Saturday, November 18, 2017

Most of the leaves are off the trees, revealing some treasures that were previously hidden. I'm always intrigued by birds' nests. Like their makers, there is a lot of variety to be found. There are different shapes and sizes, lots of materials used and quite a range of craftsmanship involved. Some are carefully and intricately woven while others are more slap dash in appearance. I guess birds can be like people in that way. This nest even had a bit of plastic woven into it - maybe a bit of weather proofing.


And I also came across a praying mantis egg sac. I always wonder how many hatch out of each casing. It looks is it could be a lot.


The shop is nearly ready for the holiday season. Our holiday open house will be held Friday and Saturday December 1&2 from 9am to 5pm. We'll have specials in the shop, plants available in the greenhouse, prize drawings and herbal refreshments. We hope you can stop by and enjoy our herbal take on the holidays. Our regular hours (Tuesday-Saturday 9-5) continue through December 22.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Now that it's November, there are some signs of fall. Our maple tree finally colored up, although I noticed it took ten days more for the front of the tree to turn red than it did the back of the tree. It looks like we're at the peak of fall leaf season.


In contrast, yesterday John and I worked outside weeding flower beds in T-shirts. I walked around the yard and counted two dozen different varieties of flowers blooming - everything from blue flax to zinnias. We've lived here twenty years and I know we didn't do much outside work in November when we first moved here, except for final clean up. If the weather forecast is correct, we might have a killing frost this week.

When I'm not working outside, I'm preparing the shop for the upcoming holiday season. I wait until November to bring out Christmas items. Before Halloween seems way too early for Christmas decorating to me.

Be on the lookout for our holiday newsletter which will be out in mid-November. Our hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 5pm until Christmas.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mexican bush sage puts on quite a show at the end of the season. The  flowers are bright purple, fuzzy and dry well. It's a good late season nectar source for pollinators, too. I've also noticed a few honeybees at the red pineapple sage flowers and some late lavender.


Some plants are not as showy, but are still very worthy garden additions. One is nicotiana, or flowering tobacco. It has pretty, white tubular flowers, but what makes it a stand out is fragrance. It's botanically designed to be fragrant at night, in order to attract certain pollinators. When I took Lucy for a walk after supper recently, I stopped to sniff, and was amazed by the sweet aroma of a single bloom. If you have an outdoor seating area that you enjoy at night, nicotiana should be planted nearby.


Even though the gardens are still going strong, I've been busy in the shop gearing up for the holidays. But I'm waiting until November to put out Christmas items!

If you're thinking about making some of your own gifts for the holidays, remember that we have essential oils, DIY supplies and containers and dried herbs and spices in our shop.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The buckeye butterfly, seen below, is one of the species I've been seeing in increasing numbers this year, as compared to the last few years. Its host plants are verbena, snapdragon and plantain, all of which we have in our yard. Although, while the verbena and snaps are by design, the plantain is not! It does show that having a wide variety of plants will help draw in different varieties.


I just talked to a woman yesterday who wants to add different plants to her yard next year to attract pollinators. People are really interested in increasing habitat and feeding opportunities for bees and butterflies. I think it's paying off, because I saw more species and a larger number of butterflies overall this year.

I'm still seeing an occasional Monarch, too. Yesterday, one fluttered by the kitchen window and today, one few out of a maple tree as Lucy and I walked by.

The hyacinth bean vine outside the shop is at its peak. The flowers are attractive, but the shiny purple pods are the real star of the show.


People sometimes dismiss annual vines since they must be planted each year. But with just one season to grow, you get lots of coverage quickly, making them ideal to shade a outdoor seating area. It's easy to save seeds from the hyacinth bean by letting pods dry up on the vine and then harvesting the seeds inside
.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Some things are worth waiting for, and pineapple sage is one of them. You can enjoy the fragrant foliage throughout the summer, but the red flowers don't appear until the end of the season. Mine has been budded up for awhile, and with the return of sunny, warm weather, the flowers have popped.


