Book Review: Eat Your Roses

Book Review: Eat Your Roses

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

EAT YOUR ROSES FRONT COVERWhile I love a carpet of petite thyme blossoms, I’m picky about which herbs I want to flower.  Borage, chives and lavender are nearly useless without blooms. But, rosemary and oregano pause plant production while flowering. Basil and mint turn off, get leggy and drop leaves as blossoms pull plant energy. Bee balm and pineapple sage are nearly spent after brightly blooming.

My attitude recently shifted when I picked up Eat Your Roses … Pansies, Lavender and 49 other Delicious Edible Flowers (St. Lynn’s Press, $17.95) by Denise Schreiber.

ST LYNN'S PRESS - EYR - Floral ButterAs promised, it details edible flowers with photos, descriptions, sense appeal and uses. Occasionally you’ll find warnings, such as:  “Dried lavender buds that are used for sachets are often treated with oils to preserve the scent. Make sure you buy culinary lavender only,” OR “You should not consume chamomile if you are taking certain medications, such as blood thinners.”

And, each entry offers uses, like making jelly and jam with lemon verbena flowers.

Naturally, most often, flowers can be used as a replacement for the herb. While the basil aesthetic doesn’t work with caprese salad, the blooms are perfect in pesto. And, with marjoram, the delicate flowers lose flavor when cooked. Meanwhile its cousin, oregano, has flower power.

Of the recipes listed in back, I’m most likely to try Rose Petal Jam and Asian Noodles Vinaigrette with Nasturtiums. Oh, and maybe Lemon Verbena Salmon. Conveniently, for cooks, the book is spiral-bound with a hard cover and it lays open to any page.

ST LYNN'S PRESS - EYR - Rose GeraniumThis year, instead of pinching back to prevent flowering, I’ll be anticipating blooms.

More recipes, like Lavender Biscotti, can be found at

Potting Themes Beyond Simon & Garfunkel

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Theme pot cocktailI buy herbs frequently and randomly. Recently, at the Farmers Market in Willoughby, Ohio, I found generous, flat leaf parsley pots for $1. Such a deal. Bought four. Puerto Rican oregano, $3? Bought one. Stevia, $3? Bought one. In free market style, different vendors meant different prices.

I added these to the handful of herbs I’d purchased at various nurseries and garden centers. As I find different species in different places, I have to go to many herb retailers and sales. At least, that’s how I rationalize my addiction.

 I buy them from local growers as a matter of personal ethics.

Then, the moment of truth. Where to plant?

Theme potsMy standalone condo has a generous “yard” with a few garden plots, but they’re already planted in roses, perennials as well as purple coneflower and rudebekia run amok. And so, I pot my herbs. Each year I spend time pondering what mixtures go in the big pots? Which stand alone?

How do I arrange things to mix up the plants, colors, leaf shapes, heights, widths and pot sizes? This is serious business.


Why not go with theme pots? They are playful and fulfill my need for reason. When I let my creativity run I conjured more ideas than I have pots. Some were inspired by Middle Ridge Nursery in Madison, Ohio, and the rest were obvious to me.

Tea Garden – mint, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, bee balm, stevia

Oregano Garden – Italian, Greek and Puerto Rican oreganos and marjoram

Simon & Garfunkel – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Cocktail Garden – mint, lemon verbena, rosemary

Pasta/Pizza Garden – oregano, basil, chives

Asian Garden – Thai basil, lemon grass, hot peppers

What combinations are you planting together? Why?

Thyme to Divide

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I’m facing a purple coneflower apocalypse. While the prolific posies were busy beauties above ground last summer, they were busier below. They’ve edged out their competition and I have at least two to three  times the plants poking through the soil this year.

I surrender. This year I’ll court butterflies and bees with these wild flowers. Why not? They’re low maintenance and bloom through most of the summer calendar.

Meanwhile, because have limited space around my condo, I’ll pot herbs and get cooking.

For those of you with more discipline than I, it may be time to thin the herd. The most likely candidates for dividing include catnip, chamomile, chives, lemon balm, mint, oregano, tarragon, thyme, sweet woodruff and yarrow.

Plants to be divided should be at least two years old, look healthy and not be flowering.  Separation is best done in cooler weather, like spring and fall, when the sun isn’t baking the soil. That time is now in the northern part of the country.  If you choose to do it in hot climates, be vigilant about watering. You may have to water twice daily to prevent vulnerable roots from drying out.

The best way to divide oregano, thyme, tarragon, lemon grass and similar plants with root balls is to dig up the entire root ball. Then, cut through the root clump with a spade or knife to create two or more clumps.

