Thursday, May 24, 2012

Urban Gardening with a twist

Ever have too much produce for your own family growing in your garden and wish you could find someone who wanted it?  There's an app for that (or there soon could be!)

Well I do not have the solution but two young men originating in Elmhurst, IL (where I live) do!

In a nutshell this is a project where they will use the internet to make shopping for veggies as easy as borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor.

Here is the website so you can grab the whole story: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1273317380/where-does-your-garden-grow

This is a project just getting off the ground and it needs support.  When you go to the website, you are seeing the Kickstarter Project webpage to collect pledges to raise the first $10,000.  If they collect that then the project will be funded through Kickstarter. They are 1/3 of the way there and need a few more supporters to make it to $10,000 by June 15, 2012.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects that works with everyone doing things from collecting Oral histories, to public art to something as interesting as an app that thinks gardeners wanting to share with neighbors who are looking for what they have.

The program I want to introduce you to is called Where does Your Garden Grow?  It was compiled by two young men.  One a web designer and one a landscaper.  Todd Jones has a business called Every Last Morsel where you can hire him to tend, create and monitor a garden in your urban space if you do not have the skill or time to do it yourself.  He teamed up with Collin to create a way to track all the gardens and locations and what was growing there.  From that simple beginning they realized if they crafted an open network it would allow people to share what they grow with others.  Linking this into the urban gardening movement which is just getting started and wouldn't you be more interested in adding one more plant if you knew you could find someone in an instant who could use what you grew.

I love this concept and I wanted to promote the idea here because if they gather the start money then I might soon have an app where I can find someone who has extra chive blossoms and would be willing to share them with me in exchange for chive blossom vinegar!  What a great idea this is!

What I love best is they have some great thank you gifts for pledging.  You can pledge as little as a dollar but if you pledge as little as $5.00 you will get a thank you gift, including such clever items as seed packets with phrases of thanks like:

I donated to Kickstarter Project 
and all I got was this silly thank you chard.

or

Thank you for helping us grow; 
Lettuce return the favor!

So check them out and decide for yourself if you might like to pledge support to this or other worthy gardening projects through Kickstarter.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Having Fun with Gourmet Herb Food

Last Wednesday I gave the program Being an Herbal Gourmet at the Aspen Dr. Branch of the Cook Memorial Libary in Vernon Hills, Illinois.  It was a wonderful group of patrons and we had  great time talking about herbs. 

Originally the program was to have a tasting and explaining style but the Health department had other plans.  So instead we did a demonstration workshop with many pass arounds.  The patrons were given recipes and instruction sheets and at the end of the program we gave out a few samples of Backyard Patch Herb Mixes and Seasonings



The samples are in the big green bag and the items
 in front we gave away as a door prize.


There were 102 registrations for the program and an amazing 96 people attended.  Here are some pictures of the crowd.

Earlier Arrivers always get special pictures

Even early we had many visitors
A full house by the introduction

For the first time I have pictures of myself giving a program because one of the people in the front row volunteered to take them.  I look very goofy in a few of them but it was still great to see pictures of myself actually speaking.

In the program I discussed and demonstrated how to make Herbal vinegar, Herbal oil and how to blend herbs both fresh and dry together.  Recipes from the program can be found on the Program Recipes page on the blog.




Making dill herbal vinegar


Toward the end we made a few items with our vinegar and oil including a salad dressing and a stir fry.  The stir fry was made with sage oil, fresh dill and fresh thyme demonstrating a sweet, a savory and a pungent herb combination and how the flavors work.  Just before serving a tossed in a dash of Purple Basil Vinegar.






Check out the How Tuesday tomorrow for step by step instructions on how I made the Lemon Herb Oil that I also demonstrated that night.

It was a spactacular program, one I think can be done just about anywhere for any sized group.  The staff and patrons of the library were very sweet and helpful and I sure hope I get the chance to go back there again, because that was a whole lot of fun!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Salve with Roses to help you sleep

Sweet Dream Balm (adapted from Rosemary Gladstar's recipes)
Rub on temples at night for sweet dreams. Great for children!