Although the leaves have a pineapple flavor, the blooms, to me, are reminiscent of honeysuckle - just a sweet taste. I have made pineapple sage jelly by steeping the leaves in pineapple juice, straining out the leaves and combining the liquid with sugar and Certo and following the directions on the Certo box. Very yummy!

Plumbago looks attractive from mid-summer on. It's a low maintenance, easy to grow perennial that spreads without being invasive like mint. The cobalt blue color is spectacular, especially when combined with white flowers. Remember that it's late to emerge in spring, so don't think it has died over the winter.


Had another question about our hours this week. We're still open five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday 9 to 5. Those hours will continue until Christmas.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I came across a well travelled praying mantis. He started out on the long outside wall of the greenhouse.


Several days later, he had made it into one of the meandering gardens behind the greenhouse. That's a long trip on those short legs!


Now that we're into September, I'm looking at changes in the garden. The pineapple sage is big and budded up, but no red flowers yet. Calendula and gem marigolds are going strong. Profusion zinnias are still blooming up a storm, and will continue until frost. Flowering on the hyacinth bean vines outside the shop was delayed by the high temperatures in July, but the shiny, purple beans are starting to appear.

Garlic chives are in full bloom. The blossoms can be broken up into individual florets and sprinkled on salad or in soup. Or just leave them for the pollinators. They attract lots of insects.  But be sure to remove the flower stalks as they turn into seed heads. Garlic chives are a rampant reseeder.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I am very excited about our crop of monarch butterfly caterpillars this year. It's definitely an improvement over the past few years. Today I saw more caterpillars on the swamp milkweed in the pollinator garden. We have a stand of common milkweed that planted itself in the stones behind the second greenhouse. I was never sure why John let it grow there, but it's paid off. More caterpillars on that. Maybe we're finally turning the corner when it comes to replenishing the monarch population.



I tend to judge the passage of time by what's going on in the garden. Spring is the reemergence of perennials and planting annuals. Summer is maintenance and harvesting. As the summer winds down, I see two signs of fall approaching. One is lovely pink anemones blooming. They are a beautiful part shade plant that bloom at the end of the season, rather than in spring, as most part shade flowers do.


The other is the daily gathering of goldfinches on the echinacea outside the greenhouse. They're feasting on the seeds and this year, there are several pairs that visit regularly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I know many people poo-poo butterfly bushes as a plant for pollinators. It's not native, some people say it's invasive, although I've never seen that in any of my garden settings, and it's not a host plant. But as a nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies, it's hard to beat. When I took these photos, in addition to the swallowtails and monarch, there were skippers, sulfers, a buckeye, and some small frittilaries feeding.



Although milkweeds serve as both a host plant and a nectar source, that's fairly uncommon. Many plants are either a source of nectar for adult butterflies or a host plant for the caterpillars. Plants like parsley, dill, fennel and rue are host plants for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, but don't produce much nectar in their flowers. That's why having a wide variety of plants in your garden is so important.

Here is a native plant, Joe Pye weed, providing a meal for a bumblebee.


With the regular rainfall, there's lots to harvest from the garden. Mints, basils, chamomile, savory, lemon balm and verbena, oregano, calendula and more are all drying on my racks. Take advantage of the good weather and harvest now so you can enjoy the garden's bounty after the growing season ends.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The pollinator situation has improved this summer. We saw quite a few honeybees, more than in the last few years combined. They were all over the thyme walk when it bloomed and now the clover in the yard is keeping them occupied.

We've had a number of monarch butterfly sightings. There are at least a pair, because we've seen two at once. And happily, I found a caterpillar on the swamp milkweed recently. I hope there are more and we have a good crop this year.


There are a lot of swallowtail butterflies around - both the tiger and the black. Caterpillars on the dill and parsley and according to my book, this is a swallowtail chrysalis. The two points on the top seem to be the identifying characteristic. It's on the inside front wall of the greenhouse, which is a protected spot.


Our plant sale continues. We still have a number of nice perennials available and a new crop of basil and dill.

