Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Just a reminder that this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4&5, is our annual Holiday Open House from 9-5 each day.  Stop by for herbal refreshments, enter your name for a prize drawing, and shop for herbal gifts and stocking stuffers.  There is still time for those DIY projects and we have many of the supplies you will need.  It's a wonderful way to pick up unique one-of-a-kind gifts that are sure to please those hard to buy for people on your list.

Hope to see you then!!

Friday, November 27, 2015


Boy, I hate to see November go, especially since the weather has been so good.  So often, November is a gray and gloomy month.  But occasionally, you get one that's more like October, with bright, sunny, mild days.  This November, especially the first couple weeks, was spectacular.  Even though annuals were done, the gardens continued to look attractive.  And I had snapdragons and calendula that bloomed until Thanksgiving week.
I'm just about ready for our holiday open house, which will be held Friday and Saturday, December 4 & 5 from 9 am to 5 pm.  The shop is fully stocked--plenty of handmade soaps, lotions and spritzes from Tina and Maryanne--the soap ladies, along with essential oils, carrier oils, butters and containers for DIY projects.  These items have been selling well for several weeks.  I know a lot of our customers are creative and crafty and like to make their own homemade gifts.  The tree in the shop is up and decorated with a variety of natural and herbal/garden themed ornaments.  Sometimes, people say they hate to 'undecorate' the tree, but that's what we want! We also have  dried herbs  and  spices,    herbal  teas, cat toys and cat & dog treats, herbal books, garden markers, potpourri, dried wreaths & arrangements, handmade beaded jewelry and lots of unusual gift items.  We also have potted culinary herbs and live topiaries available until Christmas.  During our open house we'll have specials on several of our most popular items, so it's a  good time to shop.  We'll serve hot mulled cider and a really tasty herbal treat--lemon thyme muffins.  You can also register for our open house prize drawing.  We know how busy it is this time of year and how many activities compete for your time and attention.  We truly appreciate everyone that visits the farm and supports our small, local business.
The other thing I'm working on, believe it or not, is preparations for next spring.  No seeding until after Christmas, but lots of paperwork to get in order--when everything must be started, and ordering supplies so it's all ready when planting time comes.  When you're growing plants, you're always working several months ahead.
I'm making my annual plea to anyone thinking about getting a new pet for the holidays, to please consider adopting a shelter pet.  Our dear Lucy came from the Humane League and we couldn't have found a sweeter dog or a better companion anywhere.  You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a dog, but if you're not going to show them or breed them, a shelter dog can be just as loving and a wonderful companion pet.  I swear Lucy was smart enough to realize we 'rescued' her and she was grateful for that.  I know that since we got her she's always been eager to please.  There are so many animals who would love to find a forever home this year.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


We are working our way down our list of autumnal chores.  First, we took the shade cloths off the greenhouses.  We put them on in the spring to cut down on the amount of direct sunlight coming into the greenhouses.  This makes it more comfortable for people and also the plants.  Without shade cloth, it would be too hot and sunny for many of the plants during the height of summer.  Next, we cleaned out the vegetable garden and buried our potted stock plants in the ground.  This is how we winter over perennial stock plants.  Next spring, they're lifted out and I divide and repot them for new plants for the spring season.  It only works for perennials that are easily divided.  Others I start from seed or purchase rooted cuttings and pot them up.

I've spent the past week admiring everything that's still blooming in the gardens.  Frost is imminent, and most things will go--certainly with a hard freeze.  For mid-October, I was amazed at how much was still blooming--lavender, pineapple sage, heliotrope, nicotiana, roses, mexican bush sage, catmint, calendula, marigolds, strawflowers, sedum, zinnias, snapdragons.  I'm hopeful that the snaps will survive a while longer.  They always look so good at the end of the season and they are long lasting cut flowers.  I have both the dark wine-red 'Black Prince' variety and pink 'Apple Blossom' - so pretty in combination.

I've cut the last of the tender plants I want to dry and cut a big bunch of basil.  I keep it in water on the kitchen counter to extend my season for fresh basil.  What a treat for in spaghetti sauce, pasta dishes, etc.  After frost, we'll do final clean-up in the gardens and let them go until spring.

