Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Beautiful Spring Here in the 'Burgh! Now on to Summer!

Really Once They Got Started the Daffodils Were Beautiful!
Part of the 100 I Got From White Flower Farm Years Ago!
I Love That Tulips Open and Close with the Sun!
Basil Blooming in the Kitchen!
Play Pen For the Hostas!
Koreanspice Viburnum!
A Cascade of Daffodils!
Finally Got Some Seeds Planted!
Apple Tree in Bloom!
Really Big Dandelions This Spring!
Seems like April flew by and May seems as though we are two weeks in already!  The temperatures are making me dizzy!  The hopes I had for a lovely spring were going along very nicely and now I'm not so sure.  We were 80 yesterday and more 80's to come this week!  Yikes!  Here comes summer!

The most significant element and I think I mentioned this before from the winter season was the number of deer in the yard has jumped exponentially!  We have some very lovely hostas that they thought were appetizers.  So The Herbal Husband made a make shift pen for the hostas to keep the deer out.  I think we are going to get a roll of rabbit fencing and raise the height so that the deer don't have a buffet every time they are browsing in the yard.  Have to keep reinventing because they keep learning how to eat despite what you do.

Exciting to get a basil through the winter on our kitchen windowsill.  It will go outside shortly.  I think it is not sweet basil and therefore, not as susceptible to downy mildew.  You have to think of everything these days!  I also have a mystery herb coming back in the herb garden near where the tangerine sage was last season.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I'll let you know the verdict in a future post.  There is still no scent coming from the leaves!  Stay tuned!  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Four-Lined Plant Bug Damage Already and An Herbal Retail Experience!

Not An Herb But Four Lined Plant Bug Love Certain Perennials Too!
We have been slowly weeding and getting beds ready to plant seeds.  Yesterday, we came across the damage of the four-lined plant bug.  I associate the emergence of these pests with the blooming and leafing out of forsythia.  It is one of their favorites and it is blooming and leafing out all around us!  I did a post about them for Mother Earth Living called Herbal Pests:  The Four-Lined Plant Bug.  They really only do cosmetic damage and the plant starts to grow new leaves even before the bugs are gone, but it can be six weeks of herbal pain until they are gone.

Also got out and had an herbal retail experience at the local Garden Symposium co-sponsored by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, the Penn State Center Pittsburgh and Shady Side Academy.  Got several wonderful scented geraniums, a couple of lavenders and a clematis that is more like ground cover than a climbing vine.  Oh and a couple of agastaches.   

Herbal Retail Delights!
Latest Book from My Favorite Horticulture Teacher, Jessica Walliser!
My final purchase was the latest book from my favorite horticulture teacher, Jessica Walliser.  I have already read a bit and I loved your confessions, Jessica!  Will look forward to reading the rest and making a review in the coming days!

We had one of the more beautiful days today, sunny and warm.  Getting beds weeded and ready to plant seeds.  Although we are going to get strong storms tomorrow night into Monday.  So I told The Herbal Husband that we would work on clearing a second bed tomorrow and then postpone seeding until the storms pass on Tuesday or Wednesday.  At least we separated the seeds to be planted from the ones to plant later.  Never a dull moment.  Hope you are getting your gardens ready to go.  Maybe another savory post next time!  Talk to you later. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Just a Glorious Day, Herbally Speaking!

Starting the Process Over Again, Trimming Back the Oregano From Last Year!
A Perennial Problem With Grass Invading the Thyme!
Very Excited!  The Tarragon is Back!
This 'Hidcote' Looked Dead, But There Are Signs of Life!
The Violets Are Starting to Bloom!
Some of the Kids Were Out for Some Fresh Air!
The Clematis We Thought Was Dead Has Even Come Back!  It's A Miracle!
It Was An Outstanding Day in the 'Burgh!
Just One Bit of Color from the Primula in the Herb Garden!
Honestly my whole energy level has been lifted by our weather.  We are having a string of beautiful days and even cloudy and warm makes me happy!  Today was such a day.  The sun did break through the clouds late in the day so the temperature gave the plants in the gardens another boost of energy!

As you may be able to see we are trimming plants back and in the process seeing life in some that we didn't think would come back.  A little 'Hidcote' lavender is finally showing signs of life.  It was nice to peel back the leaves and see that my tarragon is coming back.  Just a little progress is making me very happy!

