Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Holidays - Open House!

Since our first frost was a hard frost this year, we started our fall clean-up right after  that. We got about halfway around before the big storm hit. Had to Wait for things to dry out after that. One thing that didn't die off was the coconut scented geranium I have in the 4-square garden. Scented geraniums are not hardy here in zone 6; however the seeds of coconut are winter hardy reseeds each year for me. I was surprised that the plant itself was not  killed off when the temperature dropped into the 20's. I know it will die off soon, but it's a tough little plant in addition to smelling yummy.

We do have a few flats of potted herbs and topiaries going for holiday sales, but most of my work now is in the shop. I've been crafting for Christmas for awhile, and now I‘m decorating and putting it all together. l'm sure I‘m in the minority, but I like to wait until November to see holiday decorating.

Our holiday open house will be held Friday November 30 and Saturday December 1 from 9 to 5. We'll have the aforementioned potted herbs and topiaries in the greenhouse. The shop is full with seasonal gifts and decorations, along with our standard stock of oils, handmade soaps, lotions and spritzes, books, calendars, jewelry, pet treats and Catnip toys, etc. During our open house, we'll run specials in the shop on several items, serve herbal refreshments and have prize drawings. I know this is a very busy time of year, but we hope you will find time to drop by during the holiday season.

Our fall newsletter comes out in mid-November. If you're not on our mailing list, sign up when you visit the farm. We send out both paper and e-mail copies, whichever you prefer. Lots of ideas for holiday gifts, plus a peek ahead to spring.

Friday, November 16, 2012

After the Storm

We made it through the hurricane or superstorm or whatever with no problems-certainly much better than the tropical storm in 2011.

We had a little water in the basement which was easily cleaned up with the shop-vac. We had some water in the shop because a piece of spouting blew off. But of course, all the products are up on tables and counters, so that also was just a matter of cleaning up some water. We were lucky in that we did not lose electricity, When that happens, the greenhouses deflate, because the blower fan between the layers of plastic doesn't work, That’s one of the main reasons we got a generator. John was ready to go, but didn't need to use it.

l‘m very glad we replaced the plastic on greenhouse 2, because the old plastic was very patchy and I don’t know how well it would have held up. Both greenhouses stood up very well to the winds.
John was ready with his vast array of flashlights. He has big flashlights, little flashlights, LED ones, one you shake to charge-just an amazing number and variety of them. I don't think we were more than 4-6 feet from a flashlight anywhere in the house. I do think people learned from the 2011 storm and were really prepared this time around.

We had a Very exciting sighting after the storm. We saw a bald eagle in the field right across the street from our house. John saw it first and after trying to figure out which tree he meant, I saw a very large, dark bird with a white head sitting in a tree. It was far away so We couldn't see detail. John went out to get his binoculars and got a good view, but it had flown away before I got to look with the binocs. I know they are seen around the river.  We wondered if it got blown off course by the storm. It was a pretty cool sighting.

On one of our walks, Lucy went racing across the yard and jumped on a purple flower. I thought it was an artificial one blown about by the storm. Turns out it was a saffron crocus! John‘s aunt had given me bulbs several years ago. They were all eaten by voles.

They missed this one and I got three threads of saffron.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cool Weather Cooking

One night, as we ate supper, (I had made a casserole of chicken, butternut squash and seasoned bread cubes) John commented that we were having heartier suppers now that the weather has cooled off. It’s true that winter and fall seem suited to warming, hearty meals  like soups and stews and casseroles. And it's not just that I have more time to cook now than in the spring. Even though business slows after the spring, I still favor lighter meals like pasta and salads, chicken and fish in the summer. And the same holds true with the herbs I use in cooking. I use basil a lot in the summer-nearly every day. It seems a shame not to take advantage of the bountiful production and to pair it with summer veggies and meats. I also use parsley, marjoram,savory and thyme, herbs toward the lighter end of the scale in terms of taste and strength. As the weather cools down, I particularly notice that I begin to use rosemary more in my cooking Still using parsley and thyme, both of which I think go with almost any savory dish. I love rosemary, but its bold flavor seems better with the more substantial, longer-cooking dishes I’m making now.

This is a simple recipe I got years ago during a Rodale Institute workshop I attended. It lends itself to variations and additions.
My mom used to add turnips and-or parsnips. I've used sweet potatoes in addition to or in place of the regular potatoes. And even with the colder weather, you should have plenty of fresh rosemary to use for awhile yet. One thing the instructor emphasized in this recipe, make sure to include cabbage-it adds a lot of flavor.
Place 2 sprigs of rosemary-about 4"-6" long in a roasting pan.
Add cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, onions, cabbage and cubed butternut squash. Add a small amount of chicken broth~maybe 1/4 cup or so. 
Cover and roast at 350 for one hour.
Goes very well with ham, pork roast or beef.

I'm working in the shop preparing for the holidays. I try not to start any actual Christmas work till October. When I worked in the garden center, they would start arrangements, etc. in August I thought that was awful . Watch for our holiday newsletter during the first half of November.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frost Warnings

Since the weatherman was calling for frost, I took some time to wander around the gardens and enjoy some things before they finished up for the season. Some were no big surprise-the end of season plants that always put on their best show now. Like red pineapple sage, which did not start blooming for me till October, making it quite a short growing season this year. And the fuzzy purple spikes on Mexican bush sage-beautiful in both color and texture. And the yellows and oranges of both marigolds and calendula, which always seem more appealing to me in the fall. But there were some surprises.