I'm thankful for the break from the very humid weather. Much easier to work outside!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The heat makes it a bit more difficult, but our garden work continues. I'm harvesting perennial herbs for drying and beginning to harvest annuals as they size up. I've cut back all the lavenders, except the later blooming varieties, which still have lots of bee activity.

And I was very happy to see dozens of honeybees on the flowers in the thyme walk. I hope this means things are improving for the bees.

Our plant sale continues. We have lots of nice perennials and a few annuals left. Plus, you get a free basil with your purchase!

Notes on some great garden plants:

Verbena is an easy and very pretty plant to grow. Although not winter hardy, it has reseeded every year, even after a severe winter. The bright purple blooms are on tall, wiry stems. It's a see-through plant - even planted in the front of a bed, it doesn't block the view of plants behind it. Attractive to both bees and butterflies.



Ammi is a new addition this year. Delicate Queen Anne's lace like flowers come in white, but also pink and purple. Looks good in the garden and also works as a filler with fresh cut flowers.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's funny how, once a topic crops up, it often reoccurs. My most recent example was in discussing tags with customers. My advice is, "Don't believe everything you read on a tag." Overall, they can be helpful, but they are written in general terms. It may say perennial, but when you read closely, it's only perennial to zone 7 ( we're zone 6.) Some perennial tags say "blooms all summer." Perennials have a season of bloom and a month is a long bloom time for perennials. It's actually annuals that boom all summer, in many cases.

A customer complimented us on the hydrangeas blooming in front of our house. She asked what I did to produce such a result. I replied, "Absolutely nothing!" A combination of the mild winter and wet spring produced a floriferous display.


Now that we're into summer, I'm harvesting regularly from the gardens. It's still mostly perennial culinary herbs like mints, tarragon, savory, sage, oregano, etc. at this point. I'm also picking flowers to dry as they bloom. Beautiful yellow yarrow is very productive and dries well.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Before these recent hot temperatures, I really enjoyed the week of pleasant spring weather. Luckily, it coincided with the first lavender harvest. I harvest and dry for bunching and make woven lavender hearts and wands, all of which we sell in the shop.

Lavender flowers should be harvested in bud, before the small, individual florets open. Many florets will drop, if cut when they're open, resulting in the loss of a lot of fragrance. The dark purple variety is Hidcote and is at its prime for harvesting.


The lavender variety is Munstead. Many of its florets have opened, so it is past its prime. However, this is the stage when the bees are anxious to work it. I let it go as long as the bees are interested, and cut off the spent flower stems when they are done with the flowers


After flowering is also the time to shape your plants. As long as there is new foliage at the base, I'll cut it back hard and remove the lanky or spindly stems.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thanks to everyone who visited us at the Landis Valley Herb Faire. Although Saturday was a wash out, plenty of people came out on Friday. We see a lot of our regular customers from the farm who stop by or wave. And it's nice to see returning customers who visit us each year at the faire. We appreciate all the compliments we receive on the health and appearance of our plants and our large selection.

We still have plenty available at the farm. If you feel like you're behind with the unpredictable weather, you have plenty of time to plant both perennials and annuals. Stop by and we'll help you make selections that will work for your setting.

Here are some things that are looking particularly nice in the garden. Baptisia or false indigo, is a native plant in the pea family. The beautiful blue flowers are followed by blue seed pods.


Oriental poppies are perennial and also reseed, so you can get a big patch fast. The delicate pink petals remind me of tissue paper and they surround a beautiful blue-black center. It's easy to stand and admire these flowers when they bloom.

The four square garden contains mostly culinary herbs.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Many thanks to everyone who came out to our spring open house last week. What a success - it was our best open house ever! We met a lot of nice folks who were visiting the farm for the first time. And we always enjoy greeting returning customers that we haven't seen for awhile.

People are so complimentary - they comment on the health and appearance of our plants, the wide selection we carry and the interesting items in the shop. Some folks strolled through the gardens. I gave John all the credit there because he's been working on the gardens while I've been working with the plants.