We have the usual problems with grass invading the beds and in particular one that has some of my thyme plants.  I think I will just have to dig it up and start over again.  A chance for a new herbal retail experience!  Always a good thing!  Even some of the herbs in containers (better clarify the kids comment) got a breath of fresh air today. 

Spring has really taken hold here and it doesn't look like we are going to just jump into summer like some years.  I think we are just going to have a very lovely spring.  What's coming back in your herb garden?  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Will talk to you later.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Question About Dried Lemon Verbena!

Don't Store Your Dried Herbs in Plastic Bags!
First and foremost I am always here to answer your herbal questions at any time.  I love doing research about herbs particular my favorite, lemon verbena.

Over the weekend I got an email from a new reader who googled lemon verbena uses and came up with my blog.  She had purchased dried herbs from a reputable source, lemon verbena and lemon balm.  She was disappointed with the scent of the dried lemon verbena in particular.  It had no scent.

As you can see by the photo I have excess dried lemon verbena, and I didn't take my own advice and at least date it to know how old it is.  It's old!  I will be using these leaves as filler in potpourri.  I told my reader that old lemon verbena loses its scent.  She purchased it as new product.  So I told her to grind some leaves up and see if that would bring out the scent.  If that doesn't help, I think she should try to get her money back because I know that dried lemon verbena is typically not cheap.

So I am suggesting to you that if you are going to buy dried herbs make sure that the company you are purchasing from are known for their dried herbs.  If the herbs do not have scent, you should return them for your money back or if there is a no return policy, at least get a credit for some other product besides dried herbs.

I will also tell you to use your dried lemon verbena leaves promptly.  Get your recipes or thoughts together once they are dried and start mixing!  If you can't use all that you have dried, place them in a  glass jar with a tight lid.  I was reminded by my friend on Facebook, Denise that plastic can cause mold if the leaves aren't very dry and have some moisture to them.  In fact I wrote about it just last year!  The mind is failing me!  I think I need a boost of rosemary!  Here is a link called "Been Busy in My Herbal Work Space."

Lemon balm is typically not the best lemon herb dried.  I will suggest that if you dry lemon balm that you use it right away.  And lastly, you always need more than what you expect.  So make sure you have a lot of plants producing because potpourri or even tea blends take a lot of leaves to make the right mixes.  Here are links to my favorite potpourri and tea blends.

It is a beautiful day here in the 'Burgh.  The temperature is close to 80 degrees.  Rain later today and a bit cooler tomorrow.  Will be out in the garden cutting herbs back in my next post.  Hope you are having a fabulous day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Bit of Green and Gold All Around!

Before the Rains Came Yesterday!
The Lady's Mantle Coming to Life!
Coltsfoot Starting to Bloom!
The Lavender Has Dried Out and Going to Bloom!
'Tete A Tete' Daffodils Finally Blooming in a Sea of Green!
Had a busy day in the garden yesterday.  About four hours of work and my sore tired body told me last night as I crawled into bed!  I was happy though.  When The Herbal Husband and I can work together, miracles happen!  It does take working together these days because we are both getting older and tasks take a bit longer to accomplish.

Slowly seeing the herb garden come to life.  Always nice to see plants surviving the cold weather and those that surprise.  We cut back the roses outside and we lost a lot on some of them.  May just have to buy some new ones!  Always good to have gardening retail adventures in the spring.  My herbal companion, Bonnie and I are going to the Garden Marketplace during the annual spring symposium.  Should find some very interesting plants there.  The lavender that was over watered is loaded with blooms.  We are going to transplant it into a larger container because it is extremely root bound. 

April showers bring May flowers and we will be dodging raindrops all week long.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be and seeing and enjoying spring or fall weather.  Talk to you later. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating the 2015 Herb of the Year-Savories-Part Five!

One of the First Herb Books I Bought!
The Complete Herb Book by Maggie Stuckey was one of the first herb books I bought way back in the early 1990's.  Remember I really started gardening with herbs seriously when we bought our house in 1989.  This is a small paperback jammed packed with herbal information, recipes, crafts and gardening tips, etc.  It has given me an immeasurable wealth of information over the years.

