Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population.
The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.
The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)
Inhale something lovely, a sprig of lavender perhaps. What happens? Better yet, open the bottle of perfume your mother always wore. Memories flood in. Why?
Our sense of smell has been vital to our survival. We, in 2018, may not rely on that sense as we once did, but think about it: sniffing food to see if it is still edible, smelling the smoke of an enemy’s fire, detecting the healing properties of herbs through smell.
Our minds are a creation of the inputs coming from our five senses, and our sense of smell has the power to both heal as well as awaken memories. It is the most enduring sense, and it can take us back in time and flood our brain with memories, both good and bad. (more…)
Although some would argue that ‘mindfulness is the new black’, for most gardeners, we’ve been practicing mindfulness since the first moment we connected to the soil.
Don’t get me wrong guided meditation, in the classic sense, is an important I’d argue; a vital technique in which we are able to align our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. I’ve come away from a weekend retreat feeling more grounded, more peaceful, and more ‘at one with the world’ thanks to the guidance of world-renowned Sharon Salzberg. But, that experience, as impactful as any I’ve had short of the birth of my 3 children, doesn’t happen every day. (more…)
Although it won’t be official until mid-March, when the Mexican government releases the winter’s population count, ‘unofficial’ reports are anticipating a rather small migrating population. These unofficial reports are coming from the El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico (see video example from 2016 at the end of this post); a site that can sometimes be the winter home for over 50% of the entire monarch population in Mexico. Reports and photos show butterflies densely covering approximately 18 trees. That’s good news, but last year, reports were that 50 trees were covered.
That’s not good news, but it is a call to action: PLANT MORE MILKWEED!
We’ve written a lot about pollinators, monarchs, and natives. We think that they are really important, so forgive any redundancy! A few things to keep in mind:
- All Milkweed plants are Asclepias
- Milkweed is the required host plant for monarch butterflies
- Any loss in the population of milkweed means the loss of the monarch population
- We are losing both at an alarming rate
- The biggest threats come from urban development and agricultural intensification
I’ll be the first to admit it: growing herbs indoors is not as easy as growing them outdoors. But, rest assured, it can be done. Since I have a lot of greenhouse space, plenty of light and water and 24/7 attention, I never felt the need to grow them indoors, at home. But, over the years, as your questions about indoor growing became more numerous and specific, I began to grow more and more of them in our bright little ‘life of it’ room (named by my then 6 year old son, who on a cold wintery day, proclaimed that our warm sunny haven was ‘the life of it’) – not sure where that came from, but it stuck. Twenty -three years later, it’s still bright and sunny and filled with herbs ferns, gardenias and a lot of citrus trees and bushes. (more…)
As much as I love growing herbs, I really love talking about them. And, believe it or not, I get lots of nice invitations from lots of nice folks who don’t mind listening to me ramble for an hour or two. My last show was for a group of truly dedicated gardeners at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. So, if you remember your American history classes, right around my farm is the birthplace of our nation. Jamestown! We even have a little competition going on about the site of the first Thanksgiving; in theses parts, we claim it was at Berkeley Plantation, a mere 20 miles down the road. But, I digress…
Bottom line: if you are speaking to a group of gardeners in Williamsburg, you better be prepared to toss in a bit of history so here goes; as the early settlers began to colonize these shores, herbs were among the most important cargo. Herbs for healing, herbs to improve the flavor a what would be considered a very bland diet, and herbs to disguise the smells that were a part of poor sanitation as well as spoilage. Herbs were vital to the establishment of a thriving colony. (more…)
Whether you are suffering the effects of this current Arctic Blast or wintering is South Florida (lucky you), most of us are feeling the effects of winter on our skin. Dry, chafing, itchy skin that looks nothing like those hand models on TV. Here is a quick and easy way to use herbs to relieve and revive, as well as use those herbs that you grew all spring and summer. If you don’t have any on hand, a quick trip to the your local health food store may provide all you need! (more…)
There is nothing better on a cold winter night than to light a fire, open a bottle of a nice deep, dark red wine, slice up a warm loaf of crusty bread and dip into a hearty bowl of Savory Beef Stew.
A few words before you begin:
Start Early – although it is possible to overcook this stew, I’d count on at least 2 ½ hours to make sure that your beef gets to that ‘shredded stage’. I’m using our own grass fed beef with not a lot of fat, so slow and low simmering works best for me.
The Right Pot – use a good old fashioned Dutch Oven or treat yourself to a Le Creuset Casserole. Honestly, I got mine at a deep discount at Home Goods and it’s gotten more use than my car!
Herbs – herbs and more herbs – fresh is best, but if you are cooking this in the deep dark days of winter and the garden is a memory, used dried. I can’t stand to see folks waste their good $4 on a clamshell of half dead ‘fresh herbs’! (more…)
Just got back from a ‘Bucket List’ trip to Maui – 10 nights, 11 days exploring paradise with my family. Did I mention that we totally skipped the whole holiday thing? No tree, no lights, no stockings and no annual Christmas Party! Still got some of that in Hawaii, but honestly, I didn’t have to lift a finger, much less the 10’ Fraser Fir.
So, what they say is true: Hawaii is paradise. The Leis covered with orchid blooms, gorgeous purple/white dendrobium blooms hanging around your neck. Water, water everywhere – and torrential downpours at night followed by awe-inspiring sunrises and garden awaking lush and flush from their soaking the night before. No sprinklers needed at this time of year. Green, green and more green with punches of color everywhere. Fruits, flowers and herbs – passion fruit, star fruit, cherimoya, breadfruit, pineapple, bananas. Farmer’s Markets bursting with so many wild and wonderful offerings – fresh cut coconuts complete with a straw. (more…)
Trying to unravel the tangled web of species under the genus Lavandula is a challenge to event the most accomplished horticulturalist. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so dear customer, please note that there is no such thing as English lavender!
There has been a lot of cross breeding that has resulted in a huge number of cultivars, even creating a bunch of sterile plants that are humorously known as ‘mule hybrids’!
The most widely grown lavender, commercially used for cosmetics and scent, is Lavandula Intermedia. This popular variety is a cross between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia; you will find this variety growing commercially throughout France, as well as in the largest producing country, Bulgaria. Commonly referred to as lavandin, these are extremely hardy plants with long flowering periods. (more…)