The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

Humans are a fickle bunch, and try as I might, they are hard to figure.  Say one thing, mean another.  Say one thing, find out it wasn’t true.  Commit to one thing, then change courses.  Not saying I’m any different, but the dependability of nature (well maybe not weather) is something that brings me a lot of comfort.  Cycles that repeat;  you sort of come to depend on them.  Geese come south, geese go north.  Jenny wrens nesting in the same clay pots they used the year before.  My mother in law’s daffodils emerging in late February, as they have been since she planted 30+ years ago.  Even the sturgeon have decided the river is clean enough to make a comeback.  We brought them to the brink of extinction, then we decided to bring them back.  See what I mean?  Fickle.

Well there is one cycle that is truly a wonder:  the migration of the monarch.  Their life cycle is equally awe inspiring but let’s focus on this trip!  There are so many wondrous aspects of this flight, described as ‘epic’, so let’s start with this:

The monarch migration is the longest known insect migration on earth.

Chew on this:  a monarch can leave Nova Scotia, Canada and travel to the mountains west of Mexico City, which works out to somewhere around 3,000 miles.  A butterfly, mind you.  Miracle? (more…)

The Importance of Monarch Butterflies

The Importance of Monarch Butterflies

“Nature is not a luxury, it is an investment”

~ Mark Tercek
CEO, The Nature Conservancy

The time is running out for many native habitats, but there is so much you can do.  I have been working my land for the past 35 years, and I can now look over my conservation efforts and see that they have ‘borne fruit’.  From the reclaimed crop fields to thriving natural habitats filled with butterflies, pollinator bees, quail, deer;  everything that lives in our area makes their way into these ‘safe zones’.  They are vital as their world is shrinking thanks to plows, mowers and not to mention other encroachments.  This wasn’t a hard task;  marginal crop land taken out of production and planted as early succession natural habitat.  This effort was supported by state and federal programs available to landowners ~ it wasn’t a ‘break the bank’ effort, and we were also flooded with great information as well as direct payments from these programs.

You don’t have to own a farm to make a difference.  A yard will work.  But, you do have to have a commitment to leaving your land in better shape than you found it.  We call it stewardship, and firmly believe that each of us has both a right and responsibility. (more…)

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?

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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

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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.
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