Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love herbs and I love making things, especially simple craft projects with immediate gratification. Combining them in the garden makes me happy.

This year, I’m overwhelmed by garden marker ideas. So many choices that I may choose different styles for pots and gardens.

I thought, for this post, I’d let pictures tell the story. Each craft is fairly self-explanatory and different approaches will appeal to different gardeners or different locations.

Corks star twice, first on skewers with names written in permanent marker. And, perhaps more decoratively, on fork tines with my best printing in black ink.

20170511_191210Silverware makes a second appearance with names stamped on flattened spoons. This is perhaps the most time consuming of my efforts. My dad flattened the cutlery in his workshop and I bought the stamping supplies at Joann stores. I’ve also seen them on Amazon.com.

Speaking of spoons, last year I painted wooden spoons and printed names on them. Bright red added a festive touch to our patch of kitchen herbs and peppers.

 

Craft - Spoon markers (14)

20170515_180816And, finally, it felt a bit like cheating, but I stalked the “dollar spot” at Target and found a variety of different options. These chalkboard stakes were among them.


Show us your favorite garden markers – handmade or purchased.

Montreal Tea Tour is a Must Do

Montreal Tea Tour is a Must Do

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of Americanewby tea bag

I’m becoming a tea snob. I never meant to be, but the more I learn about the herb the more selective I become about my camellia sinensis brew.

I blame Melissa Simard, owner of ‘Round Table Tours in Montreal for my growing obsession with quality tea. In early 2017, Melissa took me on a Tea Tour of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We visited five different tea shops. I came away with a new appreciation for the evergreen shrub that grows in tropical and subtropical climates.

We met at My Cup of Tea, a narrow tea shop in Montreal’s Chinatown. Owned by Kenny Hui, Carina Vong and Leo Leung, the company sells traditional Chinese teas grown specifically for the company. I was learning that tea can be a personal experience for a tea vendor and something they personally taste before sharing with consumers.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Blooming tea Paris Wolfe (3)In addition to traditional tea, they carry “blooming teas.” These hand-tied balls of herbs and flowers wrapped in young green tea leaves “bloom” in hot water. Packaged individually, they’re popular as wedding favors.

Our next stop was Camellia Sinensis, famous in the tea world for operating one of few tea sommelier training programs on the continent.  The salon is small and cozy, with only about ten tables and free from the glare of electronic devices. Whip out your cellphone or laptop and risk being gonged for disrupting the aura of calming energy.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Camellia SinensisParis Wolfe (4)Teas served here or sold in the adjacent boutique are sourced by one of four owners who travel to the great tea-growing regions of the world.  Leaves may be single estate oolong or vintage Pu-ehr or any of their other 250 teas. Those on the tour sample three varieties – a white, oolong and pu-ehr.  A server teaches guests to “wake up” the tea leaves with a quick rinse of hot water before steeping them. A “tea wheel” similar to a wine flavor chart helps tasters find words to describe subtleties. For example, a white tea could taste a bit vegetal; perhaps a hint of spinach describes the faintly amber liquid.

This is where I had an a-ha moment. Commercial bagged tea blends will never taste the same. I won’t shun them. In fact, I’ll still drink McDonald’s iced tea. I just think of it as a different caffeine-delivery system.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Kusmi Paris Wolfe (5)Our third stop, Kusmi, has romantic history. It began in 1867 when a young Russian tea blender received a tea shop as a wedding present.  The business remained in his family for 80 years. After nearly disappearing in the second part of the 20th century, the Kusmi brand was reborn in the early 2000s.

The company specializes in tea blends.  A purist may snub the idea of flavored teas, but would be wise to put aside prejudice and taste the masterful blends, perfumed only with natural essences. Tea tour participants get a private tasting of eight blends. Among them are the more traditional Anastasia, a combination of black tea, bergamot, lemon and orange blossom, and the more innovative BB Detox, a combination of green tea, maté, rooibos, guarana, and dandelion and flavored with a hint of grapefruit.

A fourth stop – The Mayfair Cocktail Bar — comes about three hours into the tour, just in time to meet the need for food. Inspired by late 19th century Victorian high society, it offers a late afternoon pause to sit and regroup with a tea-based cocktail.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Paris Wolfe (6)The Green Velvet cocktail, for example, combines gin, absinthe, lime, cucumber with Kusmi’s gyokuro tea. Other cocktails are touched with Earl Grey, chai or kombucha.  Reinvented and swankier tea sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres are served high-tea style

The finale – the Cardinal Tea Room – is behind a red door up 20 stairs above a small independent restaurant. It’s difficult to spot unless you know where you’re going.