Chives, lemon balm and bee balm can be gently pulled apart. And, various mints, which have roots that run underground can be left in the ground and separated in small bunches.

Replant the sections or gift extras to neighbors and friends. When I gift to friends, I either wrap the roots in wet newspaper and place them in a plastic grocery bag OR I plant in a terra cotta  tied with a burlap ribbon.

When planting, be certain to cover all roots. Water daily to prevent roots from drying until plants are established.

Then, sit back and enjoy your efforts and frugality.

May – Herb of the Month: Nasturtium

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Nasturium seed packetsThe first year I planted nasturtiums they grew in great mounds of round green leaves and orange flowers. The plants were so lush, I could pick both for salads and you’d never notice the plants had been harvested.

The sun was bright and the soil was awful. And, that probably accounts for a big part of my success. I simply poked the shriveled, dried, chickpea-like seeds into the soil and walked away. I only had so much time and that was given to my other pursuits.

I was pleased with the results, so I tried year after year to duplicate them. Nada.
I already knew that nasturtiums don’t transplant well. In my experience they got leggy and lacked vigor. Because it had been easy to start from seed just where I wanted them to grow, that’s what I tried. In different spots.

One year I filled two urns with rich potting soil, added organic fertilizers and nudged seeds an inch underground. My results were lame. I later found out nasturtiums prefer weak soil. Thenasturtiumre’s probably a life metaphor there about overcoming weakness and blooming where planted.

Whatever the case, nasturtiums, unlike children, don’t need the fuss.

I’ve written before about eating flowers, but haven’t mentioned nasturtiums and I’m uncertain why I’ve neglected this gem. The lilypad-like leaves and flowers are both peppery and a savory accent to a mixed green salad. And, the blossoms are a bright accent. Just be certain to rinse well to dislodge pests.

Better Soil: The Scoop on Poop

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

IMG_9214In 2006, I found a source for organic cow manure.  So, I packed up my seven- and nine-year-old sons, four plastic Rubbermaid tubs and three shovels. We piled into my friend’s rickety, blue pickup with its rusty, bungeed bumpers. And we rattled off to Ashtabula County.

Contented cows didn’t bother us in the rolling meadow as we drove a John Deere green-and-yellow gator from aged cow patty to aged cow patty. You need the old stuff, not the smelly, runny fresh patties to build better soil.

As raw manure composts it’s “hot” and will burn your delicate plants.  And, it likely carries pathogens. We found our nearly odorless, composted manure flagged by vibrant swirls of clover.

My first surprise was the bed of earthworms piled in the poop. An unexpected, and valuable, bonus. After all, worms aerate the soil and their castings are rich in nutrients, making these critters some of the best additions to the garden. And, that’s why we were scooping poop … to create the best garden soil, ever.

My sons were outdoorsy and accustomed to mom’s “adventures” so they never hesitated engaging in the treasure hunt.  While we motored the bins around the fields, the boys ran about and enjoyed the sunshine. Some people pick fruit for pies, we picked cow pies.

Years later, I found myself on a similar quest. This time without sons, shoveling alpaca beans – that’s what they’re called — to enrich my soil. I’d heard they were superior because they can be used raw and won’t burn plants. An overachiever, I wanted only the best for my soil.

This year, I discarded hearsay in favor of facts. So, I posed my questions to the experts. Barbara M., a master gardener with The Ohio State University extension service told me:

“Animal manures are highly variable depending on the source, even among the same animals since their diet, bedding material, etc. is varied. In general, they are low in nutrients, although chicken manure has higher nitrogen content than other animal manures. Alpaca manure is less common – however, it has been mentioned as a good source primarily due to ease of handling and dispersing for compost or even as a raw manure. It is not recommended to use raw manure on any salad plant or vegetables, since pathogens may be present.”

I was surprised by the words “low in nutrients.” I’d always thought the reverse. I didn’t know that this organic matter doesn’t significantly feed the plants, but is valuable for improving soil structure. Good soil allows plants to breath, holds nutrients and offers adequate drainage. It provides food for earthworms and symbiotic microbes that cling to roots and help plants use nutrients.

Barbara M., says “You are definitely getting nutrients, just at low levels and highly variable. If you use composted manure, you are also getting excellent soil structure. Alpaca manure is more dense than cow manure, but if composted with other materials, it provides similar benefits, but with a slightly higher ratio of phosphate to nitrogen and potassium.”

This year, my teens are busy and my friend owns a new farm far away.

So, what will I do now? Stop obsessing. My master gardener adviser says the animal doesn’t matter. Though you should stay away from cat and dog excrement.

