Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Visitor

My niece from New Jersey visited recently. She's doing graduate work at Rutgers and visits occasionally. Her family (my sister & brother-in-law) live in Canada so it‘s hard to go home weekends to visit. She gets a break and some home cooking here. I made chicken Caprese - chicken breasts topped with tomato, basil, mozzarella and wrapped in bacon - what's not to like? She was impressed that the chicken was so moist. I use an old restaurant trick - soak the chicken in milk all day before draining and cooking. You‘re supposed to use buttermilk, and I do if I have it on hand for a particular recipe. otherwise, I use just regular low-fat milk and that works fine. Often, I'll add mustard, salt & pepper and herbs for added flavor.

She also went hone with a basil and a lavender plant. She lives in an apartment but has a small outdoor space and missed having some plants. She loves to go to the thrift store in Mount Joy run by the MCC. Loads of bargains there.

I‘m slowly making the transition from summer to fall. I enjoy the moderating weather - lower humidity and even on warm days, it's cool start in the morning. I grew up in Mt. Gretna, so the end of summer was always bittersweet. Summer was the big season and it was fading. I'm old enough that the idea of starting school before Labor Day is strange to me.

All my seasons seem to overlap in some ways. I‘ve already placed orders for starter plants for next spring. And I‘m doing a lot of work in the shop, so it will be ready for the holidays. Also working on the fall newsletter and will soon start ordering seeds for the spring. All this while summer slowly fades.

Finish up large harvests (up to one third) on woody stemmed perennials like thyme, sage, thyme and rosemary (borderline hardy). Since they don't die back, the remaining foliage provides some protection for the crown of the plant over Winter.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Butterfly Frenzy!

I'm glad I had a witness or it might have been one of those hard to believe experiences. John and I were taking Lucy for a Walk. We walked around the greenhouse, between the greenhouse flowerbed and the bee & butterfly garden behind the second greenhouse and we walked right into a cloud of butterflies.

There were literally hundreds of them - they seemed to be fluttering between the two butterfly bushes in those two gardens. I've never seen so many together at once. The vast majority were the small whites and yellows (sulfers) and fritillaries, but there were also some swallowtails and a few skippers. It was a lovely summer sight and I'm glad to see that butterflies made a resurgence this year. I know you‘ll see more on sunny days so there‘s one benefit of all the sunny, dry weather this season.

The other thing lots of butterflies means is more rescues from the greenhouse. They fly in, cannot find their way out and have to be released. (not so smart, don‘t have this problem with bees) I know they only live a month or so, so I hated the thought of them trapped in there fluttering against the walls. So I check periodically, capture and release them. The big ones are much easier to catch. One day I walked in and there were about 15 congregated along the front wall!

The sweet autumn Clematis on the pergola is in full, fragrant bloom. It always reminds me of a flowery, white cloud. It is full of bumblebees busily working. Another plant loaded with bumblebees and butterflies now is sedum. If you have 'Autumn Joy' (reddish) or *Brilliant* (pinkish) Check them out. Loads of bees and a good variety of butterflies.

I‘m getting a good second crop of lavender, am still drying euphorbia (snow on the mountain) along with statice, gomphrena, and celosia. Although frost is still a while away, I'm starting to remove annuals that have suffered through the dry weather. Some just look beat.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Transitioning into Fall

Although we haven't reached the official start of fall, I'm enjoying the transition. Some days are sunny, but not humid. You can feel the freshness in the air. When I take Lucy out for her early morning walk, it feels cool and sometimes even chilly. After feeling hot for so long, feeling chilly feels great. And I love sleeping with the windows open instead of the AC running. Even when we have hot days, you know it's not going to last for weeks at a time.

Fall is an excellent time to plant perennials. Planting now allows plants to become established, giving them a head start over plants put in during the spring season. Often, fall provides more reliable rainfall, which cuts down on watering requirements. We do offer larger sizes of a few perennial varieties in the fall, plus we have a few leftover half-price small perennial herbs and flowers for sale. Planting up until about mid October gives plants enough time to become established before cold weather sets in.

My other fall transition is switching from plants and greenhouse/garden work to preparing the shop for the fall and holiday seasons. I craft for the shop, prepare potpourri, harvest and dry flowers and bulk herbs and prepare orders for the wonderful, handmade products we offer.

Most of our products come from Maryanne and Tina, aka The Twisted Sisters, who supply us with handmade soaps, spritzes, oils, lip balms, lotion sticks, salt scrubs and Maryanne's beaded jewelry. We have a few other vendors who produce herbal teas, cat treats, goat's milk lotion, bubble bath, etc. Nearly all our herbal products are produced in small batches by home-based businesses.

Many people think we close or cut back hours drastically after the spring season. We are actually open five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm through December. We have plants for sale during the fall and of course, lots of products for sale in the shop. So there's still plenty to see when you visit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Seasons

It's a "Tale of Two Seasons" when it comes to this growing season. Remember early in the spring, flowering trees were early, bulbs faded fast, lilacs were two weeks early and my peonies bloomed at Mothers' Day. I think it was a combination of ample groundwater from all the melting snow and the blast of hot weather we had in mid-April.

Now we approach the end of summer and where are all the late season bloomers? Of my annual vines, moonflower and mina, or firecracker flower have just begun blooming recently. Hyacinth bean vine is just blooming now, so beans won't form for a couple weeks, pushing it's showy season into September. I have no flowers on pineapple sage yet. Even the gomphrena is poking along, although I'm starting to harvest flowers.

I read an article that said tomato plants won't form blooms above 90 and beans stop flower production at 85. So that long stretch of very high temperatures in July put a lot of vegetable plants on hold. The article didn't mention flowers, but most plants are biochemically engineered to protect themselves in times of stress. It seems the late bloomers shut down also in the extreme heat and are now playing catch-up. With the average frost date,we still have plenty of time for a good late season show.

With the weather extremes, I had some great garden successes and some super flops this year.

Calendula - cheerful yellow and orange daisy-like blooms. Started early and still going strong. Harvesting resinous petals for use in skin care products.
Basils - Struggled during the dry spells, but came back like gangbusters after the big rains.
Jupiter's Beard - and excellent re-blooming perennial. Re-blooming well after minimal trimming.
Lavender - Good spring bloom and looks like the beginning of a healthy fall re-bloom.

Nasturtiums - couldn't take the extreme heat. Stunted and few flowers.
4 o'clocks - Never really developed. Short and just a few flowers forming now.
Ornamental oregano - A pretty dried flower - just didn't produce the way it usually does.

The great thing about gardening is that there's always next year with different conditions and a chance to try again!