We have some pink David Austin roses and one, not a particularly large bush was covered with flowers this fall-I stopped counting at two dozen. Nearby were my rose bon-bon cosmos. I had cut them back sometime in the summer. So the plants were shorter but very full, and just loaded with blossoms. They’re a mixture of single and double pink flowers-very showy. All the nicotiana or flowering tobacco put on a good fall show. And the tall, upright verbena was gorgeous. It's upright, rather than trailing, but has the same flat-headed flowers with multiple florets. It was sparse during the extreme heat of July, but lovely through September and October. Although not winter hardy, it reseeds reliably every year. And of course, the fuzzy red chenille-like stems of love-lies-bleeding ~ it takes awhile for them to size up, but they are a real show»stopper when they do.

l made a mad rush around to cut the last of some herbs for drying and also some annual flowers to dry and bunch. I had an excellent fall rebloom on my lavender this year-almost as good as the spring bloom, l thought. Also picked globe amaranth, eucalyptus, cockscomb and a few others.

Lucy got to chase a squirrel the other day. They really fascinate her. lt didn't take her long to figure out there's no sense in chasing birds, since they just fly away. But squirrels run and then climb trees! This one did just that, but once he was up that tree, he didn't scamper to the top and jump from tree to tree, he just sat there. If she could have figured out a way to climb that tree, she would have. He ascended slowly, but she could still see him and she wasn't ready to give up. l finally had to put her on the leash and drag her away. The next day she went out looked up and smelled and smelled. -

Friday, October 19, 2012

Transitioning to Fall

After working outside all summer, and being hot, I am enjoying the transition to fall. Even back in August, on a few mornings you could feel the change beginning in the morning air. Then, one morning, l needed a long-sleeved shirt on Lucy's first walk. Then, a sweatshirt and finally blue jeans instead of shorts. I notice the transition in my work habits too. Work is shifting from the greenhouses to getting the shop ready and stocked for the holidays.

There's still a lot of outside work~ with all the rain, lots of weeding, some perennials to plant to fill in spots and replace some that didn't survive or thrive and trimming back that we didn't get to at the height of the summer. It's lovely working out on a sunny fall day.

Another sign of fall-toads returning to the greenhouse. We had a bumper toad crop this year-4 were living in the greenhouse this spring. Since then, they've dispersed and I've seen them outside at different times and in different locations. Even saw a baby once. There was one of the toads that I would see regularly in the greenhouse throughout the summer. He or she would go in and out but I'd see him in the back corner every few days. Sometimes, I'd see two together-perhaps they‘re a couple. And now, I see the two of them dug into the dirt most days. They must be preparing for Winter.

The hyacinth bean vine is developing beans, although it bloomed about a month late and should be loaded with beans by now. Also, the late Mexican bush sage, with fuzzy purple flowers is starting to bloom now. We had a casualty in the last big rainstorm. Our Mina, or firecracker vine, was on an obelisk in the garden at the top of the driveway. Being top-heavy, it got wrenched out of the ground roots and all so it couldn't be replanted. Too bad, because it was also starting to bloom, with pretty sprays of yellow, orange and red flowers.

The goldfinch pair feeding on the echinacea seeds have brought friends. They've gone through about 6o% of them now.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Big Job!

A big job accomplished! It was time to replace the plastic covering our back greenhouse. The plastic degrades over time, due to the sun‘s rays. It's not a difficult job, but it requires two things.

A calm day and lots of hands, since controlling a 50 foot long piece of plastic can be challenging.    John recruited several co-workers, a cousin or two and of course, John and I along with our helper, Jon. There are actually two pieces of plastic, with an air gap
between, to provide some insulation.  For the first piece, my job was to stand inside the greenhouse with a very long~handled broom and guide the plastic over the metal hoops. For the second piece, I just helped pull it over the other piece. Then, the guys inserted the wiggle wire (zigzag wire pieces) into channels at each end of the greenhouse to hold the plastic firmly in place. Repeat for the  second piece and most of the work is done. That part took about two hours-and just in time, because it began to get breezy then. Trying to control a flapping piece of lightweight plastic in even a gentle breeze is tough. John and our helper finished up the rest of the work in a couple more hours. It looks great and has held up well. A couple days later we had the all-day blowing rain and everything held up.

Lucy had a great time meeting all her new friends. Of course, we had to put her in during the actual operation. Imagine a wild dog running amok over 6 mil plastic.

One day, while walking Lucy, I noticed her with her nose moving along the ground. She wasn't sniffing, but rather walking with her nose directly on the ground. It looked strange and I couldn't imagine what she was doing. When I got close enough, I saw she was following a praying mantis which was walking along. She was just following along, with her nose against it, trying to figure out exactly what it was. It eventually moved off under some cover.
Since then, I've seen mantises frequently. This must be an active time of year for them. And they are all big. On foliage, they’re all green. One that was sitting in a pot, was brown on top green and underneath.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Butterfly report

I've been keeping an eye on the butterfly population. Although l still think it‘s down overall from previous years, l have seen an uptick. We continue to have loads of the little ones-lots of small fritillaries, white loopers and others and pretty many sulfers.