Now, I'm working in the shop getting things ready for the holidays--stocking holiday items, making arrangements, etc.  Also, working on the fall newsletter.  Be on the lookout for that in mid-November.  Remember, the shop is open five days a week, Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Christmas.  And mark your calendars for our holiday open house, Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I'm enjoying the transition between seasons--savoring the waning days of summer, and looking forward to cool, crisp fall days.  I also notice the transition in my work.  Work outside in the gardens continues--but is lessening, while my work readying the shop for the fall and holiday season is increasing.  There are some things I must remind myself of as the seasons shift.  One has to do with watering plants.  During the summer, I soak the plants daily, so they can stand up to the high temps and remain healthy.  As fall approaches, and the weather cools down, I must remind myself to cut back and water just as necessary, allowing the plants to dry out between waterings.  It's the same for houseplants--cut back on the amount you water as temperatures moderate.  Also start to cut down on fertilizing.  Plant growth will slow down and in some cases, go dormant, as we approach winter.  Start slowly tapering off fertilizing indoor plants.

Work still remains outside.  Time to start thinking about harvesting annuals before frost comes.  It's a perfect time to make pesto with your basil harvest.  If you want blooming annuals to reseed next year, allow flowers to die on the stalk.  If the seed is hardy, allow it to fall for reseeding next spring.  If the seed isn't hardy, you can gather and store it, then plant next year after our last frost date.

I often talk to customers about how much I enjoy end of season plants.  As the garden winds down, some things just stand out in their amazing late season display.  Red pineapple sage flowers and fuzzy purple mexican bush sage are starting to bloom and boy, each one is stunning.  Pineapple sage has its bright color, sweetness and yummy scent.  Mexican bush sage has beautiful color and texture.  Annual vines are at their peak now.  One of my favorite part shade perennials is anemone.  They bloom pink or white, resemble a single rose and with adequate moisture, bloom bountifully.  And my snaps always look better in the fall.  I love them as a cut flower and they usually bloom longer for me than anything else--even mums.

The sweet autumn clematis is blooming.  It always reminds me of a fragrant white cloud on top of the pergola.  The fragrance is floral, but not overly sweet--a combination of floral and fresh.  The other vine on the pergola--jasmine--did not bloom at all this year.  Two severe winters took their toll.  The plants survived, but they died back all the way to the ground.  We really cleaned them out and they had lots of new growth this summer.  The tallest hasn't reached the top of the pergola yet.  I'm hoping for a milder winter--for their benefit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Last time, I wrote about how much I enjoyed a four season climate.  I also really enjoy the transition from one season into the next.  It's a combination of savoring the last of the departing season and anticipating the pleasures of the one to come.  Right now, I'm trying to relish each moment of summer remaining as it dwindles down.  The warmth of the air, the fragrance of fresh herbs in the garden and I'm eating all the fresh produce I can get my hands on.  At this time of year, I often think how nice it would be to have homegrown local fruits and vegetables year-round.  But I also wonder if it would seem such a delightful treat if we could get our hands on fresh produce at any time.

At the same time I'm appreciating the last bits of summer (like scraping all the ice cream from the bottom of the bowl) I'm anticipating the soon-to-come attributes of fall.  Some cool mornings, I can feel a slight tang in the air that I know will turn into the crisp coolness of fall mornings.  A couple times I've looked up to see small flocks of geese flying overhead.  Our lovely paperback birch has dropped a lot of leaves.  I'm sure it's from the dryness.  Generally, the leaves turn yellow in the fall.  These were dry and brown.  But it made for an enjoyable shuffle through the carpet of fallen leaves under the birch tree.  Unlike the white-barked river birch, this variety has tan, exfoliating (or peeling) bark which looks particularly attractive in the winter when the tree is bare of leaves.  It's also more tolerant of our hot, humid summers than river birches are.

Another sign of the impending arrival of fall--our goldfinch pair has started dining daily at the big stand of coneflower in front of the greenhouse.  Sometimes there are more than two, but a pair always come in together to enjoy the bountiful crop of seeds.  Sometimes, they fly back to the bee and butterfly garden to survey the area from a piece of decorative fencing or to splash in the birdbath.  Guess that's a pretty good day if you're a goldfinch.