On the traditions of savory, it was brought by the Romans to the United Kingdom and northern Europe and became important in the kitchen and for medicinal purposes.  It was said that the juice of savory was used for ringing ears, a poultice was used externally for joint pain and even for arthritis and a tea made from savory by the American colonists was said to lift the spirits and then there was savory and the power of the aphrodisiac.  One 17th century herbalist warned that "It is forbidden to use it much in meats because it stirreth him that useth it to lechery."  Fair warning!

In this digital age, I e-mailed Maggie this morning asking permission to share some of her recipes in the book.  She wrote right back and gave her permission.  So wonderful to share our knowledge and she has inspired me my whole herbal life.  So here are a couple of my favorite uses for savory from Maggie Stuckey's The Complete Herb Book:

Herb Blend No. 1--Meat and Vegetable Dishes

2 parts marjoram
2 parts savory
1 part basil
1 part thyme
1 part tarragon

Bouquet Garni for Fish

2 tablespoons celery leaves (I used lovage)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 bay leaves, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

Mix all ingredients; divide into three equal portions and tie into cheesecloth bags (or I use the teabags or spice bags that are made of muslin).

Mediterranean Rice (Serves 4 to 6)

1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh summer savory
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram
1-1/2 cups chicken or beef stock
1-1/2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes

Saute the onion and garlic in oil over low heat until soft.  Add the rice, thyme, oregano, savory and marjoram and cook for a few minutes more, stirring constantly.

Add the stock and the tomatoes; cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for approximately 50 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

The Herbal Husband is the rice cooker in the family, but I do do a version of rice that he loves.  We're going to try this recipe this summer.  It just sounds so fresh and tasty.

I'm also doing a container class at the end of May and Maggie has co-written one of my favorite container books with Rose Marie Nichols McGee called McGee and Stuckey's Bountiful Container.  In The Complete Book of Herbs, she mentions a couple of combinations with savory for containers that sound good.  Salad burnet, creeping savory and woolly thyme in a container and then a window box for summer with basil, calendula, chervil, chives, dill and summer savory.  Thank you Maggie Stuckey for letting me share your savory recipes with my readers!  You can find all of her books through Bookfinder.  She also sent along a photo of the latest cover of The Complete Herb Book.

A More Up-To-Date Version of the Cover

So hopefully we will continue to learn about savory together.  I have read a lot more information about the 2015 Herb of the Year.  So please stay tuned.  It has been a blustery day here in the 'Burgh.  Rainy, sunny and sort of warm.  Better than it has been.  The daffodils are slowly rising from the ground.

The 'Goodwin Creek' lavender has slowly dried out from over watering.  Please if you get an Easter plant and it is in a foil wrapper either take it off entirely (less festive) or poke large holes in the bottom so that the water drains out of the wrapper and the container.  I said to The Herbal Husband that if we take the lavender out of the container, I thought that we could squeeze another cup of water out of the soil.  Never a dull moment here.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  I'll talk to you later.

Monday, March 30, 2015

So Excited, Herbally Speaking!

What?!  A Chive Blossom!
The Primula Moved into the Herb Garden Is Blooming!
Well, as some of you have seen on Facebook, the herb garden has come to life even with our cold temperatures.  We have started to clean old herb residue from the new plants coming up.  I do think that the old chives laying over the new ones, protected that little blossom!  Mary Nell on Facebook also reminded me of the Mother Nature, longer days fact, etc. which is also true.  After the winter we have had temperature wise I am glad to see that herbs have survived.  The sorrel is coming back as well.  The lemon herb garden survived.  More photos to follow.

Part of My Lemon Herb Garden--Sorrel!
I Do Have Catnip in My Herb Garden.  It's the Lemon Catnip!
I will say there are causalities, herbally speaking and I will show you those in future posts.  We have a sunny and somewhat warmer day into the 40's, but the wind is blowing fiercely.  We probably have a wind chill in the low 30's or high 20's.  We are forecast to be 70 on Thursday for one day only!  Very March and April like!  Never know what you are going to get.  Hope you are having a great day!  I will talk to you again soon!    

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Wonderful Meal at Kazan's-London, England-May 2014

A Kazan's Delight or Maybe Two!
Olives and Bread
The Sultan's Shish Kebabs
Sut Lac-Rice Pudding
Spiced Turkish Tea
Thought an overview of my trip might be appropriate here and I had already done it!  Here is a link to a post called:  An Overview of My England Trip 2014!  Really I have wonderful friends in England and my English friend, Gloria who lives in Spain, who is always up for my adventures.  I'm blessed to have all of these fabulous people in my life.