I've seen only a handful of monarchs, although l was happy to see some caterpillars on the swamp milkweed. We have tons of the wild milkweed out back, so hopefully there are caterpillars feasting there too. Not too many swallowtails, but I have seen more in the past two weeks. l've seen caterpillars on dill, fennel, rue and parsley and saw a black swallowtail laying eggs on the parsley this Week.

The one species I've noticed in abundance is the buckeye. It’s medium-sized, brown with some yellow and orange markings, but very noticeable for the round spots or eyes on the outer edges of its wings. Turns out the caterpillars feed on plantain, verbenas and snaps, all of which we have, so l guess it‘s just a buffet for them.
I noticed a butterfly sitting on zinnias one day (not the one above.) It had its wings folded up, so that l could only see the undersides and I couldn’t figure out what kind it was. Must have been happy, because it sat there awhile. When it finally flew off, I saw it was a painted lady~very pretty. also saw a brown little one that l had to look up. Turned out to he a Northern Cloudywing. Not very showy, but l like the name.

The painted lady was sitting in a patch of pink profusion zinnias and boy, are they spectacular this year. Plenty of rain made for lush growth and plenty of sun means loads of flowers. The colors~cherry pink, orange and deep apricot are all so rich and the white is bright and clear. They bloom constantly and require very little deadheading.  And never a lick of mildew on them since l've grown them. l always give them the most bang for your buck award. I love the tall old~fashioned zinnias with their wide color range, but no matter how I site them they always seem to develop mildew.

l‘m reducing large harvests on woody-stemmed perennials like thyme, sage and rosemary to allow plenty of foliage to remain for winter protection. Can still harvest and use-just don't cut back the whole plant or cut back really hard.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I've been watching a pair of goldfinches who are coming daily to feast on the seeds of purple coneflower. We have two big stands of purple coneflower, or echinacea, and a smaller patch of the white. l notice the birds most in the patch in front of the greenhouse, although they also visit the medicinal meandering garden.  I never cut coneflowers back in the fall, leaving the seedheads for the birds is the winter, but the way these two are going at it, there may not be any left this winter.

I was sitting outside one day and l noticed a beautiful combo in the four~square garden. The tall white garlic chive flowers were in full bloom and behind them, in the background, was the intensely purple foliage of ‘Red Rubin* basil. Also, in the picture were the bright yellow and orange blossoms of calendula.  Just a lovely combination!  Speaking of garlic chives, the bees are absolutely delirious over the flowers-they were loaded with bees yesterday. My practice is always to let the bees work the flowers till they're satisfied and then out them back. Because garlic chives reseed so prolifically, l cut them back when the seed heads are still green, hopefully eliminating reseeding. Although I just found another bit that popped up somewhere they didn't belong, so l must be even more ruthless.

I’m noticing an effect of the extremely high temperatures in July.  Many plants will not set buds when temps get high (usually above 85 or 90 degrees). So late-bloomers are definitely being delayed.  Hyacinth bean vine is just blooming now, so the bean crop will be down. I‘ve seen only one flower on nina or firecracker vine, also an annual vine with sprays of yellow, orange and red flowers.  Then I went looking at the late sages. 1've seen only a few small buds forming on both the mexican bush sage with fuzzy purple flowers and pineapple sage with red tubular blooms, Hopefully,  we'll have a late frost season and still get to enjoy these late season beauties.

The greenhouse and herb shop remain open 5 days a week~Tuesday-Saturday 9-5. Many people think we shut down after the plant sale.
Not so!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Birds in a Greenhouse!

Birds in the greenhouse! Sounds kind of like "Snakes on a Plane" although not as problematic. 

Nearly every year, we get a few wayward birds that fly into the greenhouse, more often the back greenhouse. Usually, I just duck down, walk behind the birds and shoo them towards the door and they fly out. This works unless the birds are young or dumb. This year, a young mockingbird got in greenhouse #3 and couldn't get out. I tried shooing, but although he'd fly toward the front, he'd veer off to the side instead of flying out the door. Mockingbirds can be nasty, but this one was just dazed and tired. He was flapping against the front wall, so I scooped him in a bucket, threw a box over the top end get him outside. He flew away unscathed.

Mourning doves are also difficult, because they're too dumb to fly out on their own. Usually have to throw a towel over them and rescue and release.

Recently, we had a tougher challenge. Walked into the greenhouse, heard a strange noise, looked up and saw a hummingbird hovering near the top of the greenhouse. Once, when I worked in the garden center, we had a hummingbird inside~we got it out eventually, but it took a while and wasn't easy. Luckily, John was home when this happened.

The poor thing was tired from hovering constantly. It perched on the frame around the fan on the back wall. John got up on the bench with a bucket, figuring he‘d scoop her (it was e female) into the bucket.  The little thing hopped on the edge of the bucket end sat there. John handed me the bucket and I slowly walked out of the greenhouse with it perched there the whole time. It sat on the bucket a few minutes to recover then flew off and rested in a tree.