Again, this spot differs from earlier stops. It is French café meets tea room complete with mismatched cups and red ceramic tea pots. And, it’s wonderful. The menu offers simple scones, sandwiches and pastry that are delightful with white, green, black, oolong and other tea selections. All brews that satisfying the emerging tea snob in me.


Stopping at five tea spots, the tour takes about five hours and covers 1.6 miles of comfortable walking plus a taxi ride. Tourists visit Chinatown, the Latin Quarter, The Plateau and Mile End. The tour is available year ‘round; though busier in summer. With cupsful of warm tea it’s comforting on a drizzly afternoon. Melissa or her guides come prepared with umbrellas and bottled water. Guests are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.

For more information visit roundtablefoodtours.com or contact the company at (514) 812-2003 or melissa@roundtablefoodtours.com, The Glutton Guide to Montreal, a 130-page e-guide to Montreal’s food scene by Simard and Amie Watson, is available at Amazon.com.

Herbs Build Fragrances for Sweet Anthem

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Sweet anthem logMarisa Borrevik has spent several months working with essential oils and has created three new, all-natural fragrances for Sweet Anthem perfumes.  They’re now available via mail order.  Herbal notes play a role in creating delight in these zeitgeist-based fragrances.

Sweet Anthem, in the Pacific Northwest, offers artisan fragrances that are 100% vegan, have an organic base and are made by hand in small batches. Marisa’s efforts were covered here last year.

sweet anthem times“Developing the ‘Timeless Collection’ concept was easy,” says Marisa. “I knew right away what time periods I wanted to evoke. Getting there took me months of just playing with different scents and amounts. There were quite a few times I was worried I wouldn’t take the fragrance where I wanted it to go.”

  • 1948 BEGINNINGS is a tribute to Marisa’s mom and named for her birth year. “I wanted the product to smell refreshing, and sweet like the beginning of a new day,” explains Marisa. “1948 is a blend of frankincense, honeysuckle, jasmine, vetiver and a few other essential oils and absolutes.”
  • 1969 REVOLUTION was inspired by the 1960s, all things Beatles and the emerging counterculture so the scent is meant to be earthy and rebellious. It has notes of sandalwood, oakmoss, tuberose, benzoin and a hint of Moroccan rose.Sweet anthem 1969
  • 2020 HOPE, she says, “was by far the easiest to formulate. I feel there is a lot going on in today’s political climate that is troubling, confusing and sometimes just plain crazy. 2020 HOPE had to be something uplifting and comforting, and it was easy to begin with notes of yuzu and vanilla and build from there using lavender, amyris and tonka bean.”

You can reach her at marisa@sweetanthem.com.

 

Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Falling-Rock_Serenity-Room_Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort (6)
Sleep is a pillar of good health and at least one-third of Americans are getting less than they need. That might result in higher health care costs and lower quality of life. Herbs and essential oils can play a role in the solution.

“When you look at recent research, sleep deprivation can really have some damaging effects on our long-term health,” says Katlyn Hatcher, director of spa and wellness at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. “It affects mood, relationships, work functioning. It can affect your mental health and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, Long-term studies have even shown that consistent lack of sleep can drop your metabolism up to 40 percent.”

Woodlands Spa - ExteriorTo help people manage sleep-related issues and improve their health, experts at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, just outside Pittsburgh, are pioneering a Sleep Revolution Retreat. Guests sign up for immersive two- or four-night packages that include exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxation treatments, journaling and essential oils. The workshops are conducted at the five-star Falling Rock boutique hotel that’s part of the Nemacolin complex.

“One thing that blew me away is that, in 2015, Americans spent $41 billion on sleeping pills and sleeping aids,” says Katlyn. “People want better sleep, but may not have the tools.”

Among the many tools she offers is aromatherapy, using herbal essential oils to encourage healthy sleep. She says

  • Lavender is calming to the nervous system. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It can be rubbed on pressure points like the wrist and neck or used in a diffuser in the bedroom.
  • Citrus aromas like lemon and bergamot relieve tension and anxiety. At the resort’s spa technicians use lotions with a bergamot scent to finish treatments.
  • Clary sage helps with relaxation and some research suggests it has an antidepressant benefit.

 

Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort-relaxationThe spa has a local vendor custom blend essential oils with carrier oils for their use.  Proprietary blends of essential oils are mixed with two-thirds fragmented coconut oil and one-third grape seed for massage oil. “If you want to make your own massage oil, you can add more or less to your liking,” Katlyn advises. “It’s a great thing to incorporate at home. Rub it onto your hands, hover hands over your face and do three deep inhalations.”