One of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood where I stay in London is Kazan's.  It is Turkish cuisine and I always enjoy going there.  I have lunch or dinner at least a couple of times.  So as a treat to myself on my last evening, I had a Kazan Delight.  It is apple and pomegranate juice with fresh pomegranate seeds and rose petal syrup.  I might have had two of those.  Then instead of an appetizer, I just had the olives and bread which were more than enough.  My entree was the lamb (you can also have chicken) kebabs with rice and salad.  To finish my delicious meal, I did have their rice pudding which is a favorite of mine and spiced Turkish tea.   The perfect finish to a wonderful trip.

Well, it is going to be warming up and we are hopefully going to be out in the garden sometime this week.  The Herbal Husband is especially anxious to get things started.  We don't even have the ornamental grasses cut back yet!  It was a long and cold winter!  Hope spring lasts a while.  Seems we  jump right into summer lately.  Hopefully it is warming up wherever you are.  Talk to you later.   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Revisit to Fulham Palace and Its Gardens!

2010 Visit to the Fulham Palace Herb Garden!

This was the information on the sign for the herb garden:
"The walled garden at Fulham Palace was enclosed in the 1760's to form a kitchen garden.  The gateway and entrance wall are Tudor.  The glasshouse for grapes (vinery) and garden buildings (bothies) existed by 1825 and the knot garden of box hedges was laid out in the 1830's.  It was planted with herbs in this century (20th century).  The wisteria pergola is at least a hundred years old."
I always try when I go to England to come with some new herb gardens that I haven't seen before.  September is a beautiful month to visit England.  It has warmed up and the gardens of every sort are blooming at full intensity.  The herb garden when we first visited in 2010 was in a state of flux.  The gardens were overgrown.  Although there were beautiful specimen bay trees, one golden and one green, the rest of the herb garden needed some TLC.  I made sure that I could go back to a new herb garden at Fulham Palace on my visit in May 2014.
One Beautiful Golden Bay Tree
So I not only returned to Fulham Palace, but discovered one of the many allotments in London on the road to Fulham Palace.
Allotments Are On Part of the Original 36 Acres of Fulham Palace
Allotments Are An Important Part of Gardening in England
East Courtyard at Fulham Palace
The Wisteria Blooming
The Knot Garden Was Replanted With Box in its Original 1830 Layout
The Glasshouses Rebuilt Along A Wall
Lavender Blooming
Scented Geraniums Blooming As Well
The Replanted Knot Garden
The Tudor Wall Entrance Drawing You Into the Knot Garden!
Fulham Palace has been called a Hampton Court Palace in miniature because of its Tudor structures.  The bishops of London have called it home for over 1,000 years.  The present Bishop is living in more modest quarters in the city. The Tudor wall enclosing the two acre garden was constructed between 1764 and 1766.  The glasshouses were reconstructed in 2010-12 as close to the original as possible through archaeological research.

The knot garden was planted with box hedges and designed for Bishop Blomfield in the 1830's.  In 1915, it was planted with irises and roses.  In the 1980's the Hammersmith and Fulham Council filled it with herbs.  It was replanted in 2011 using herbaceous perennials in the knots to coincide with the colors of the coat of arms of the Bishop, blue, red and yellow.  It is a very tranquil garden.  Only some herbs in the knots and no bay trees in sight.  Their root structures alone were taking up space.  Hopefully they were moved to another part of the garden.  I will just have to go back to do further research!

Henry Compton was one of the botanising Bishops who gave the Palace's gardens more important trees and shrubs than any other bishop.  When he died his collection was dispersed, but some trees still remain on the grounds.  I am anxious to go back next time and not only track down the bay trees and also view the almost 60 rare trees located on the grounds.  There is also a lovely small cafe and terrace to enjoy your meal outside if it isn't raining.  I battled a sudden downpour during my visit, but if you aren't using your umbrella in London, you are very, very lucky!  Lots of families with children come and enjoy the expansive lawn to play.  It is a beautiful Palace and gardens not to be missed.

Well, we have had a January day here in the 'Burgh.  It is 21 degrees at the moment!  The forecast is for 60 by Wednesday, no fooling!  Hope you have had a wonderful Saturday.  One more post to go for my 2014 trip.  Then we should be out in the gardens getting plants cut back!  Talk to you later.