I happened to be looking out the back door one day in time to see a giant bird flying over.  It was so low that it was easy to see it was a blue heron--I could even see it's feet hanging down as it flew over.  I thought it was going to land in the neighbor's above-ground pool, but it landed right at the edge of our wild, overgrown area.  It landed and immediately folded in its wings, making a very narrow silhouette.  It spent some time resting and walked around awhile.  I did not see it leave.  I've seen a heron flying over several times this year, so perhaps he lives in the area.

We still have a few perennials left for fall planting.  And the shop is fully stocked with our herbal products.  We are open Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through December.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I am definitely a four-seasoner.  I like distinct seasons and the transition from one to another.  Lately, I've been thinking about all the summer things I enjoy.  First of all is food.  I love going outside and picking fresh herbs to use in my cooking--I do this almost daily in season.  I guess for summer, basil is my favorite herb.  Regular basil--the genovese type goes well with all kinds of summer veggies, plus vinaigrettes, pasta dishes and Italian/tomato dishes.  I also like the fresh basil-citrus flavor of lime basil--good on chicken, fish and southwestern dishes.  And cinnamon basil on fresh fruit--yum!

I realize I gauge summer by the fruit that's in season--starting with strawberries and apricots.  Then our wild black raspberries and sour cherries.  I love bing cherries which have a relatively short season and blueberries which have a nice long season.  Now I'm obsessed with two of my favorites--cantaloupe and fresh peaches.  I think the smell of ripe peaches is just divine.  I make cantaloupe soup--actually a smoothie, by combining 8 oz. plain yogurt, a medium-sized melon, cubed and a splash of orange juice in the blender.  Cool, refreshing and delicious.

And of course, there are fresh vegetables from the garden in summer.  Our sugar peas lasted two months this year!  We've had loads of green and wax beans and a few tomatoes--enough for a few BLT's so far.  We don't grow corn, but we've been getting  delicious  bi-color  corn  at our local amish farm.

Other summer enjoyments--the loud, distinctive sound of cicadas, lightning bugs at night, tree frogs and the sweet, sweet fragrance of honeysuckle.

I had another sighting of our resident box turtle.  I've seen him (her?) three or four times over the years.  I'm sure it's the same one because he's beautifully marked--bright orange on his legs and shell.  He lives in the back corner of the property--the wet, wild, thick area.  I only saw him this time because he was crossing the grassy area next to the woods.  I'm glad to see he's doing well.

I've definitely seen more honeybees as the summer progressed, although not like I used to see.  They've been very busy between the thyme when it flowered and all the clover in our yard.  Had several monarch butterfly sightings--but only one at a time, so I don't know if it's a lone one.  Swallowtails--black and tiger--seem plentiful and lots of smaller varieties are around.

I read something recently which regarded planting butterfly bushes in a negative light.  The logic was that since they are not host plants, they are less worthy.  Host plants are those that provide a food source for caterpillars before they become butterflies.  There's no doubt that host plants are vitally important in attracting butterflies to your garden.  But just  as the immature caterpillar needs a food source, so do adult butterflies.  And I must say that for sheer numbers, and certainly for variety of species, it's hard to beat butterfly bushes.  Ours are loaded with butterflies, large, medium and small.    My plan is always to provide variety in plants--host plants and nectar sources--and let the butterflies choose their favorites.

Plants I'm harvesting and drying--basils, tarragon, mints, chamomile flowers, calendula, savory, statice, gomphrena, orlaya (queen anne's lace substitute) and craspedia (petal-less yellow globes).

