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 !!