Then I go into greenhouse #2 and see a small wren hopping around on the floor. By the time I got John and we came back in, we couldn't see it. It was way in the back though, and we hadn‘t seen it fly out. Looked on the back wall and saw it stuck in the web of one of the large, writing spiders that live there, John released it and we scooted it out, only to be met by Lucy! She didn‘t hurt it~it hopped under a tree and eventually flew away. I'd much rather have toads in the greenhouse!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm enjoying summer (except for the hot weather) as the days and weeks tick by. Summer always has a vacation feel to me, even though I'm long, long removed from school and the idea of summer vacation.
And even though we continue to be open full~time, and I have plenty of work to do, it’s not super busy like spring, which I guess leads to the lazy, summertime feel.

There are things that represent summer to me as I look arcane-big clumps of blooming coneflower, bushes of tomato and pepper plants and butterfly bushes fragrant basil, cheerful calendula flowers, purple blooms atop white Russian sage stems loaded with blooms.
I do think the butterfly population is down this year, both in number and variety. The only type I've seen in profusion are the cabbage whites and their related cousins. l've seen a handful of larger species - monarchs and swallowtails (more black than yellow and black) and also buckeyes, a few commas, fritillaries, red admirals and skippers. I think numbers have declined steadily since we moved in fifteen years ago. And it’s not for lack of nectar sources.
I've been admiring a new flower I planted ~ amberboa. Haven't found a common name for it, but it'e in the aster family, so l'll call it an annual aster. Very fine texture ~ narrow, linear leaves with a pretty, mauve flower with thin, spidery petals. I found it in a catalog and the picture and description were quite accurate. I planted five in a clump ~ with the fine texture, 1 think you need 3, 5, or more for show. l‘ll have to wait till next year to see if they reseed.
l've been cutting back perennials after they bloom to neaten them up and encourage rebloom. Ditto for deadheading annuals. I had the super dark-almost black~cornflowere that never died over the mild winter. They actually got almost as tall as me end bloomed for months.  I finally cut them down and now have a new crop of seedlings emerging from dropped seed.
The plant sale continues~don't have a huge selection left~but prices are dirt cheap!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot Weather Tips

In the hot weather, outside work continues, although I start earlier (sometimes 7am) so I can finish up by noon and retreat inside during the hottest part of the day.  I've been drying lots of culinary herbs - mints, basil, tarragon, thymes, catnip, chamomile, and savory.  I'm also drying flowers for use and sale in the shop - lavender is done, along with yarrow, love-in-a-mist seed pods, larkspur and cornflower.  Now I'm working on annual statice, showy kent beauty oregano and herrenhausen oregano.  These are both wonderful plants -grown not for flavor, but for their pretty flowers.

After perennial flowers have bloomed, it's a good idea to cut them back.  After blooming, they often decline in appearance.  Cutting them back hard - usually to a few inches above the ground, encourages the emergence of new growth.  You'll often see new growth at the base or in the middle of the plant.  This indicates the plant will benefit from hard trimming.  Some perennials will rebloom later in the season if they are cut back after their first bloom.

Lots of people have been admiring our hollyhocks once they bloomed.  They did not reseed particularly well this year.  I think many seeds rotted or washed away with last fall's flood.  But the ones that did come back are lovely.  So many people talk about a relative having hollyhocks in their yards.  Most do not remember them having rust.  Rust is a fungus disease caused by spores which proliferate in hot, humid weather.  Rust and other fungal diseases like powdery mildew must be treated with a fungicide.  Remember, it will not remove the fungus on the plant, it will only prevent it from getting worse.  In order to have clean plants, you must treat them before you see any signs of rust, and continue through the hot, humid weather.

Starting to see some more, larger butterflies - a couple monarchs, black swallowtails, and red admirals.  I saw a monarch feeding on butterfly weed.  This is a 'cousin' to wild milkweed and also swamp milkweed, which are host plants for the monarch caterpillars, as well as nectar sources for butterflies.

Our plant sale continues.  Lots of good prices!  Try a new plant or tuck in another in an empty spot in the garden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seasonal Progression

I've always enjoyed the progression of the seasons, so much so that I think I'd have a hard time living in an area that didn't see a seasonal change. 

Growing up in Mt. Gretna, PA, it was simple to see the change.  Spring brought all the new growth in the woods, new green leaves unfurling and the discovery of all the woodland flowers, like Jack in the pulpit, trailing arbutus and lady's slippers.  And the rhododendrons - Wow!  Summer was magical with the whole place awakening (this was in the old days when year-round residents were in the minority).  Lots of cool green shade and days spent at the lake.  Autumn was perhaps the best - beautiful, brilliant foliage and the lovely leaf mold smell.  And winter was quiet and white like a blanket had been pulled up around you. 