Of course, herbal teas have a place in sleep preparation as well. “I think the act of making and sipping tea can be a meditation and very relaxing,” sh says. “Herbal tea can be great for your routine. Jasmine tea has a sweet aroma. Chamomile is great for calming as well.”

“Aromatherapy is great,” she says, “but, you do have to be careful. I don’t recommend ingesting essential oils.”

Join the Emerging Foodscape Landscape

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of Americafoodscape revolution cover

You may already be part of the emerging “foodscape” movement. Perhaps, like me, you have herbs worked into the landscape around your home or business. Mine include mounds of variegated lemon thyme as a border around the front walk, sage for textural contrast in the middle and vibrant red bee balm tucked into the tall stuff in the back. Purple coneflower is running wild and needs a little discipline this year.

In her book the Foodscape Revolution (St. Lynn’s Press, 2017), author Brie Arthur offers a handbook to inspire more foodscape throughout the yard. Her goal is to mainstream the model of growing edibles, from fruit and berries to vegetable and herbs, within the normal landscape. Grains, she writes, can be sown in clumps to mimic the look of ornamental grasses. And, small-leaf globe basil can be lined up as a border or hedge.

20170501_172704While herb growers will learn from her discussion of seed, soil, care, harvest and preservation, she goes far beyond an integrated herb garden to cover all growing edibles.

While I value the practical stuff, my favorite part of the book is “Part Two: Foodscaping Projects.” I like the inspiration. For example, turn an unused fire bowl into a bowl of loose-leaf lettuce. Arthuer’s patio pot ideas offer no-brainer combinations of height and color.

The 183-page, well-illustrated book is ambitious and well-organized. In the end the author explores aquaponics and hydroponics as well as how to get active in the cause.  And, surprisingly she even squeezes in a few recipes like bloody Mary mix and candied jalapeno peppers.

20170501_172942After reading Foodscape, I picked up last year’s the downsized Veggie Garden by Kate Copsey (St. Lynn’s Press, 2016). The lushly photographed, 174-page hardback is designed to help readers find space to grow vegetables wherever they live. I think the books, both by the same publisher, are spiritual companions. Both authors suggest ways to best use gardening space at urban and suburban homes.

20170502_085418Of the “Five Themed Gardens for Small Spaces” (pages 80-81), herbs dominate three of Copsey’s suggestions – Pizza Wheel Garden, Italian Garden and French Culinary Garden. And, they play a key role in the Mexican Garden.

Another section identifies 12 herbs you may want to grow and their characteristics. Despite years of gardening, I got new ideas for containers and learned something new about natural fertilizers and what they do.

If foodscaping a trend? Here to stay? Its worth exploring to find out.

Ode to The Green Man

20170416_095228

May Day holds special meaning in the gardening world. With that in mind Jackie Johnson  –  Planhigion Herbal Learning Center, Northeast Wisconsin Unit of the Herb Society of America ––  has crafted the following ode to The Green Man. The Green Man is an ancient and multi-cultural symbol of rebirth associated with the cycle of growth each spring.

 

The Green Man
Jackie Johnson ND

Green man green man walk with me
Through the forest down to the sea.

I see you hiding amidst the green
Please show yourself not remain unseen.

Spring is here the greens we see,
Take my hand dear spirit and talk with me.

Green man green man walk with me
There is much beauty for us to see.

We’ll cross the creek on the rickety bridge
And converse with the trees on the old oak ridge.

Through the meadow we’ll pick wild flowers
And weave them to garlands for hours and hours.

Under the hawthorn tree we can rest
And perhaps join the fairies in their Spring Fest.

Your spirit is timeless thru the ages
Seen only by wise men, enchantresses and sages.

I’ll wait for you by the old elder tree
Green man green man please walk with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare Garden Soil for Growing

Prepare Garden Soil for Growing

By Kelly Orzel, author, master gardener and owner Bowery Beach Farms

soilTest.-¬KellyOrzelPhotographyWhen most gardeners think about their garden, they picture big beautiful blooms or perfectly ripe tomatoes…I think about what’s underneath: Dirt. (Sidenote: I would bottle that scent and wear it if I could!)

But first things first, test your soil. The importance of soil testing cannot be overstated. Most vegetables prefer a pH of 6.5, but without a starting point you won’t know whether you need lime to raise it, or sulfur to reduce it. Your results also tell you which amendments to add if you want to grow brassicas, nightshades or something else. Soil test kits are available at your local extension office and for a nominal fee you’ll get all sorts of helpful information (it’s worth the investment).