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Gardening is not for the faint of heart.  There are always conditions, sometimes extreme, that you must deal with.  My sister recently told me, when they returned home from a trip, much of their vegetable garden was shredded from a hailstorm.  Although most things will recover, it's a pitiful sight to see.  We've been busy here--we've gotten plenty of rain but no damaging winds with all the storms rolling through.  High winds can snap or even flatten plants quickly.  And of course the extremes of rainfall.  Too little and you spend so much time watering.  Yet the plants never seem to respond as they do to a good, soaking rain.  Too much rain, all at once, can doom newly set in plants.  New plants, without a fully developed root system, simply cannot absorb a large quantity of water in a short time. Our main "extreme" concern this season seems to be a bumper crop of rabbits.  It's been several years since I remember seeing this many baby bunnies.  We have so much clover in our yard that generally, it seems to satisfy them.  I would expect to see feeding on parsley, but so far, not much.  We did stop planting parsley in the outer gardens, because it always did get munched off.  But two plants they must love are pincushion flower and Jupiter's beard.  Pincushion flower has very dark, almost black flowers, sprinkled with white dots, so it really does resemble a pincushion.  Jupiter's beard has rosy-pink flowers and is a reliably reblooming perennial.  Both have been chomped off multiple times!  At least they saved me the effort of cutting back the Jupiter's beard after its first bloom.
So gardening teaches us flexibility--to roll with the punches and adapt to changing conditions. And it also teaches us patience.  I've talked to many customers over the years who complain their annual vines "aren't doing anything." Moonflower, fragrant, white, night-blooming morning glory, mina or firecracker vine, with sprays of red, orange and yellow tubular flowers, and hyacinth bean with purple pea-like flowers and showy, shiny purple pods are all annual vines.  Having only one season to complete their life cycle, you'd think they'd get off to a quick start.  But they don't.  They are very slow growing in the beginning and they want lots of water.  It's almost impossible to give them too much water early on, until they really get established.  At some point, the tide turns.  Then, you can see each day how much they've grown from the previous day.
One flower I've been harvesting and drying lately is one of our new selections this year--orlaya.  It's an annual, with lacy, white flowers similar to queen anne's lace, but without the weediness of that plant.  It's a bright, clear white and is a  great filler for cut flowers.  I think the dried ones will work well in the same capacity for wreaths and arrangements. Like many other annuals, the more you cut and deadhead, the more it blooms.  Same for gomphrena or globe amaranth, with papery clover-like flowers.  I'm harvesting the red 'Strawberry Fields' variety now.  I particularly like it for decorating at the holidays as the red color holds well.  The mixed purple, pink and white gomphrena come a bit later.
Our hydrangea recovered and are blooming profusely in various shades of blue.  If I would cut the blooms now, they would just shrivel up--I think due to the high moisture content.  So I wait until late August or September, and when the flowers begin to feel papery on the stalk, cut them and dry them standing in a vase.  Then they hold their shape and dry thoroughly.
A small selection of annuals and a pretty good selection of perennials remains during our plant sale.  And prices are great!