“It depends on what is readily available and what you want for soil amendments. There are no right or wrong answers which is why you will see different points of view. You will want to use composted [not raw] manure, though, in your herb garden for safety from pathogens.”

What poop do you scoop into your garden?

Fredericksburg Herb Farm: A Lifestyle Approach to Herbs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160412_172729Time began in a garden.

Two weeks ago, I was in Fredericksburg, Texas, on a business trip for travel-writers. We stayed at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm where we enjoyed herbs and inspiration. Nestled among greens, tastefully scattered throughout the gardens, is a collection of cast cement blocks and rocks blooming with quotes.

The earth laughs in flowers. – Emerson

Like the lodging, spa and gardens, the sayings are restorative. They were the bonus I needed to power me through 13-hour days touring, meeting and dining with strangers.

I was one of four members in our group who stayed in a replica Sunday cottage at the Farm.  Sunday cottages are a historic notion; in the late 1800s German farmers built these simple structures for weekend visits to town for church services and supplies. While few original cottages remain, the town is dotted with replicas where tourists stay.

20160415_073804 My Sunday cottage was a modern, one-bedroom affair with a spacious bathroom. The delightful front porch was furnished with two rocking chairs, a wooden swing and a rosemary shrub growing in a knee-high terracotta pot.  As expected, the herb theme was woven throughout the property. The bedroom had tasteful touches of herb décor, while the bathroom boasted hand-crafted body products made on site. These included invigorating peppermint shampoo, conditioner and body wash as well as gentle chamomile face soap.

20160415_074429When I awoke my  first morning, Basil-the-Cat greeted me on the front porch. A cat lady, I attract them wherever I go.  Visitors may encounter three more cats – Yarrow, Milky and Pepper.

Amenities on the four-acre property include a modern spa, farm-to-table restaurant, charming gift shop and manicured garden with more than 40 herbs, vegetables and native plants. Oh, and the omnipresent inspiring quotes.

Two people make all lotions, gels, shampoos, conditioners, colognes, and other bath and beauty products on site for use in the Sunday cottages. These are available in the gift shop as well. The 30-plus scents include the traditional lavender and the unusual tomato leaf lotion. Yes, to some people like my boyfriend, tomato leaves
are a delicious-smelling reminder of summer.

20160414_130157Herbs grown on site are used in the restaurant. Perhaps one of the more creative concoctions is a refreshing lavender limeade made with St. Germain’s elderberry flower liqueur, gin and Collins mix muddled with fresh lavender and splashed with soda.

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. – Shaw

Paris in poppiesIf you make it to Fredericksburg, don’t miss the 200-acre Wildseed Farms just seven miles east of town. The company plants, harvests and sells seed of more than 100 species of wildflowers, herbs and garden variety flowers. The cool part is that you can visit the Farm and see the flower fields in full color.


Keep a Garden Journal

Keep a Garden Journal

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160427_190502This year I’ll keep an herb garden journal.  During May, I expect to put a lot of energy into my personal diary of garden activity and results.  As summer progresses I expect to slow garden journal 2down.

My journal will be creative and whimsical, as well as a truly strategic tool to improve my future gardens. I’ve kept records, but this year I will be more comprehensive and organized.  
I looked at journals on and in Barnes and Noble. Then, viola! I spent $3 at a garage sale for a three-ring binder covered in handmade paper and dried flowers.  I prefer a three-ring binder because I can add, remove, shuffle pages.

Next step? The journal interior.

An internet search turned up downloadable journals as well as software options.  I prefer to keep records while sitting on the porch. So, I built my journal with different pages from 20160427_095704different sites.

2016 Garden Journal, from ARBICO Organics

Frugal Living Garden Journal

Each page I chose to use, I printed on heavy card stock from an office supply store. I put these pages in plastic sleeves. Three-hole punches are another option. I find plastic sleeves superior when filing drawings, seed packets a
nd other scrapbook items.

 Potential pages for any Garden Journal include

  • Goals, for each plot
  • Drawings, for each plot
  • Shopping list
  • To-do list
  • Weekly
  • Seeds pockets
  • Seed planting notes
  • Transplant pockets – for soil picks
  • Transplant notes, source of plants
  • Soil analysis
  • Fertilizer application date and type
  • Weather of note
  • Weekly reflections
  • Monthly notes

garden journal 1As needed, I will add idea pages torn from books and magazines. And, pictures as my garden plots progress through the weeks. These will be important to cheer me in the winter and, like my weekly reflections, help me plan for 2017 and beyond.

How do you keep garden records? How do you journal?