1/2 cup Borage Flowers
1/4 cup Chamomile Flowers
1/4 cup Rose buds
1/4 cup Hops
1/4 cup Mugwort
4 cups Olive Oil
4 oz. Beeswax
50 drops Lavender Essential oil
20 drops Chamomile Essential oil.
To begin your salve, measure the herbs into an enamel, glass or stainless steel pan (never use aluminum), or into a crock-pot.  Cover the herbs with oil. Heat the herbs and oil over a low heat for several hours (about 3 hours). If you are using roots you should heat the oil longer (about 5 hours). Do not fry the herbs, and keep the vessel covered to retain all the wonderful medicinal qualities of the herbs. After the oil is infused, strain the herbs through a cloth. When most of the oil has filtered through the cloth, squeeze as much oil as possible from the herbs and cloth. Be careful not to burn yourself in this process! Measure the infused oil to ascertain the amount of beeswax needed to make the balm.  You need about 1 oz. beeswax for each cup of oil.
Pour the oil into a clean pot, add beeswax to the oil and heat it until all the wax is melted. To test to see if your salve is firm enough, put some on a spoon and set it in the freezer for a few minutes. If your salve is too soft, add more beeswax. If the salve is too thick, you can add a bit more oil to soften it. If you are using essential oils or Vitamin E you can blend them in now. Finally, pour your salve into containers and label.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rose Petal Soup

When looking through my recipes for something unique using roses, I found Rose Petal Soup.  This is a soup you serve cold much like a gazpacho.  It actually uses rose petals and some type of liquor.  Of the two recipes I had in my files I could not decide which one I liked better so I decided that I would share them both.  The first uses Cherry Schnapps and the other the more refined Kirschwasser which is made from Morello Cherries.  They are about the same recipe as I look at them to type them, but my notes from trying them make 2 years apart make them seem so much different I decided to let you be the judge.
Rose Petal Soup #1
You need a rose, preferably red or pink. It should still have lots of fragrance. You can't use roses that are hybrids or those treated with chemicals. Gently peel away the rose petals one at a time. Cut away the bottoms of the petals that have no color. Keep a few of the rose petals to use to sprinkle on top of the soup just before serving.

Other ingredients needed are:
16 ounces cold water
4 ounces sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
16 ounces can of pitted sweet cherries
8 ounces dry white wine
8 ounces sour cream
2 ounces Cherry Schnapps
Add water, sugar, and cinnamon in a pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Drain the canned cherries and add to the pan. Reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Next, add the wine and rose petals. Let cool. Put in blender and mix on liquefy setting. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the sour cream and Cherry Schnapps. Refrigerate until cold. When ready to serve, sprinkle the remainder of the rose petals on the soup. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
______________________________________________________________________

Rose Petal Soup #2

1 red or pink fragrant rose flower                     
1 pint cold water
4 ounces of fine sugar
Pinch of powdered cinnamon
8 ounces dry white wine                                     
1 16 oz. can pitted sweet cherries, drained       
2 ounces of Kirschwasser
1/2 pint of sour cream                                       
Pluck the rose petals from the head. Cut away the white basal (heels) portions and discard. Put aside some petals for a garnish. Put sugar, water and cinnamon in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Add the cherries and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the wine and rose petals. Remove from the heat and allow to sit until cool. Put this mixture in the blender or food processor; liquefy it. Stir in 8 ounces of the sour cream and all the Kirsch. Refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Serve in a large glass bowl swirling the rest of  sour cream on top. Scatter with rose petals and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Roses in the Bath


 
Rose petals add an element of softness to the skin when used in bath mixtures.  Either in Bath Bags or in salves, vinegar and other mediums, the softening as well as mildly astringent qualitiesalso reducing puffiness, edema and has a slight tightening effect (which means it reduced wrinkles!) The oil is most effective for moisturizing and hydrating the skin while having a general stimulant and antiseptic action which is good for all skin types, but especially so for dry, mature and irritated skin. It is used to repair broken capillaries, inflammation, as well as skin redness.

Today I thought it would be fun to share a few recipes using roses that are just for the bath.  But if you do not want to make your own and like roses in your bath items, the Backyard Patch makes two popular rose products.  My fun and simple Bath Tub Tea that is a combation of many herbs including rose petals and my rose petal infused Rose Hair Rinse which uses rose petals in vinegar and water to soften hair and help remove product build up from shampoo, conditioners and treatments.

 Here are recipes to try on your own:

Bath Bag

2 t. each
lemon verbena
 peppermint
 dried roses
 hibiscus
nettle
rosehips (for color)

Place the herbs in a cotton draw string bag or wrap up in a cotton wash cloth.  To use steep the bag in 2 cups water warm water for 15 minutes are pour into bath water.

Rose Vinegar Bath
A toner and fresher that brings skin back to normal pH after cleaning; this product is very good for your skin, especially if it is oily.  Apply after washing with a cotton ball or soft cloth.