Don’t scrimp on soil. I saw it time and again when I worked in the nursery, weekend warriors trying to save a few bucks on inferior soil, while spending huge amounts of money on dahlia tubers, new seeds or bright, colorful annuals and perennials. This ADES (All Dirt Is Equal Syndrome), affects many new (and experienced) gardeners, and can be disastrous in the garden!

soil.compostAmended.-¬KellyOrzelPhotographyLet’s dispel soil myth #1 first:  Topsoil is not the answer. “Topsoil” means the dirt was scraped from the top, including troublesome weed seed. It doesn’t indicate if it has organic matter (which you want) or what percent of sand, silt and clay is in the bag. What you really want instead is loam. Loam has just the right balance of soil particles, giving you excellent drainage and improved nutrient and water-holding capacity (yes!). Look at soil bag descriptions and look for something that drains well.

Every year I start with a soil test to determine what my plants are going to need and add accordingly (blood meal for foliage, bonemeal for flowering plants and lime/sulfur to adjust the pH). Just follow the directions on the bag and apply.

A note on digging. Unless you are starting a brand-spanking new bed, DON’T DO IT ! This is soil myth #2: Rototilling mixes your soil. No. It doesn’t. Actually, it breaks apart your soil’s structure and kills the beneficial microbes and worms living in your garden.

soil.Feat.-¬KellyOrzelPhotographyInstead, top dress your beds with a few inches of compost and let the earthworms do the work. It’s what they want to do anyway and they’re good at it. They’ll sense that delicious, nutrient-rich compost ladled on top of your garden bed and crawl up, around and down as fast as they can to digest nutrients, leaving castings and distributing nutrients throughout the soil. Why would you want to mess with the natural order of the universe?

For new raised beds, fill them with a 50/50 mixture of garden loam and compost, topping it with a few inches of straight compost. Otherwise, all the same principles for amending and no tilling apply.

Soil myth #3: You need to aerate your soil. Wrong-o. While you want some space in your soil for air, water and roots to tunnel through and reach nutrients, let the soil microbes handle that. This is why good soil structure is so important (remember that mix of sand, silt and clay we talked about?). You don’t want too much sand because that will cause all your water and nutrients to drain away before plants can get a hold of them, and you don’t want too much clay either, which causes root rot. With the right blend of soil particles, earthworms and microbes not only till, but they aerate as well, leaving behind hundreds and thousands of channels as they slide, inch and wiggle their way through your garden.

Osoil.Bed.-¬KellyOrzelPhotographynce your bed has been made (ha!) and planted in, try to avoid stepping on and compacting the soil. Each time you compress the soil, you’re squeezing out all those air channels and suffocating the roots.

As you plant into your beds and notice an increase in earthworms, that means you are doing something right! Earthworms are a sign of healthy, biological activity in your soil. If you don’t see as many worms as you like, you can add casting to help improve the fertility, buy actual earthworms and toss them into the garden or raise your own in a homemade earthworm bin (there’s lots of free plans available online).
Personally, I use drip tape and landscape fabric (rated for 12-15 years) with holes burned into them, and plant directly into these little pockets to help control the weed situation.

BackyardGardenerBook.KellyOrzel.-¬KellyOrzelPhotography 2While most of us hate weeds because they make the garden look sloppy, but they’re extremely dangerous because they steal all that organic matter and water from your plants, and overcrowd your garden. To make it look more aesthetically pleasing you can cover the fabric with wood chips, straw or gravel.



For more information on soil, its amendments and nutrients, compost, as well as everything you can (and can’t) imagine about organic growing and the kitchen garden, pick up a copy of Kelly’s book, The Backyard Gardener, available on Amazon
Barnes+Noble’s or get your signed copy on her site, Bowery Beach Farm.


Kelly.Orzel.BoweryBeachFarmKelly Orzel is an author, girl-farmer, garden speaker, Master Gardener and life-long grower of green things. With more than 20 years of experience and a master’s degree in Horticulture, Kelly’s obsession for plants and flowers has culminated with Bowery Beach Farm in Maine. As a sustainable, organic farmer she specializes in culinary herbs and scented geraniums.  

Aside from dirt, Kelly loves bread and cheese, over-sized sweaters and Jane Austen novels. For more information on Kelly and her garden lectures, contact her here! You can visit her and her farm at BoweryBeachFarm.com.