel tree in the medicinal garden and it blooms with small yellow flowers in February.
Aconite and some hellebores also bloom in winter.

It's also a good time to appreciate the form of plants - particularly trees and shrubs. Without leaves, it's easier to notice their shape and even the arrangement of branches. We have a red-twig dogwood growing in our side border. It's actually a multi-stemmed shrub, unlike the common dogwood tree. It has flowers in the spring, but they're not too showy. Now, however, without its leaves you can really appreciate the bright red stems-looks especially pretty with snow cover.

Woody stemmed herbs which do not die back are still attractive in winter. Lavender, thyme, rosemary,(all my second year plants which survived last winter are still going strong) santolina, sage,etc. provide interesting form and foliage. Plantings, like our knot garden and thyme walk, that depend more on their form rather than color or bloom, look just as good as in summer and stand out more against the quiet winter landscape. Echinacea flowerheads, which I let stand to feed the finches are attractive, as are sedum's dried flowers and the bare, bleached stems of russian sage. I let these stand through the winter and just cut them off in the spring as new growth emerges from the base.

Some things stay green or at least produce new growth under a top that has died back. Much of chamomile's foliage remains green, ornamental candytuft has evergreen foliage and there's new foliage underneath on burnet, costmary and St. John's wort. There's winter interest out there. It just doesn't shout at you like it does in spring.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cloverleaf in the Winter

Hope you all enjoyed your holiday season and did not overeat or overspend. We had a great holiday. Lucy enjoyed herself-she got a new toy. She acts likes a kid does when obsessed with a new toy. She chewed on it for about six hours the first day - I actually think her mouth got tired. She ignored all her other toys and is just finally beginning to play with them again. But when John gets home, and she runs for a toy, it's always the new one. She is still on her hunt for field mice in the "wilderness area" at the back of our property. She dives on a spot with both front paws and buries her nose in the high grass, sniffing away. I'm sure any mouse in the area is long gone when it hears her bounding through the grass. Her tail wags like mad, so I guess she's enjoying herself.

The ice storms have been pretty and not too severe, so I guess we've been lucky. The last one encased each individual branch in ice and the red hawthorn berries and rose hips were each surrounded by its own icicle - very pretty. Late in the day it was kind of foggy-hazy. It looked like a painting with muted monochromatic colors. I do like the change in seasons. Winter has a scaled back, simplistic kind of beauty.

But, since I have started seeds and they have germinated into tiny little plants, it means spring is just around the corner! It's much easier to contend with winter when I can check the progress of the tiny herbs and flowers each day. I've started lavender "Lady" seedlings and the little plants smell just as fragrant as a full grown example. That's some good aromatherapy.

The shop is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9-5 through March.