1 cup apple cider vinegar
5 T. rose petals
4 T. sage leaves
3 T. raspberry leaves
2 T. rosemary
¾ cup rosewater (reserved)

Heat the vinegar and pour over the herbs.  Place the mixture in a quart jar and cap it.  (Do not use a metal lid).  Shake daily for 10 days.  Strain.  Add rosewater to vinegar.  Store, covered, in jars with nonmetallic lids.

(This recipe was by Linda Gannon, the Magick Garden  McFarland, WI – excerpted from Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys, 1990)

Basic Baby Powder

8 oz. arrowroot or cornstarch or a blend of both
4 oz. baking soda
1 Tbls. Ground Cloves
1 Tbls. slippery elm
1 Tbls. rose petals
1 Tbls. Lavender

Blend ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl.  Store in a large glass jar, covered, for two weeks, allowing scents to blend.  Shake jar well every other day.  You can boost the scent with 10 to 15 drops of rose absolute or rose geranium essntial oil.

Dust on body as a perfume or a way to stay dry in warm summer months.

Rose Bath Oil

Rose Petals (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
2 oz grapeseed oil
5 drops jasmine oil
5 drops ylang-ylang oil


Place rose petals in a glass jar and cover with the oils. Shake and allow to infuse overnight. I liked it best when it infused about 3 days. 

Add 1/4 oz. of the oil to your bath or sprkile over the tips of your fingers and work into your skin when wet fromt he shower.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rose - Herb of the Week

The Fragrant Rose or Rosebunda  is this week’s Herb of the Week
NOTE: see all the other posts this week beginning 5/13/12 for uses, recipes and Rose lore.

Roses are probably the most misunderstood and undervalued plants in the modern landscape. Most people seem to believe that all garden roses are troublesome, frail plants that need to be pampered and fussed over with weekly sprays and frequent fertilizing. While this can be true for the devoted, exhibitor, it simply does not have to be the case for the average gardener like myself who likes to look at pretty flowers. I grow over 400 roses of all types in my garden with an absolute minimum of fuss. Most of the time is actually spent cutting roses for friends, family and people just walking through the garden.
       
What often makes Roses so intindating to growers is the number of styles.  So here is an overview of the types of Roses so you can decise what type is best for you and your gardening style.

        Hybrid Teas: This is the flower that everyone pictures when we think about what a rose should look like. The classic spiral centre and individual long stem make this the most popular of the rose classes. The modern hybrid tea can be an excellent garden plant, as breeders are concentrating on improving disease resistance and overall garden performance. Many people believe that fragrance has been bred out of the modern rose, but there are many excellent tea roses with strong perfumes and more being introduced each year. Rose breeders realize that people still want fragrance in their gardens. Hybrid Teas are great for the formal garden, but should not be limited to this use. If you don't want be bothered with fussing about roses, be sure to seek the advice of an experienced rose grower who can advise you on the healthy and hardy varieties for your climate.
       
       Climbing Roses: The modern climber is usually a repeat bloomer and grows around 10 to 12 feet tall or wide. There are so many different types available that it's hard to describe them in one paragraph. The older heirloom climbers tend to bloom only once, but the quality and abundance if often stunning,  these older single bloom climbers are the ones old recipes are based on so they are good to choose for rose cosmetics and food.
       
        Floribundas: Commonly called cluster flowered roses. These come in many shapes and colours. Like the Hybrid Teas, many varieties have excellent perfume, combined with unmatched flower power. Bloom shape can be ruffled and informal or high centered like the HTs. Floribundas are generally considered to be excellent landscape plants, providing bloom from June to Hard Frost. Most varieties grow from 2 to 4 feet tall, but there are a few large ones in this class, (the Americans call the big ones Grandifloras). Several modern varieties are capable of having over 50 blooms at the same time, with only a short rest in between the repeat cycle. If you're looking for roses that are well mannered and provide armloads of cut flowers, try planting a few floribundas.
       
        Old Garden and Shrub roses: These two classes are roses are separate from one another but have similar growth habits. The shrub rose are without question the most underrated plant in the landscape. It's a shame that more people haven't taken the time to familiarize themselves with this group of plants. Shrub roses are a huge part of the rose family with growth habits varying from low ground cover types to large impenetrable hedge types. I have seen a few cities and parks make use of the mediland shrub roses, but with so many types available for the home gardener it's a wonder that more are not sold in nurseries. The shrub type roses are usually very winter hardy and healthy, with the Rugosa's being completely disease free. Some of the shrubs have an added bonus of colourful fall hip displays . If you're the type of gardener who wants a lot of bang for you buck, then this is the type of rose for you.
       
