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May 10th, 2012

Ask any chef or good cook and they will tell you, “Fresh herbs are a must.” Buying herbs from the grocery store is expensive. Those poor sprigs offered in the plastic packs in the produce department are a long way from fresh so their lack of flavor is no surprise. Your best source of fresh herbs? Grow your own!

Oregano makes a beautiful ground cover.

Growing herbs is easy. Anyone can have an herb garden. If you don’t have a spot of sunny ground, then a big pot on your terrace or deck will do. The very best place for an herb garden is next to your kitchen door for easy access.

Mint is best grown in pots as it may become invasive if allowed to roam freely in the garden.

Perennial herbs such as oregano, chives and thyme make beautiful, carefree borders for flower beds and evergreen rosemary makes a nice small shrub, so feel free to mix these into your ornamental landscape, too.

You can never have too much thyme, right?

The best way to start most perennial herbs is with small plants from the garden center. Don’t be fooled by their tiny size. Most herbs are tough plants that will survive neglect, poor soil and harsh winters. They will increase in size and many will multiply over the years so you will have more plants for your garden or to share with friends.

Rosemary is planted close to a glider so that the fragrance can be enjoyed. Basil seedlings visit Rosemary's pot every spring.

Annual herbs such as dill and basil may be started from seed (or nursery plants). Sprinkle seeds on top of moistened soil. Top with about ¼” of additional soil and pat down gently. Mist lightly until the soil is wet. Keep moist until sprouts are at least 2 – 3” tall. You may need to thin plants as they grow. Do so carefully and give to a friend. In fact, it’s a good idea to buy seeds with gardening friends as one packet will produce a plethora of plants.

Chives have adorable blossoms which are also edible.

Give your herbs plenty of sunshine and don’t let them get too dry, especially as they are becoming acclimated. A scoop of organic compost mixed into the soil is all most herbs will need to flourish.

While not technically herbs, lettuces are also easy to grow from seed. The flavor of just-picked salad greens is something many people never experience.

Coming up next: Ways to use your herbs.

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May 1st, 2012

I’d love to have a garden party and invite you all. We’d sip mint juleps and nibble on Virginia ham biscuits while we visited among the flowers. Maybe someday I will get my calendar organized enough to throw the party. In the meantime, I just want to share some of the flowers that are currently in bloom in my tiny garden. Feel free to enjoy a mint julep while you look at the pictures. Recipe follows:

A frozen silver julep cup makes the drink even more delicious.

Ingredients:

  • leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs, preferably spearmint
  • 2 sugar cubes or 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 2 1/2 oz really good bourbon
  • mint sprig for garnish

Preparation:

  1. Place the mint and simple syrup or sugar into a frozen julep cup or double old-fashioned glass.
  2. Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and to release the oil and aroma of the mint.
  3. Add the bourbon
  4. Fill with crushed ice and stir well.
  5. Garnish with the mint sprig.
  6. Sip slowly and enjoy.

The foxgloves are especially robust this year.

Japanese iris

Siberian iris

These pale lavender bearded iris are from a small clump that was rescued from a neighbor's trash heap. They appear to be grateful for the second chance.

The fragrance of these peonies is intoxicating. Not unlike the mint juleps.

Magenta peonies

Kousa dogwood is just starting to bloom.

a scarlet floribunda rose

These are my dear friend's favorite flowers. To me, they will always be Linnie of the valley.

Fragrant sweet allyssum volunteers sprout between the pavers.

 

Need another drink?

 

The forget-me-nots are waning just as the Asiatic lilies are budding.

This spiderwort, "Sweet Kate", is planted next to the deep purple shamrock, below. I love the contrast of the foliage colors. St. Francis, aka St. Frank, is in the background.

little pinks

I love hydrangeas when they are budding. The chartreuse color with those rusty brown stems is so lovely.

Bruce likes the hydrangea, too. The party animal is partied out!

Y’all come back, now.

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April 14th, 2012

The beautiful flowers in last week’s post were photographed at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, one of Virginia’s treasures, located in Richmond. Make plans to visit the garden this Thursday for a very special event, Cheer to Art! The gardens are at their peak and this event gives you the opportunity to support the Garden and purchase beautiful art for your home at the same time. Here are a few examples of the artwork that will be offered:


Consider this your personal invitation from a member of the Garden.


Thursday, April 19, 2012
Silent Art Auction from 6-9:30 pm at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
More than 100 extraordinary artworks will be available by silent auction to support the Children’s Garden. Join us for beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment.

You won’t want to miss this event!
Tickets: $50/person in advance; $55/person at the door.

For more information or to purchase tickets – www.lewisginter.org/support-us/charitablegiving/CheerstoArt.php

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April 6th, 2012

It’s spring and the earth is alive with color, fragrance and song! The sun is warm and all our senses are awakened.

Let’s not forget, as we celebrate Easter, that the budding flowers, baby chicks, bunnies, lambs and eggs are symbols of new life and rebirth.

As a Christian, I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and our rebirth through Him. The concept is as profound as it is simple: “Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Happy Easter!

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March 29th, 2012

Deviled eggs always remind me of spring. Maybe it’s because we had to do something with all our colored Easter eggs, but egg salad or deviled eggs would always be part of our Easter meal along with baked ham, warm potato salad and green beans. They are easy to make and fun to customize. Here is the basic recipe and a few ideas for making them extra special.

Select eggs that are about a week old. They are best for boiling as the shell will separate more easily. Put eggs in a large sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let eggs sit for 12 minutes. Then drain and cool under running water. Tap shells on countertop and crack gently all over. Remove shells under running water being careful to keep whites intact.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise and pop out yolks into a small mixing bowl. Mash yolks with about 1/4 cup mayo (for 6 eggs) and about 1 tablespoon yellow mustard. Mix until yolks are smooth and most lumps are gone. Fill whites with yolk mixture. I use a spoon, but I have a friend who uses a pastry bag to make her’s extra fancy.

Now the fun part! Top with capers, olives, tiny pickles, slivered red pepper, thinly sliced cucumber and fresh dill, tiny slices of smoked salmon or ham, an asparagus tip, crumbled bacon, you name it! Or just go for the classic and add a sprinkle of paprika and black pepper. Enjoy!

The devilish chick in the center is in honor of our Richmond eaglets. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to my Facebook page (link at left) to find the link. Warning: you may become obsessed with baby eagles.

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