Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Ever since humans discovered the many, powerful uses of herbs and spices, they’ve been fascinated by their smells, their tastes and their medicinal purposes. What many people fail to realize, is that the simple herbs and spices that are growing in their gardens and sitting in their kitchen cabinets have had important roles in the history of human civilization. Before modern refrigeration, spices were one of the only ways that people could keep their food from spoiling or enhance its flavor.

Herbs were around before the advent of contemporary medicine, so mixing plant ingredients together in a homeopathic remedy was the only option for relief from some illnesses. From the opening up of the spice trade in Asia in the Middle Ages to the misdirected spice seeking voyage that led to America, spices and herbs have played a powerful part in our legacy as a people. Here are some of the most storied tales of the most popular herbs and spices used today. (more…)

Phytonutrients, Why They’re so Good for You

Phytonutrients, Why They’re so Good for You

As a grower, I tend to focus on the more garden-worthy properties of herbs.  What attributes it brings to my many garden beds.  The impact of those big white blooms of Angelica, the steadfastness of a reliable rosemary hedge, the mystery of Passion Flower, or the stark drama of my Artichoke.

But, as the years go by, my interest in the herbs I grow has extended beyond the garden and into the kitchen or the medicine chest or even my fledgling attempts at DIY.  Yes, I’ve even made lip balm!  So, in my research, I’m constantly reading about the health benefits of these plants.  Look at my bookshelves and you will see that my lifelong interest has been the interplay between the natural world and man.

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food” – Hippocrates

A well-known quote and much used, especially as we become more and more interest in the dynamic relationship between our health, and the nutrients found in our foods.  Additionally, a very concerning relationship as we are moving further away from our foraging past towards sophisticated hybridization of food crops to the point where we are ‘watering down’ the physiological punch of plant food. (more…)

Success: The Growers Exchange

Success: The Growers Exchange

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”

Mark Twain

Couldn’t have said it better myself  However, I’d say it a bit differently:

“If I knew then what I know now, I may not have ever tried”

Briscoe White

Which is just another way of saying that I was didn’t realize how much I didn’t know, but I had the confidence (and stupidity) to just keep going.  

The easy part was the first 20 years;  gave up a promising career in my mid twenties, but at that point, I had nothing to lose and I didn’t really like my job anyway.  No kids, no mortgage and some crazy ideas about making making a living by doing what I loved.  That pretty much worked for 2 decades.  I had a thriving store, great employees, wonderful customers and greenhouses that pumped out plants that people wanted to buy.  I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work, but it was a helluva ride.  Spring and fall, we worked like mad.  Summer and winter, we sat back and occupy ourselves with travel, vegetable gardens, a bit of hunting and raising a bunch of kids. (more…)

End Times for Bees?

End Times for Bees?

Truth be told:  I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic or dystopian fiction.  Or, a fancier term, ‘speculative fiction’.  Meaning the ‘what ifs’ in life;  what if there was a pandemic, a nuclear explosion, or some cataclysmic event that creates a VERY challenging world for those left behind.

I’m no writer, but if I was, I think an interesting topic that could jump start one of these novels would be the elimination of pollinators from our natural world.  Oh, wait.  That is already happening.  Let’s consider the bees.  We, and I’m including myself in this collection, are terrible for bees.  We’ve caused pollution, we’ve destroyed a lot of their habitat and the use of certain pesticides have threatened their existence.  There is also the issue of a parasitic mite that is a huge contributor to their decline.

Bees. Did I mention that we can’t live without them?

(more…)

Solidago: 2017 Notable Native Herb

Solidago: 2017 Notable Native Herb

And The Winner Is….

Congratulations to the winner:  Solidago has been named the 2017 Notable Native Herb by the Herb Society of America.  We won’t be hearing any impressive acceptance speeches from the winner, so let me do the honors:

‘I would just like to thank the academy, well actually, the Herb Society of America, for this incredible honor.  I am truly speechless’

Or, if John Muir were still among us (and boy, do I wish he was) we’d use his own words:

The fragrance, color, and form of the whole spiritual expression of Goldenrod are hopeful and strength giving beyond any others I know.  A single spike is sufficient to heal unbelief and melancholy

(more…)

Native Plants: Is Your Yard Full of Aliens?