         Mini roses: A really fascinating group of roses with all the characteristics of large rose reduced to mini proportions. You can even find miniature climbing roses with smaller flowers and leaves growing to about 7 feet tall. Most types grow about 14 inches high, are everblooming and come in every colour except true blue or black. These plants are not house plants, but will flourish in any home garden with minimal care.

To Grow
        Roses are best planted in the fall or early Spring. Dormant plants are preferred over fully leafed out plants except for container grown and mini roses. Mini roses are usually purchased fully leafed out and best planted when the weather begins to warm in April or May. If you are transplanting an established rose bush, wait until fall or early spring when the plant is dormant, and remember to give it a judicious pruning.
        Site and exposure requirements depend on the type of rose. Usually 5 to 6 hours of sun is preferred for most roses but there are a few shrubs, climbers and Rugosa types that will grow in more shaded situations. If you must choose between morning or afternoon sunshine, take the earlier option. Early morning sun will dry off the leaves, helping to prevent mildew and blackspot. Roses will tolerate a windy exposed site provided that hardy varieties are chosen or a winter mulch is applied to protect from harsh winter conditions.

Selecting a Site to Plant your Roses
First, choose a sunny area of the garden that gets at least 4 to 5 hours of sun. Do not crowd your rose with other trees and plants. Some roses, such as climbers and shrubs, don’t mind company, but most like to mix with other roses or other non-invasive plants. If you’re replacing an older rose bush, it is important to remove an 18 cubic inch area of soil and replace it with fresh soil. A newly planted rose doesn’t like to grow in the same soil that an older rose bush has been in.

  • Bare Root Roses -An easy and inexpensive option for early season planting. Late winter is the best time plant bare-root roses.
  • Container Roses - A container rose already has plenty of leaves and maybe some blooms. Early spring is the best time to set out plants grown in nursery containers (vs. bare-root, packaged plants).

Step-by-Step instructions for Planting Roses
  1. If you have a bare root plant, soak it in a bucket of water before planting. For roses that are potted, you can water the pot thoroughly and let it sit until ready to plant.
  2. Dig a hole approximately 15 inches deep and 18 inches wide. If planting bare root roses, form a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole. If you live in a colder area, plant a bit deeper and consult with your local garden center.
  3. Add a small handful of bonemeal to the planting hole. Spade in some compost or peatmoss to loosen the soil. Mix the soil you took out of the hole with more compost or peat moss.
  4. Remove the rose from the pot. Carefully place in the hole and shovel the extra soil around the new plant. Plant the rose with the crown slightly deeper than the original soil. The crown or bud union should be about 1 inch under the soil.
  5. Gently firm the rose into its new home and water well. Stand back and watch it grow!
Additional Care Notes
I'd love to say these are mine but these are at Cantigny Gardens, Wheaton, IL
Fertilizing

This is the really easy part of rose growing. The first and most important type of rose food is plain old water. A rose that is well watered throughout the summer will grow far better than one that's treated to loads of chemical rose foods but little water. I use organic fertilizer outside with great success. Seakelp is excellent as are fish fertilizers and Canola meal. Many people like the all purpose rose foods available in most garden centres. Try not to get to hung up on stuffing your rose plant full of rose foods, and apply only a small handful about every six weeks if you remember. Fertilizer should not be applied after July 15 , as the plants need to use up what's in the soil and 'harden up' for winter. If all of this sounds too confusing, just throw a handful down before and after the first bloom, and your sure to get pretty roses.

Pests & Diseases

The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" certainly holds true here. Planting a rose in good soil with plenty of sunshine and air circulation is your first and most important defense against insect and disease problems. Mildew and Blackspot are the two most troublesome problems but with a little effort can be easily controlled. If you don't want to spray fungicides at all, then be sure to plant disease- free roses like the Rugosas or one of the healthiest of the others. Strip off all the leaves before your rose begins to regrow in the spring and watch for any sign of trouble.

Most home gardeners can grow great roses without the use of insecticides. Aphids are easily washed off a plant or are soon eaten up by beneficial insects in a healthy garden. Other insects can be picked off or given the hose treatment. Spider mites are a real problem for people who spray often, but seldom bother the organic garden. When it comes to insects and disease, roses are truly highly over- rated, as many other types of plants from tomatoes to carrots have their troubles but we seem to demand perfection from our roses. Try not to be to concerned about the odd spoiled leaf but take reasonable precautions against bad outbreaks.
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Making Rose Beads - How Tuesday

Making rose beads is steeped in history although the actual origin of the making of these beads is not exactly clear.  It is known that the rose plant and rose flower has long been associated with Mary the mother of Jesus.  Many older varieties of roses had only five petals and were said to represent the five wounds of Jesus.
 
