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…)
It’s nearly the end of 2016, and time for us to recount the highs and lows of this past growing season. We all have our areas of interest, but for me, it’s all about you …. Trends in what gardeners wanted this past growing year. Basically, what plant sold THE BEST in 2016.
And, the winner is: Eucalyptus, Silver Drop. Always in the top 5, but never a winner. This year, Eucalyptus pushed out Lemongrass and would have done even better had we not run out near the end of the spring.
The sadness of summer fading can only be cured by the excitement of fall.
Cooler temperatures and the bountiful harvest draw our attention away from what was, to the beautiful changes before us. It feels good to bundle up in a favorite fleece for a morning jaunt into the garden. I hope you are making that little jaunt each morning; even ten minutes of trimming, weeding and piddling will brace you for the days work. Think of it as a kind of yoga or meditation practice. After a few weeks of practice, you get flowers and veggies. All that squatting down, reaching around, and scratching in the ground does kind of limber you up, and a few quiet moments looking over your plants does clear your mind, and those veggies will nourish your body and soul. Flowers brighten your day!
Fall is our favorite time to garden
Why would we not start the day in the garden? I don’t know because all of the above is true and we all know how busy and complex life is today. I try to visit my little home herb garden each morning, my excuse is to let the chickens out, but I always piddle and pull a few weeds or pick a little something to leave in the kitchen for dinner. This is a nice start for me because I also know that during the day, through some intrusive media source, word of mouth, or just something I see walking down a city street will give me pause. And I will truly wonder how the human race has gotten thus far. Since there is not much to be done about the world at large, one needs some means of maintaining sanity. The only salvation is a sanctuary, and home with a garden has the deepest roots. Whatever goes on elsewhere, it is grounding to know that the garden is there, orderly and bountiful. (more…)
Here is a confession: I haven’t always been an herb grower. Sure, I grew herbs along with everything else. Proven Winner Annuals, perennials, succulents, foliage plants, bulbs … you name it, I grew it. We had a garden center in Richmond, VA and my customer base was my guide. Whatever they wanted, I grew. Or, was it the other way around? Whatever I grew, they wanted? We had a very good relationship, my customers and I. It was truly an EXCHANGE.
But, in 2005, when I decided to close the store, my intention was to take EVERYTHING online. I would keep growing as I had been since 1985. Guess what? Everyone else had the same idea. There were plenty of folks growing and selling perennials online. I just had to get in line. It didn’t take me long, with the help of Google, to realize that what folks REALLY wanted was a quality herb grower. I had grown herbs all along, and actually loved growing them. But, here was my chance. I could begin growing MORE than the ‘usual suspects’; I was a kid in a candy shop. Send me the seeds, and I will grow them.
So, the unintended consequence? Enter some of the ‘unusual suspects’ with a BIG following. Among the most important?
This was one of those eye opening experiences ~ I began growing two types, Holy Red and Holy Green. I was getting seeds from a variety of vendors, but that was my first mistake. What was I really growing? Among my first customer was a wonderful grower from Texas. She was Hindu, and she educated me right away: ‘this is not Holy Basil’! Well, it said so on the seed package. My education began. (more…)
Butterfly gardening can be a wonderful way to experience wildlife in your garden, encourage pollination, and it takes very little maintenance, giving you more time to enjoy the beauty of watching butterflies flock to your plants. This is also a great way to give back to your local ecosystem, as many natural habitats for butterflies and other pollinators have been destroyed by urban development and human interference. We always let about half of our test garden go wild in the summer, in addition to the many flowering shrubs and trees throughout the yard, to give butterflies a safe place to feed and lay their eggs.
In planning your butterfly garden, make sure to plant plenty of host plants and feeder plants. Host plants are specific herbs, flowers and other plants, that mature butterflies lay their eggs on because they create a safe haven for their young who will also feed on these plants once they become caterpillars. Be aware that these plants will be the sole food source for caterpillars, so it will be pretty heavily snacked upon. Because these may look rather ragged by the time the caterpillars are done munching on them, you may want to add these to the back of your garden, but still close to feeder plants so that the caterpillars are able to find them easily in their next stage of life. Some common host plants include Fennel, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Dill, Broccoli, Sunflowers, and Asclepias (also known as Milkweed).
Feeder plants are nectar rich plants that adult butterflies will feed on throughout the season. These will also attract other helpful pollinators to your garden like honeybees and hummingbirds! Feeder plants tend to be fragrant and brightly colored, and you may be surprised to find that you already have many in your garden already. Some common varieties from our garden include Lantanas, Buddleias (also known as “Butterfly Bushes”), Joe Pye Weed, Bee Balm (Bergamot), Garlic Chives, and Oregano.
For a great video where we discuss plants for your butterfly garden and give you some tips from our experience in designing gardens for butterflies, check out our Butterfly Gardening Video.
- Remember to plant your perennial butterfly plants toward the back of your garden and your annuals toward the front, for easy seasonal replacing.
- Don’t forget to incorporate herbs into your butterfly garden! Many herbs are perennial and will provide you with a safe haven for caterpillars and beautiful blooms when they flower. You can also use them in many other ways!
- Choose an area that is protected by the wind, as butterflies are delicate and don’t want to fight strong breezes to feed.
- Provide a water source, such as a birdbath or a shallow bucket filled with water with sand in the bottom.
- Avoid using pesticides on your plants as these will harm the butterflies and their young.
Just announced this week by The Herb Society of America, the 2013 Notable Native Herb is Monarda fistulosa, or commonly known as Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm. The information debuted at their annual educational conference held this year in Austin Texas, and we are honored to have been selected to be the exclusive grower and distributor for this program! Katrinka Morgan, Executive Director of the Herb Society of America, chose use because we are long term members, are dedicated to conserving natural resources and encouraging native plants, and said “This historic American farm is the perfect partner to help us bring attention to the vast selection of native herbs found in North America.”
The honor of Notable Native is bestowed on native herb plants that are found growing wild throughout the U.S. and who thrive in most any garden in every planting zone. Morgan goes on to mention that, they consider the plants versatility and usefulness as a culinary, medicinal and companion plant, as well as additional benefits like its aroma, usefulness in attracting pollinators, and longevity in the garden.
“Bee balm is used mostly today to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, but its uses are far greater. We selected it for its culinary, medicinal and aromatic values, as well as its usefulness as a companion plant,” Morgan explains. “It also performs well in most gardens throughout the US.”
We are overjoyed to be a member and partner to the HSA and hope you will visit their site to learn more, donate or become a member, too! You can visit the “Try This” section of our Bee Balm page to read more about the HSA and visit their site!