I still love that progression.  I think of it in the vegetable garden.  How fun to pick the first sugar peas and cook them up.  I have a few recipes I pull out to enjoy as soon as they start.  Then the small but sweet alpine strawberries.  I enjoy them on cereal, but my favorite is to just eat them in the garden, still warm from the sun.  Then the wild black raspberries - so sweet.  Next, green beans and yellow beans so I can make three bean salad.  Then tomatoes to enjoy with all the basil I've grown, and peppers too.  I've stopped growing cukes, since I no longer make pickles.  And I've never grown squash.  There are so many floating around and someone's always looking to give some away.

Lucy loves the garden too.  All I have to say is let's go pick sugar peas or beans and off she goes.  Strawberries she'll pick by herself and she also loves raspberries and mulberries.

Of course, the flower gardens present the same progression.  Early spring starts with bleeding hear, candytuft, columbine and dame's rocket.  Close on their heels are big, beautiful oriental poppies and fragrant dianthus.  Then, spiky purple catmint and lavender along with pink Jupiter's beard and bright magenta rose campion.  Summer brings daylilies, yellow St. John's wort, echinacea, anise hyssop, black-eyed Susans and brilliant blue plumbago.  A feast for the eyes!

Monday, June 18, 2012

So, what's happening now?

With the great start perennials have gotten this year, I've been busy harvesting.  I've harvested lavender to dry for bunching and also made lavender wands when it was fresh.  Once the little florets open, the bees love it.  I let the flowers stand until the bees are done and then cut back the flower stems.  Other flowers I've cut and dried include yarrow, lady's mantle, and nigella (love-in-a-mist) seed pods.

Well established perennials can be cut back by half and dried.  I've made a couple cuttings from oregano, lemon balm, mints and tarragon.  I'm also drying chamomile flowers for tea.  Both chamomile and lavender flowers have more oil and flavor than leaves, making them good candidates for tea and culinary use.  I'm also drying thyme, although I cut that back by about a third.  Generally the woody stemmed herbs are cut back less, since they are slower growing compared to other, more vigorous perennials like mints and oregano.

Make sure your annuals are well established before making large harvests.  You can snip to use fresh at any time, but hold off on large cuttings till they are growing well.

I was concerned early on because I hadn't seen many bees, but they are really working the catmint and lavender in the bed in front of the greenhouse.  And there are literally dozens and dozens of honeybees enjoying the flowers on the thyme walk.  We don't do much work there, so we will not disturb them.  On sunny days, it looks like big chunks of thyme are moving because there are so many active bees.  I've read that they plant thyme in France to attract bees - certainly seems like it works.

Lots and lots of little butterflies - mostly cabbage whites and other whites, along with a few sulfers.  I have seen a few larger species - comma, red admiral, and painted lady - but the larger ones seem more plentiful in mid and late summer.  I'm starting to see swallowtail caterpillars on dill, parsley, fennel and rue, so those butterflies will appear shortly.

Our plant sale starts June 23.  Perennials are buy 3, get 1  free and annuals are half off.  Try a new plant or fill a spot in your garden.

Posted for Kathy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back after "Spring Break"

I'm back, after a spring break - although it didn't involve any time on a tropical beach!  First, a big thank you to everyone who has visited us at the farm or at Landis Valley.  We've had a great start to the spring season.  It's so nice to see our regular customers returning and often bringing their friends and relatives.  It's also great to meet new customers who are referred by a friend, or see our ad or find out about us online.  With so much going on in the spring, and many places to shop, we appreciate our customers' loyalty and friendship.

Landis Valley 2012 was great.  The weather was good both days and although the intrepid plant people turn out no matter what the weather, the crowds are better when the weather cooperates.  We have regulars who return each year at LV too.  This year, we sold 81 flats of plants!

In addition to helping customers and maintaining plants, we've been busy outside too.  We've gotten all the gardens planted with our new helper, Jon.  With regular rainfall, all the established perennials were very lush this spring.  Our annuals have been in long enough to take hold, so with rain continuing, everything should grow well.  We have been having rabbit problems this year.  They seem to be more plentiful this year - maybe more survived the mild winter.  After planting, we noticed parsley and cutting celery had been chewed off, along with a few flowers.  I think most will recover.  At least we haven't had groundhog troubles yet - knock wood.

With the early burst of mild weather, things got off to a quick start this year.  Lilacs in April, peonies at Mother's Day, lavender blooming in May and I just noticed the St. John's wort starting to bloom with its pretty yellow flowers.  That's a couple weeks early - the plant gets its name from the feast of St. John, at the end of June, which is its usual bloom time.

The greenhouse and herb shop remain open 5 days a week through the summer - Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5.  We're open till 7pm on Wednesday evenings through June.  Plant sale begins June 23!

Posted for Kathy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What flowers are good to dry?

The easiest flowers to air dry are those with a papery feel even while growing. Globe amaranth has clover- like flowers in a mix of purple, pink and white and also a red form. Both kinds work well in wreaths and arrangements.

Celosia has either spike or large crested flowers usually in rich colors. We offer two types of yarrow suitable for drying—gold, which adds a bright note to arrangements and ‘The Pearl’ with small clear white flowers excellent as filler.

Annual statice in rose, white, lavender and dark blue is versatile and holds its color very well over time. Fragrant choices include lavender and sweet annie (excellent for wreath bases). Other plants worth drying include eucalyptus and euphorbia (foliage), love-in-a-mist (seedpods), mexican bush sage, kent beauty oregano, zinnia, bells of Ireland, love-lies-bleeding, emilia, cornflower and bee balm (flowers).