Native Plants: Is Your Yard Full of Aliens?

Probably.

Most of the landscape plants found in local nurseries are “alien species”; they are usually non-native plants also referred to as “exotic species”. These plants can become invasive, competing with our native species and doing real damage to habitat.

Now, I realize that this is beginning to sound a bit political ~ ‘non-natives’ and ‘invasive’ sound like “fighting words” but I promise I am only referring to plants, folks. And, my end game is to make sure I do what I can to educate, not “build walls”.

I want to be clear about one point: not all non-natives are invasive. There are plenty of “exotic species” plants that do not cause any environmental harm. Lots and lots of common garden plants, like the friendly petunia, wouldn’t hurt a fly. On the other hand, if you are in the South, think KUDZU and you get the point. (more…)

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, I know much more about my online customer’s gardens that are literally hundreds and thousands of miles away from my greenhouses than I knew about gardens belonging to my bricks and mortar customers, whose gardens were sometimes less than a mile from my store!

The technology that allows you to send that incredible looking meal to your Facebook friends is the technology that allows my customers to share their gardening experiences, both good and bad. Got a problem, no problem ~ send me a photo! Within minutes, we are able to review, assess and get back to the customer with hopefully a suggestion or a remedy that will ensure complete success.

But, there are times when there is nothing I can do short of pulling out my hair (well, that’s not a good option any longer) or screaming in frustration. It’s usually about the soil. Yes, one or two photos can tell a scary story and there have been times when it’s too late to offer a remedy; the damage has been done. Soil feeds a plant, and when you have crummy soil, completely depleted of nutrients or clay soil that clings to the roots and basically destroys them, plants will die. (more…)

Early Bird Spring Gardening $50 Giveaway

Early Bird Spring Gardening $50 Giveaway

It’s never too early to start thinking about your spring garden. We have over 170 plants & herbs that will be ready for spring shipping & planting this year. In celebration of this coming spring gardening season, we’re giving away a $50 shopping spree on our website, The Growers Exchange. Enter using the app below for a chance to win. The winner will be picked on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2017.
(more…)

Everything You Wanted to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones (*but were afraid to ask)

Everything You Wanted to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones (*but were afraid to ask)

You’ve Seen the Pretty Colors, on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map So What Do They Mean?

The USDA and Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum established a set of guidelines, a Zone Map, to help gardeners figure out how well a particular plant would survive the winter cold in their particular area. The first zone map was created in 1960, followed by a revision in 1990; both used historical weather patterns, and the Hardiness Zone Map was created dividing the US into 13 Zones. Looking at these earlier maps, you can see that each hardiness zone differs by 10F. The ‘Gold Standard’, the current map, was updated in 2012 using sophisticated methods and equipment; the new version added 2 new zones (12 and 13) and further divided into 5 degree Fahrenheit zones using “A” and “B”. This version includes a “find your zone by zip code” feature – a pop up box will provide the zone, giving gardeners the exact coldest average temperature for the zip code, and the latitude and longitude.

(more…)

Resolve to Garden in 2017

Resolve to Garden in 2017

There is nothing new under the sun ~ 20 years ago, I took Dr. Andrew Weil’s advice and put myself, and my family, on a restricted ‘news diet’ to lessen the anxiety and tension of whatever was considered ‘bad news’ back then.  Listening to what passes for ‘the news’ can easily send one into a downward spiral! How much not so good news can one take before depression sets in? I have found that taking news in small doses once or twice a week is about all I need and all I can stand to hear. And, I’m pretty picky about who I let give me that news ~ the less biased the better.

I’m a critical thinker, and please do me the favor of NOT EDITORIALIZING – ‘just the facts’. I’m old enough to remember when the news came in to our house, for about 30 minutes each weekday evening, and we considered ourselves well informed.  I’m convinced that too much of a bad thing is bad … it can really warp your thinking and distort reality.  Yes, there are a lot of bad things out there, but you know what, there are a lot of good things too.  And, we have weathered a lot of tough times over our history (which goes back a very long time) and we are still here and kicking! (more…)