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Summer rolls on--now we're in July.  June just sped by.  Maybe that's because, with all the rain, I spent a good part of the month outside weeding the gardens.  Seems like we'd get everything cleaned up, then we'd get a big rain and instantly, the weeds were back.  We were lucky here, in that we got the rain, but not the high winds.  With all the moisture, the newly planted annuals are well established.  I've pinched back basils a couple times and the plants have branched out well.  Pinching back produces a compact plant with lots of foliage--exactly what you want with basils.
Since everything is growing so well, I've been doing a lot of harvesting.  I'm drying culinary herbs--like oregano, savory, thyme, mints, lemon verbena.  I air dry these in bunches or on my screened racks.  With the humid weather, it's hard to get them completely dry, since they reabsorb moisture from the air.   When they're nearly dry, I finish them off in the dehydrator, so they are completely dry before storing them.  I've harvested a good crop of chamomile flowers.  The dried flowers are a popular item in the shop--makes a great, relaxing bedtime tea.
I've been harvesting flowers for drying, too.  Yellow yarrow is just finishing up.  It dries so easily and the golden color is a wonderful addition to dried wreaths and arrangements.  Also harvested the striped, balloon-like seedpods of nigella or love-in-a-mist.  The blue, white or pink flowers are followed by the seedpods, which contain dozens and dozens of seeds in each pod.  I dry bunches, remove more and leave just a few to reseed.  Otherwise, I'd have a forest of them!
Good news on the honeybee front.  I've been seeing more then one at a time, but nowhere near the numbers I used to see.  Recently, they've been working the annuals blooming in the greenhouse.  And I'm starting to see more butterflies--lots of skippers, some fritillarys, red admirals and a couple commas.  Should have a bumper crop of swallowtail butterflies this year.  Had caterpillars on parsley and dill in several locations in the garden.
Our plant sale is on-going.  We're out of a number of varieties, but still have a good selection of perennials.  There's still plenty of time for planting and for them to establish themselves before the end of the season.  After July 4, perennials will be 33% off.  Plus, you get a free basil plant with your purchase!
Don't forget to cut back blooming perennials when they're done flowering to encourage growth of new, clean foliage. Also, if you want to cut back lavender for better shaping of your plants, this is the time to do it.  Other tasks include saving seed as the seedheads mature and making sure biennials drop seed.  They will produce new foliage this year and allow continuing flowering next season. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Some people came to the farm one day.  They said they had an herbal business and were interested in seeing what we had to offer.  I explained that we were strictly a retail business and did not do wholesale.  They were completely perplexed and had blank looks on their faces.  I was quite amazed that someone who had a  business did not know the difference between wholesale and retail.  Although they might deal in the same product (like plants) the models for wholesale and retail are quite different. 
Retail suits me just fine.  I grow 99% of the plants I sell.  We sell to the public.  People come to the farm (or our stand at Landis Valley Herb Faire.)  I get to talk to loads of nice, like-minded people about plants.  I make suggestions  based on their needs and sites.  I recommend uses for plants they may be interested in.  I show them a particular plant and how it performs in the garden.  It's a wonderful job and I love it.
I do buy 10-12 flats of plants from an excellent wholesaler in Dillsburg.  They are generally things I need just a small quantity of that I can't grow from seed.  And we buy items wholesale for the shop--soaps, lotions, spritzes, roll-ons, etc. from Tina & Maryanne, aka 'The Twisted Sisters' who do only wholesale business--selling to other businesses rather than the general public.
Back to the visitors.  I asked what their business was.  One said they had taken a course from 'Person X' and they were now an herbalist.  I'm always suspicious of people who call themselves herbalists--because it really is a meaningless term.  There are without a doubt well-known, nationally and internationally recognized authorities in herbs.  They could certainly call themselves herbalists, but it's  probably not fair to them since anyone can take a course and make the same claim.  Again, some very respected people teach excellent courses that would be a great basis for an herbal education.  I did not know, nor had ever heard of, 'Person X' who had taught this visitor.  I asked some people, much more versed in the herbal education field and they had not heard of 'Person X'.  Perhaps they are legit, perhaps not.  Certainly, there are excellent herbal courses available; some no doubt, are scams.  If you are going to take advice from someone on products that you will apply to yourself or ingest, please make certain they are well qualified to offer that advice.  When people ask me if I'm an herbalist, I always reply as the late, great Bertha Reppert (a true herbalist) did--"I am a student of herbs."

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Ah, spring--with the up and down roller coaster ride of uncertain weather.  First, we bake with unseasonably hot and humid weather so early in the season. Then the winds shift, cool air comes off the ocean and we're parked under a system that releases rain at regular intervals over several days.  The thing I find striking is how often during this spring season, that we've had temperature fluctuations of 20-25 degrees on two successive days.  That's a huge change for a 24 hour period.  We were very lucky here in escaping the severe weather--high winds and hail during the recent batch of wet weather.  We got the rain (the upside) without the downside.

After the hot, dry start to the season, things really appreciate the replenishing rain.  I can see that recently planted herbs and flowers have taken hold after the soaking rain.  Established plants burst forth with flowers after sitting unhappily under the hot sun.  There are some real beauties in the garden right now. The several types of roses I grow have all popped out beautiful fragrant flowers. In perfect timing with the roses, part-shade loving lady's mantle has produced its spikes of yellowish-green flowers.  I do dry lady's mantle flowers, but my favorite use is as a very attractive filler for cut flowers--particularly roses.   Two of my best reblooming perennials--catmint and jupiter's beard are in their first bloom.  Catmint edges the bed in front of the greenhouse. With it's vertical, spikey, purple flowers, many people think it's lavender until closer inspection.  Jupiter's beard has a rosy-pink flat headed flower.,  When blooming has finished and the bees are done with it, I'll cut them back hard.  First, new foliage pushes out and later in the season, I'll be rewarded with a second bloom for both.