Join us for our spring open house Friday and Saturday, April 27 & 28 from 9 to 5. Plant specials, herbal refreshments, prize drawings.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


The herb of the year for 2012 is rose. With hundreds of varieties, plus colors, fragrances and herbal uses, this is certain to be a popular choice.

The attractions of roses are numerous. Climbing roses can cover pergolas or arbors. Beautiful, fragrant roses are the ultimate cut flowers. Their scent can be found in hundreds of fragrant products. Even their hips are ornamental and useful.

Updating new plants from last season:

Achillea: ‘The Pearl’ – A perennial blooming the first year with small, white baby’s breath like flowers, but with the growing ease of yarrow. Flowers are great dried or with cut flowers as airy filler.

Anemone ‘Robustissima’ – A beautiful complement to the white form. Single pink flowers bloom late summer and fall. Produces a clump which increases in size each year.

Basil ‘Thai Magic’ – Attractive and vigorous basil with licorice scent favored in eastern cooking. Attractive purple flower spikes.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Several times each year customers lament, “I can’t grow that, my yard has too much shade.” Starting with a new landscape usually means full sun, making homeowners anxious to plant trees to provide much needed shade. Years pass, trees grow and grow and soon that nice sunny yard is enveloped in shade.

If you have a young landscape and wish to grow herbs, vegetables, roses or sun loving ornamentals, dedicate a portion of your yard to full sun growing. Plant trees and large shrubs far enough away to ensure that this area will receive 6-8 hours of sun per day.

Having a shady yard doesn’t mean having a plain or unattractive yard. There are ornamental, shade-loving plants—some flowering, some fragrant, some with great foliage—but not as many as in the sun loving group. For early spring color, think about bulbs. Most flower before trees leaf out, so they can work in shady areas. Some herbs, like parsley, mints, chervil, cutting celery, feverfew, burnet, tarragon and lovage, will tolerate part shade. If you plant sun loving herbs in containers and move them to follow the sun, even basil, thyme, rosemary and sage can thrive. Remember to fertilize container herbs regularly throughout the growing season. Here are some outstanding ornamental plants for shade:

Bleeding heart – A popular throwback to Grandma’s garden, blooming in early spring with heart-shaped pink blossoms on arching sprays over dark green foliage. Dies back in summer.

Sweet cicely – An herb that prefers shade. Finely cut fern-like foliage with a flat-headed white flower and licorice scent.

Foamflower – Beautiful, dark-marked leaves and pink-white flower spikes in spring. Good coverage for a woodland setting without being invasive.

Foxglove – Foliage only in year one and tall, stately flowers in a spike year two. Allow to reseed for yearly bloom. All parts toxic.

Lady’s mantle – Beautiful scalloped foliage in a mound, with airy yellow-green flowers similar to baby’s breath. Good cut flower filler.

Nicotiana – A reliably reseeding annual with tubular, white flowers, fragrant at night. Plant near a seating area used in the evening.

Sweet woodruff – A shade loving herbal groundcover. Whorls of leaves topped in early spring by small white flowers. Flowers used to flavor May wine.

Anemone – Late season standout, pink or white blooms similar to a single rose on tall, wiry stem. Nice cut flower.

More shade lovers – irish moss, dame’s rocket, angelica, lily-of-the-valley, columbine and forget-me-not.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

NEW FOR 2012

Amberboa (Amberboa muricata) - This selection dazzled me in a catalog. A member of the aster family, it has spidery purple petals and grows about 30” tall. Sun-loving and easy to grow, it’s a great cut flower and blooms until frost. Delicate habit looks best planted in multiples.
(Annual - 30”).

Wild foxglove (Digitalis sp.) - Tall, ornamental biennial with mixed flower colors. Will tolerate a fair amount of shade, like along woodland’s edge. Allow to reseed after flowering (year 2) so it continues. Caution: Plant is toxic.
(Biennial – 2’-3’).

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum ‘Patio Tasty Fiesta’) – Another slow-bolting type (along with our ‘Santo’ variety) with a unique appearance. Finely cut, ferny foliage rather than standard broad leaves. Good taste and an ornamental plant, useful in the garden and also in mixed containers.
(Annual – 14”).

Dwarf purple basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Dwarf Purple’) - We got this plant last season, as a substitution, so I knew nothing about it. Turns out it’s a very nice little plant. Similar to compact ‘Minette’ but with purple leaves with hints of green. Excellent flavor and fragrance, great in mixed container plantings. Definite ‘cute factor’ in this small plant. (Annual – 12”).

Plum lemon tomato (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Plum Lemon’) - Customers have asked for a yellow cherry tomato, and I found a promising heirloom variety. Lemon shaped, cherry sized with lower acid and sweet taste common in yellow tomatoes. Indeterminate variety – 88 days.

Rosemary – Paris (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Paris) Will three times be the charm? I’ve been trying to obtain this more winter hardy variety for 2 years. Like ‘Arp’ and ‘Hill Hardy’, it may survive our winters outside. Keep your fingers crossed! (Tender Perennial – 48”).