It seems that my cautioning people not to plant basil in the ground yet is on target. I see nighttime of 40 degrees at the end of the week. Young basil plants will not even happy with that. Hold off a little longer. Don't worry, we have loads of beautiful basil!


I always say, " Who can resist a flower with a face?" Like Johnny jump ups...


Or  "Jolly Joker" pansy...

Monday, April 17, 2017

A shout out to Sam and Nancy - thanks for visiting​ on a rainy spring day. You surprised both John and I! We met Sam and Nancy through visiting their business, Potting Shed Antiques, on Farmersville Rd. below Ephrata. If you're looking for some interesting additions to your garden - chairs, benches, fence, figurines, bird baths, etc. - check them out. We always find something we love to add to our gardens.

The perennials were moved outside last week. Now they are hardened off, so they are ready to go in the ground.


Even though the weather has been mild, it's too early to plant annuals. Our last frost date is generally mid-May and I don't believe chilly nights are over yet. Be patient a little longer for things like zinnias, tender sages, (pineapple and white) tomatoes and basil. Basil especially likes hot weather and nighttime temperatures consistently in the 50s.

How do bulbs migrate around? I understand seeds moving with the wind or by birds, but I have some daffodils in the wilderness area. It's a variety I've never grown and I certainly didn't plant them there. We also have a lovely patch of grape hyacinths in a small wooded section of sour cherry trees. The closest ones are halfway across the yard on the border with our neighbor. There's so pretty that I picked a bouquet to enjoy inside.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The greenhouse is filled with rosemary


And scented geraniums


And lots of other herbs and old-fashioned plants.


Customers are stopping by with wish lists, or to pick up a plant list which details all our plant offerings to help them plan their gardens.

The greenhouse is full and next week, we'll move the perennials outside. After about a week outside, they'll be hardened off and ready to plant in the ground.

I'm still planting annuals. Those cannot be planted outside until mid-May, so they have plenty of time to size up.

On nice days, now is the time to get out and do garden clean up. Cut back non-woody perennials to the ground. Trim the dead off woody stemmed perennials. Cut back butterfly bushes and other summer blooming shrubs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thank goodness that's over! I don't mind snow in the winter, but once March comes and I'm preparing for spring, I'm not interested in snow. And this time, we had plants in both greenhouses, so it was essential that everything was taken care of. As the snow melts, we have to shovel it away from the sides of the greenhouses so it does not accumulate and collapse the sides. When it's a substantial amount, we wind up with a "moat" around he perimeter. I hope that's the end of shoveling this year.



But inside, things are really progressing. All the rooted cuttings and most of the divisions are planted. Lots of seedlings left to go, since I seed crops weekly over about two months.

But after a sunny day, I can go in the greenhouse and see that things have grown from the previous day. And on a warm day, as I water, all kinds of delicious aromas are released. It's a great start to spring.


The greenhouse officially opens April 1. Starting then, our spring hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday evenings until 7pm.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March is a confounding month. Talk about the pendulum swinging. While it's winter outside...



It's spring inside!



We've really been working on our spring preparation in the greenhouse. Planting plugs and seedlings and dividing perennial stock plants. Lots and lots of planting. It's so nice to see the greenhouse filling up and watch the little plants take hold and start growing.

John spent most of today tagging plants. Each pot gets a tag, so you remember what you bought when you get it home. Since we grow so many varieties, it takes a while to pull all the tags and place them in the appropriate flat.

Be on the lookout for your spring newsletter. We'll be sending them out in the next week or two. You can read about our new plants, our spring hours and upcoming events. At least we can think spring! I

Thursday, February 23, 2017

We've had a180 degree turn in the weather. From our brief bout of winter,  we've jumped right into spring. Our preparations continue in the greenhouse, as John and I fill pots. I've looked for our greenhouse toads as the weather has warmed up, but no signs of them yet.

Signs of spring continue to multiply. Tree buds are filling out, he first tiny shoots of sorrel have emerged from the ground and just a few days after the temperatures rose, the pussy willows popped.