Tall, pinky-white valerian is in bloom, along with the many colors of sweet william--wine red, salmon, pink, white, bi-color pink and white--interspersed with roses, jupiter's beard and snaps in the victorian garden--what a show!  Sweet williams are biennial dianthus.  Only foliage the first year--no flowers till year 2.  I let flowers die on the stalk and make sure to shake the seed down.  They are very reliable reseeders.  Magenta pink rose campion are just starting to bloom along with the sturdy stalks of clary sage.

Several varieties of thyme are blooming in the gardens and thyme walk.  Usually, they are worked heavily by honeybees.  Unfortunately, I have seen only two honeybees so far this season.  That's pitiful, considering the numbers (dozens and dozens) we used to see.  I was glad to read that the federal government is finally putting resources and manpower into the problem of the rapidly disappearing honeybee population.  Everyone who likes to eat should be concerned about the dwindling numbers of these important pollinators.

Spring rains have brought color and lushness to the gardens.  But they've slowed down gardening tasks.  Weeding will be much easier when the rain stops.  Additional watering is unnecessary.  But I'm anxious to harvest both roses and lavender for drying.  They'll have to dry out thoroughly before the harvest can proceed.  And the culinary herbs I've harvested and have drying on screens can't be finished off and stored until it stops raining and they dry out completely.  Ah, spring!


Sunday, March 22, 2015


It's been a slow transition from winter to spring.   I always feel that way when I have to trudge supplies through the snow, or break off planting to shovel snow.  Very hopeful the shovelling is done until next winter.  All it takes is a few sunny days and the little plants in the greenhouse really perk up, even if the outside temps are chilly.  I check things in the morning and when I come back in the afternoon, I swear some of the plants have grown.  Everything is still small, especially the varieties I grow from seed.  Each year, I have to discourage people from buying tiny, newly transplanted seedlings.  A few weeks in the greenhouse is all they need.  And of course, the greenhouse environment is much more conducive to good growth than a windowsill in the house.  But what a nice quality that people want to take a baby plant and nurture it to maturity.  One time I told customers, "You can't take home a puppy or kitten when it's a week old."  They laughed and came back in a couple weeks when the plant matured.

Once the snow melted, I made a quick survey of the gardens.  Overall, things don't look too bad.  I don't think damage will be as widespread as after the record 2013-14 winter with both cold and heavier snowfall than this winter.  But the extended cold in February has probably damaged some plants and certainly delayed the start of spring for others.  There were pretty, scalloped green leaves on cucumber-flavored salad burnet when the snow melted.  I thought thymes looked surprisingly good after two months of snow cover.  Lavenders are a mixed bag.  Some, even on the prevailing wind side of the yard, actually looked good.  Others look battered down by the snow.  Don't make any decisions on the health (or survival) of plants at this point.  With lavenders, I always wait til new growth start to emerge before I decide on how hard to prune them.  Generally, I remove as little as possible--just dead and damaged parts.  Last year, after the very harsh winter, I wound up cutting back about half my plants very hard--just above new growth at the base of the plant.  Althnough it reduced its first flowering, the plants survived and filled in quite well.

No signs of survival on any of my outside rosemarys.  As I repeated many times last year--rosemary is not designed for sub-zero temperatures--even the hardier varieties.  I think this will be two years in a row that I have to replant outside rosemarys.

Although it's still chilly, on nice days you can begin cleaning up debris, leaves, etc. in your gardens and beds.  Another early spring chore is cutting back butterfly bushes--the ideal time is mid-March until mid-April.  It will be interesting to see how they fared this year.  Last year, we had to cut back to ground level.  Only the roots survived--everything above ground died.  And many people lost the bushes entirely.  Hopefully, it won't be as bad this year.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Clash of the Seasons

It's still the clash of two seasons here at the herb farm.  All the baby seedlings in the basement tell me spring is coming, but winter is still firmly entrenched outside.  Of course, when you're growing plants, you're always working ahead--from several weeks to a couple months.  But it does make for some incongruous situations.  I said as much to John one day.  We were trudging through the snow, carrying pots and flats from the shed to the greenhouse.  Sometimes, I think I'd go crazy during the winter if I didn't have spring prep work to do.  I can always go downstairs, check on the growth of the seedlings, admire the mini-versions of their grown-up selves and sniff some lavender, thyme or oregano.  It amazes me that small herb seedlings have the full-fledged fragrance of a mature plant.  It's a delightful hint of things to come.