Thursday, March 29, 2012


We offer three varieties of fennel. All have feathery anise-scented foliage and flat yellow flowers. Sweet fennel’s foliage is bright green; bronze’s is dark reddish-brown. Both come back--from the root or certainly by reseeding. Florence fennel has green foliage and yellow flowers, but it’s the only variety that produces a bulb that can be eaten raw or cooked.

All are host plants for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, along with dill, parsley and rue. Foliage and seeds can both be used in cooking and baking. Fennel is paired with fish, shellfish, pork, ham and sausage, breads, cabbage, eggplant and beans. Add grated raw fennel bulb to salads or sauté’ with onion as a side dish. For a delicious autumn salad, combine arugula, fennel bulb, cold cooked beets and pears.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


My anticipation of spring starts early and increases quickly as winter ticks on. I look forward to warmer weather, the greenhouses filling with plants, new growth in the gardens and the return of old friends. I love seeing returning customers and catching up with them. We have regulars at Landis Valley too, although I don’t get to talk to them at length. We’ll be returning to our regular site at the Landis Valley Herb Faire on May 11 & 12. Let’s hope for good weather. In fact, let’s hope for better weather throughout the season this year. It will be interesting to see the effects of our record setting year in the gardens.

Many herbs were not happy being wet for so long, but they’re pretty tough and I expect most will recover. I’ll be looking for signs of new growth; as long as I see that, I’ll cut back hard, even on woody perennials, and hope for the best. With all that groundwater, flowering perennials and early annuals should be lush this spring. It’s always easy to be optimistic at the beginning of the season.

To get you thinking about planting, read about our new selections on page 2. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll finally receive ‘Paris’ rosemary, although no guarantees. Also, read about the varieties of fennel we offer, the herb of the year and plants for specific uses and settings. Here’s hoping for a productive spring!

Friday, March 9, 2012

By the end of February, spring is in full swing for me. Starter plants arrive from the end of the month and into mid-March. They all need transplanted along with the earliest batches of seedlings. I continue to start seeds, going from pansies and early perennials to early annuals and then heat loving herbs and flowers. As more is planted, more needs to be watered, tagged, etc. In preparing for spring, the work builds gradually, and then there's always one day where it really hits and then it's crazy busy for about three months.
It also means my least favorite greenhouse activity - moving plants around. Obviously, it needs to be done. Crops must be rotated as new ones size up and as things sell. I don't really mind moving things between the two greenhouses, especially on nice days. But shifting stuff around inside the greenhouse seems a waste of time. Early in the season, it's moving around to make more space, which is necessary. But then I think I should be planting instead of moving things. When I worked at garden centers, there was lots of moving around, some probably unnecessary, so maybe that's where it started.
Right now, the shop is open Thurs - Sat, 9-5. The spring newsletter should be out in mid-March. If you didn't receive one, let us know when you visit the farm. We did lose some mailing list info from a computer meltdown a little while ago. We think we recreated the list accurately, but please let us know if we've missed you. Also, if you'd prefer an e-mail newsletter, give us your email address and we'll switch you over.
Other things coming up - the greenhouse reopens April 3 this year and our spring open house will be Friday and Saturday April 27 and 28 from 9 to 5. It will be here before you know it.
My outside rosemarys are still surviving - it may be a good year for wintering them over. Someone asked me if the hardier varieties were guaranteed to winter over. Simply said, no. I think the deciding factor is the severity of the winter weather.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Marching Toward Spring!

The "March" toward spring continues. I can feel the change-over in the work I have to do. Most of the inside paperwork and preparation and organizing is done. Now it's turning to growing. I start seeds each week. The earliest varieties were started in January. Then a big batch of perennials and I'm finishing them up along with a few slow starting annuals and some biennials. I've been working in the greenhouse filling pots. Boy, is it nice in there on a sunny day. It's like being in Florida for a few hours - perks me right up. Haven't planted any plugs yet, but that will start soon and then it will be planting straight through until the greenhouse opens, which is APRIL 3, this year.

We did get our new plant list finished up and are posting it here. Just click on each page to open, then print and peruse at your leisure!

One morning on Lucy's walk, we saw a squirrel fight. I think a couple pairs live in the treeline at the back of our property where it touches the alpaca farm. With the leaves off the trees, I can see nests way up in the trees. I don't know if the fight was territorial or a love triangle, but two chased one all over the place. They are so agile. It always amazes me when they jump onto a thin, little branch. The whole branch bends and swings, but they just hold on and then leap to the next one. They finally chased him far enough away to be satisfied.

Our basement has been pretty well refurbished. It got flooded last fall when the tropical storm roared through. We repainted and had flooring put down. John talked me into half linoleum and half carpet, which I wasn't too enthused about. But now I really like it.. And I can work on the lino side with my drieds and it will be easy to clean up.

John got the stock plants out of the garden. That's always a big, spring prep job. I keep stock plants of perennials that I can divide into small plants and just grow them to size up. We put them in trenches in the garden for the winter, insulating the roots. Dig them up, put them in the greenhouse, and soon for some, longer for others, they break dormancy and begin to grow. I'm watching them closely for signs of new growth. It's as good as the seedlings popping up - a sign that spring is coming!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sloooow Time and then Fast, fast, fast!

