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!
We had a great time showing James all around the farm- we even sent him home with some potted herb souvenirs!
Last week, our good friend, James Farmer came up for a demonstration on garden to table living and while here, he stayed in the cottage on our farm. We had a wonderful time strolling through the test gardens, talking about his favorite culinary herbs for his infamous Southern recipes, and chatting about country life, gardening and everything in between!
In the greenhouse, James discovered the benefits of Holy Basil and even helped us pot his very own herb garden kit, the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection, where he includes his favorite culinary herbs for making his delicious drinks and dishes.
Our newest herb kit, the James Farmer's Favorites Herb Collection was hand picked by James himself!
We introduced James to Holy Basil and taught him about its rich history and wonderful medicinal benefits.
When walking through the test gardens, we discussed the investment and versatility that perennial herbs lend. For example, I showed James that more than just a beautiful flower for the garden or in arrangements, Pyrethrum is a natural insect repellent and is used in many organic insecticides.
"Pyrethrum is beautiful in the garden or in arrangements, and is also a natural insect repellent used in many organic insecticides."
You can purchase James’s book, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living and get loads of design tips, recipes and more, AND six of his favorite culinary herbs to create endless concoctions and dishes when you buy the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection and Book!
We had such a wonderful time with James on the farm, we can't wait until he comes for another visit!
We had a such a fantastic time with James and can’t wait for him to come back! For more information on James, or his newest release, Sip and Savor: Drinks For Party and Porch, please visit his website!
We are so excited that our good friend, James Farmer is coming to visit and stay at our farm this week! As part of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, James is coming to visit and give us an exclusive demonstration on his garden to table arrangements as well as share some of his favorite food and drink recipes from his two books, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living, and Sip and Savor, Drinks For Party and Porch, which was just released. James has a wonderful eye for design and has used his talents to bring gardening to a gourmet level. Throughout his elaborate table settings, stunning arrangements and in his Southern-chic food and drink recipes, James incorporates his passion for herb gardening for a refined but “down home” feel. As the most creative new personality in the garden living world, James still stays true to his Southern roots, drawing his inspiration from his family farm in Kathleen, Georgia.
James Farmers Favorites
To celebrate James’s visit to our farm and his fantastic new book, A Time To Plant, Southern Style Garden Living, we’ve created the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection to offer some of his favorite herb plants! We’ve included Lavender ‘Hidcote’, for its beauty in arrangements or as a garnish, and for its wonderful fragrance and light, floral flavor in drinks and recipes. For a true Southern experience, we added ‘Kentucky Colonel’ Mint, a robust spearmint that grows effortlessly and is the key component to a real Southern tradition, the Mint Julep. ‘Lemon Sweet Dani’ Basil was chosen for its delicate citrus tones and lovely blooming spires, making it perfect for flavoring seafood, salads and garnishing summer desserts. To share a savory note, we also added our Rosemary ‘Arp’, a flavorful, cold hardy, Rosemary that seasons meats, stews and full flavored desserts. (James loves using the Rosemary twigs as skewers for adding fruit kebabs to his delectable drinks!) Rounding out his favorites, are ‘Italian Flat Leaf’ Parsley for its full body flavor and lovely leafy foliage, and ‘English’ Thyme, a classic culinary herb that grew in his grandmother’s kitchen garden and of which he has fond, flavorful memories.
We have even included the option to buy either this collection of six culinary herb plants to get your garden started with Southern style, or the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection AND James’s new book, A Time To Plant, Southern-Style Garden Living, for a lovely added gift.
If you may already have these wonderful culinary herbs in your garden, you can purchase A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living sold separately. Whether you treat yourself or give this as a thoughtful gift, the James Farmer’s Favorites will be a sure delight for entertaining in the garden and in your home!
Rain barrels are easy and very inexpensive to make and you'll save lots of water, time and money.
In keeping with our green theme this week for Earth Day on April 22nd, here’s another great project that your plants will appreciate! Our Marketing Director, Caroline and her boyfriend built the one above, for their gardens last summer.
She swears by her backyard barrel, ” This is a great alternative to the chemicals in city water and to paying city water bill prices! My herbs and his tomatoes went wild over this water last summer!”
Reduce your water use considerably by building a rain barrel. Watering your plants with rainwater is better for them than tap water because of all of the minerals that collect in the rainwater that feed the plants. Also, many municipal water systems treat their water with chlorine and fluoride, which can build up in your soil over time and reduce its quality. Watering your gardens may also use quite a bit of water, and especially in the summer when things are extremely dry, some areas institute mandatory water restrictions. Having your own rain barrel also reduces runoff which can carry lots of pollutants back into the water system, and it allows you to have a source of water in a part of your yard that may not have a spigot nearby. A rain barrel will keep your plants healthy and well watered, save water, and save you money! You can also decrease debris and pollutants by installing gutter guards into your gutters around the exterior of your house, companies such as Mastershield Atlanta as well as other companies can provide you with these gutter guards.
Building a rain barrel is easy and very cheap if you have the right resources.
- Start with a large food barrel that you’ve rinsed thoroughly. Place it on top of four cinder blocks that are laying flat on the ground. (This will help to give the barrel more height and better gravity, allowing the water to flow better once it gets to a lower level.) Large restaurants receive shipments of these barrels all of the time, and if you can’t get one directly from them, try looking online. We found the barrel pictured above in a garden listing on Craigslist, and it once held A LOT of olives.
- Using a Dremmel tool or saw, cut a 6″ hole in the top of the lid, so that the center is hollow but you can still screw the cap onto the top of the barrel.
- Take a piece of old window screen and cut it so it just fits the top of the barrel, while still allowing you to screw the top in place. Make sure the screen is well fitting, as this will keep insects and debris out of your water.
- Drill a hole at the bottom front of the barrel that is just slightly smaller than a small spigot that you can find at your local hardware store. Fit the spigot into the hole for a very snug fit (this prevents you from having to use chemicals to seal the spigot into place.)
- Place beneath or connect to your gutter runoff spout. Then, just wait for it to rain! Your barrel will fill with rainwater and you can water your flowers and herb plants with a watering can or by attaching a short length of hose.