Of course, the flats of seedlings are labelled with variety names, but sometimes I like to quiz myself to see if I can identify the different species when they're so small.  Nearly all plants look alike when the first set of leaves emerge, but they soon begin to develop their individual characteristics.  So it's easy to compare the fine-textured, blue-green foliage of blue flax to the broad leaves of echinacea.  Or to contrast the foliage of snapdragons--green leaves on the light pink variety vs. green-tinged with red on the dark, velvety 'Black Prince'.  One day, I was stumped looking at a flat.  Then I realized it was a new plant for us--an agastache--and I didn't recognize it because I hadn't grown it before.

We were pretty busy in the shop in February--even with the inclement weather.  A number of customers purchased essential oils, containers, base oils and other supplies.  So it was project time.  When you're stuck inside, or just don't care to go out, it's a great time to experiment or try a project that interests you.  It's nice to have a pleasant activity, particularly if you wind up with a useful product, to keep you busy until the weather breaks and outside work can begin.

Speaking of not wanting to go out, Lucy's been funny this winter.  Some mornings, she's anxious to get out and we take our regular lap around the entire yard.  Other times, she won't budge--lies curled up on the sofa, sound asleep.  Luckily, a couple of times were on those brutally cold mornings.  She doesn't mind walking on the snow when there's a crust--she's light enough that she won't break through.  Of course, I'm trudging along and she gets way ahead of me.  She doesn't like as it warms up, the snow begins to melt and she breaks through with every step.  It's a workout trudging through the snow--John's talked about getting snowshoes.

The herb shop is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through March.  Keep an eye out for the spring newsletter--will be out in the next couple weeks.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


One of the interesting things about my job is the overlap of seasons that it involves.  So while we're deep into winter, with cold, snow and ice, spring has sprung here at the farm.  The first batch of seedlings--still very small--are thriving under lights in the basement.  The first batch is small--pansies, 2 varieties of lavender I grow from seed, and some of the early perennials.  It's a great mood-booster to go downstairs and see green, growing plants in the middle of winter.  Good for the outlook and my sanity when winter drags on.  The winter snowstorms have been relatively small so far.  But everyone I talk to is longing for spring.  Maybe it's a holdover from last year--such a harsh winter and a cool, wet start to spring.  Everyone seems anxious to escape from winter without the brutal hit of last year.

I do try to admire the nice things about each season.  Snow, if you don't have to shovel or drive in it, is lovely and it certainly covers up any blemishes in the landscape.  We have a beautifully shaped spruce tree in the yard and it was so picturesque after the last snowfall.  If a male cardinal had landed on it, it would have been a perfect Christmas card.  In our side border, we have a red-twig dogwood.  The bare red stems present a beautiful contrast against the white snow.  Recently, I passed a yard with a very attractive winter scene--a pyracantha bush loaded with bright orange berries between two clumps of dried ornamental grass with the seedheads uncut.  And I continue to admire our own and other examples of paperbark birch, with its attractive exfoliating or peeling bark that's especially showy after its leaves fall.  Every season displays something attractive in the landscape.

Although I like the head start on spring, I also like the gradual transition between seasons.  I start with end of the year office work and gradually move on to spring work--plant lists, newsletters, etc.  Same in the shop--put away holiday items and gradually restock with spring decor and selections.  And most notably, with plants.  First, the earliest seeding with pansies and perennials.  Soon, I'll be seeding each week and the numbers will increase.  Then, hard goods arrive and I get the greenhouse set up for spring.  Soon, starter plants begin to arrive and then boom--I'm deep into spring, although it will be 4-6 weeks before the official start.  There's always a day when things get really busy and I know spring is here.

Just a reminder.  Although the greenhouse doesn't reopen until April, the herb shop is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. during January, February and March (weather permitting).  A customer called recently and was surprised to hear we had part-time winter hours.  The shop has all kinds of things that are useful during the winter--supplies and containers for DIY projects, books and the Essential Herbal magazine for a leisurely read, herbal teas for a nice, warm cuppa and bulk herbs and spices for hearty recipes and homemade baking.