I always enjoy the relatively slow time after the holidays. John and I always call January "the slow time." There's always work to do of course, but it's inside work and much of it is paperwork and planning or preparation. I usually consider work you can do sitting down as easier work. It also allows us to work on different projects. This year it was basement repairs from last fall's flooding. We repainted the walls and ceiling and now will pick out flooring. We don't have to install it - just pay for it! Then we'll finish up with the molding and put everything back together.

Now spring preparations begin in earnest. Each week I'll start a batch of seeds. Our order of soil, pots and supplies arrives. That means I can begin filling pots so they're ready to go when planting time arrives. By the end of the month, starter plants arrive and planting begins. I'm glad things pick up gradually. It gives me time to move from the slower winter pace to the busy springtime mode. There always comes a day when the spring rush hits - BOOM - and we're in full swing. Meanwhile, I'll organize the greenhouse and get things ready for spring.

As far as I know, there are still three toads hibernating in the greenhouse. Haven't seen them lately, but as the weather warms up, they usually poke themselves out of the dirt and burrow down again at night. With the protection of the greenhouse, hopefully they will all survive the winter.

I've been using the arnica rub that Tina and Maryanne make on my wrist to deal with a bout of tendonitis. All my aches and pains I blame on playing with Lucy. She loves to play and although she's not rough, she is strong. Of course the fact that I'm getting older doesn't factor in at all... Anyway, I've found the arnica rub very helpful. Arnica has been used for a long time to relieve pain, swelling and bruising. I figure it beats taking pain relievers constantly.

Don't forget! The shop is open three days a week (Thursday through Saturday) 9 am to 5 pm during February and March.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mild Winter, so far!

I'm pretty happy with our winter weather so far. It seems odd that so far, our biggest snowfall was in October. Snow is not good on the greenhouse, of course. Turning the heat on melts the snow off and it accumulates on the sides. We have to shovel that snow away, since the buildup of snow could eventually cause the sides to collapse. So less snow means less shoveling, which suits us. Since having the greenhouses, I have noticed that the majority of snowfalls occur overnight.

I also enjoyed the snow fog after the recent snowfall. Everything is quiet, white and kind of mysterious. I remember snow fog growing up in Mt. Gretna - perhaps because of the trees. Our back corner of the yard is still very wet. Will it ever dry out? When it gets cold, the standing water freezes and I can see all types of interesting things trapped in the ice. All sorts of leaves and twigs and frosted blades of grass frozen there in a kind of life-sized snow globe effect.

The relatively mild weather really has me thinking of spring and I'm seeing signs throughout the yard. Our witch hazel has bloomed with its tiny yellow and red flowers in January, several weeks earlier than its typical February bloom. Both the star magnolia and pussy willow have big, fat buds. I'm surprised at how much is green in the gardens. Pretty little salad burnet has not died off and there's still green parsley, cutting celery and chamomile. There's new green shoots of chives and new growth on bronze fennel, poppies, snapdragons, and reseeded cornflowers which never died off. All the outdoor rosemarys have survived up to this point. I always tell people to let cilantro reseed when it flowers to get a second crop as the weather cools off. With all the rain, I had a bumper crop in the fall. With the mild weather, it produced through December, and even now has some good green growth. All of this is soothing when I get antsy for spring.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Winter Break" at Cloverleaf

I'm back after a nice holiday break. Hope you all enjoyed your holidays. We had two very good holiday meals - one rather long and hectic and the second more subdued and relaxed. Very good food both times.

Thanks to all who came out for our Open House and throughout the holiday season. It was a good season for the business and overall a successful year. With the weather and the economy both on the poor side, I consider that quite an accomplishment.

And, believe it or not, I've started work for the spring season. Planted pansy seeds right after Christmas and after New Year's stared a batch of early perennials like cornflower, blue flax and "Lady" lavender. This is the only variety of lavender I start from seed. It is just amazing to me that the tiny seedlings in the little pack have as much aroma as a full-sized lavender plant! What a treat on a cold winter's day to enjoy the fragrance of fresh lavender.

John and I always laugh that January is our slow time. Not much work yet here at the farm and his busy time at work doesn't start for about a month. Once February comes, supplies arrive, there are seeds to start every week and we begin to gear up the greenhouse for spring.

Lots of the work now is cozy, indoor stuff - end of year routine, preparing orders for spring, etc. which leaves time for other things - like making bread. I love to make bread. First of all I love to eat it. Also, there's something very elemental about making bread plus I absolutely love the smell of yeast. I don't know why, but that smell ranks right up there for me along with my favorite herbal and floral scents. I make all kinds of bread. This week was honey wheat toasting bread. Most breads that are good for toasting have wheat germ in them. Also make a pesto bread, cinnamon (yummy with coffee), seeded bread with seeds and dried minced onions on top, and also found a new recipe that incorporates mashed butternut squash in the dough.

The other thing we accomplished was painting our basement. This was the first step in the refurbishment due to last fall's flooding. Next we'll have new flooring installed. We don't have to do that work - just pay for it!