Inside, it's looking more and more like spring as seeds germinate and seedlings begin to grow. It doesn't take long before you can see the individual differences with each variety.


Don't forget that our shop is open Thursday-Saturday from 9 to 5. The greenhouse reopens April 1. To get you thinking about spring, click on the link to view or 2017 plant list.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

With our recent brush with winter, I'm juggling seasonal chores. Shoveling snow alternates with filling pots in the greenhouse or sowing flats of seeds for spring. I liked this snowfall. It made everything look so pretty, but wasn't too much to shovel.


I don't want to wish for more snow, but we do need precipitation. Going into spring with a rainfall deficit isn't good for farmers or gardeners. Hopefully, the precipitation will come on days when the temperatures are above freezing.

It's nice to go into the greenhouse to work on a chilly day. As long as the sun shines, it warms up quickly. And there's the smell of warm soil to enjoy. Before fragrant plants emerge, that's an enjoyable springtime smell.

John has been helping me fill pots in the greenhouse. It's amazing how much difference an extra pair of hands make. After almost twenty years of doing all the spring preparation myself, it will be interesting to see how much faster we can accomplish things this year.

One day, while walking with Lucy, I saw a number of birds in the crabapple tree feasting on the fruit. When I got closer, I saw it was about 8-10 cedar waxwings. They are interesting looking birds, with their masks.

The seedlings continue to grow. In this photo, on the right is Lady lavender. It's the only lavender I grow from seed. Behind that is a fragrant dianthus. On the left are two varieties of pansies. On the far left, is biennial angelica. In their second year, those little plants will put up a five foot tall flower stalk!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When my sister visited over the holidays, we, of course, got to talking about our childhood. One of the things she reminded me of was discovering a witch hazel tree behind our "new" house (the second house we lived in.) Growing up in the woods, we didn't see many flowers, other than a few wild varieties. But here was a tree blooming in the winter! It was like a miracle to us. Although the flowers are quite small, the fact that they bloom in January or February increases their impact greatly.  Here's a photo of our witch hazel in full bloom.



When I took classes at Longwood Gardens, and studied flowering shrubs, the professor was not at all enthused about forsythia. He felt the flowers didn't make up for the fact that it was a plain green shrub the rest of the year. But sometimes with plants, they only need to do one thing, if they do it really well. And those sunny gold flowers early in the season, when we're tired of winter, seem to be quite enough. Witch hazel flowers are in the same category.

Baby seedlings continue to grow in our basement. Even at this tender age, characteristics of the mature plant develop. In this photo of blue flax, you can see the fine, blue-gray foliage typical of the plant. Individual flowers bloom only a day, but the plant flowers a month or more.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

After the holiday break, we're settling into winter here on the farm. I must say, the weather hasn't been too bad thus far. It seems like whatever system that moves in either veers to the west or east and just touches us lightly.  I hope that continues, although you know winter has some tricks up its sleeve.


The herb shop is open part-time now. Our hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5 pm. This time of year,we get lots of customers working on projects. Essential oils, supplies and containers are big sellers. Also folks come in looking for moisturizing products to relieve dry winter skin. Bulk herbs and spices are popular as people try out new recipes or make hearty cold weather dishes.

Another thing keeping me busy is writing a gardening/plant column for The Essential Herbal. Founder and editor, Tina Sams asked me to contribute on a regular basis, writing about herbal topics from a growing point of view. I've always enjoyed writing so it's been fun.

But mostly, I'm thinking about spring. I told my sister that spring is just around the corner, because I started my first batch of seeds. Early things, like pansies, a seed grown lavender, echinacea and some other perennials. Here are the babies under lights in the basement.


Then I went looking for other signs of spring. On one of the warm days, the second greenhouse toad (referred to as toad Jr.) came out of the dirt. I tried to get him to turn around before I took the picture by scratching his head. He seemed to like the scratching, but wouldn't turn around.


And check out these fat, fuzzy buds on our star magnolia. They will become clear white star shaped blooms before the leaves emerge on the tree.


And although the top of my horehound plant is dead, there's lots of new growth at the bottom.