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!