The word rosary means rose garden and came from when the Monks would gather petals from their rose gardens and make rose beads. The beads were strung to help them count their prayers. A special remembrance you can create can be made from roses collected from a special occasion.  The long lasting scent of the beads will help recall that same special event.
Steps in Making Rose Beads:
1.  Gather roses. Remove the petals and chop them finely.
2.  In a cast-iron cooking container, place a quart of fresh, finely-minced red rose petals, a cup of water, a few drops of rose oil to enhance the scent, and rusty nails, if you have any.  Turn the heat on medium-low and let the petals cook for one hour. Do not let the water boil. Remove from heat, stir well with a wooden spoon, and let it stand overnight. Repeat this heating of the petals for three or four days, adding water if necessary, until the doughy mixture has turned very dark.

3.  Place the petal pulp in a colander or sieve. Press out as much water as possible. Let the mixture stand until it dries to a clay-like consistency that can be easily molded. Wet your hands and roll into beads a little larger than a marble. (They will shrink about fifty percent as they dry.) Place on paper towels.
4.  Allow the beads to air dry. 
5.  When the beads are partly dry and therefore stable, thread a large needle with dental floss or thick fishing line. (I perfer the fish line.)  String the beads, and hang them to dry, turning regularly so that they don't stick to the floss.

6.  In a week, your rose beads are ready for their final stringing. Alternate them with smaller, pretty beads used as spacers, or use wire links. Add a clasp.
7.  Store in an air-tight container between wearings to preserve the scent. As you wear them against your skin, they will warm and give off a sweet rose fragrance.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rose Hips & Rose Hip Tea


Here is a little extra for you, you can also make Rose Hip Wine. This wine concoction will aid circulation.  It is also known to stimulate the appetite. Steep 3 ounces of dried rose hips in 1 quart of strong, dry red wine for 2 weeks. Filter the wine. Drink 2 small glasses per day. Who can beat that prescription!

In this week of celebrating Roses I thought I should also speak about Rose Hips.  Roses, traditional non-hybrid roses, develop a seed pod just at the base of the flower.  These red balls are known as "hips" and yes the seeds are in them.  Rose Hips make a wonderful tea.  They are high in Vitamin C, also contain vitamins A, B, D, K, E, and flavinoids (antioxidants), and prevent bladder infections, ease headaches and dizziness. 

You can grow the non-hybrid roses and harvest your own hips, or you can obtain hips from local growers or freinds.  I usually wait until frost before I harvest my rose hips. I find the best way to let them dry is on the plant, rather than indoors on a screen. So many times they would mold indoors which made me decide to let mother nature do her thing and gather the dried hips instead.


To prepare Rose Hips:  
1. Collect hips from only wild roses or untreated roses that have not been sprayed. Leave the flowers on the rose bush.
2. Clip off the red fruits at the end of the blossom and spread rose hips out to dry. As the rose petals dry, the fruit of the flower matures to a red or orange bulb. 
4. After the petals are completely dry, store them in an airtight container.
To make Rose Hip Tea:  
1. You can use fresh or dried rose hips for tea. If you're using fresh hips, you’ll need about twice as many. The seeds inside the hip have an irritating, hairy covering. Trust me—you must remove those aggravating little hairs inside the hip. To do so, hold the hip securely, slice it in half, and remove the inner seeds. Use a knife or a pair of little herb scissors to do this.
2. For fresh rose hip tea, steep about 12 to 16 hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. For dried rose hip tea, steep about 6 to 8 hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the tea.
3. Sweeten to taste using stevia, sugar or sweetener. The flavor of honey may overpower this astringent rosy tea.

Note: Do not use aluminum pansor tea pots to craft rose hip tea. The tea will react to the aluminum and destroy the vitamin C.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rose for Mother's Day (Herb of the Year)

With this being Mother's Day I decided to make it the start of Rose week!

This year the Herb of the Year, as determined by the International Herb Society, is Rose.  I have been working on a post for the herb of the year and realized I have so much information that I could do a week of posts on Roses and their uses as an herb, so I decided to start this week of homage on Mother's Day.

If you are getting last minute roses for Mom, remember this symbolism (it works great on Valentine's Day too!)

Red Roses Symbolize: love and remembrance
White Roses : purity
Pink Roses: happiness
Peach Roses: passion 
Yellow Roses: infidelity

I always thought that last was too bad because my mother in law loves yellow roses and as family members we get them for her regularly.  They are still uniquely lovely.

“Rose in your tea will bring you love.”
  ~Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, Rose Recipes from Olden Times (published 1939)

The Rose Garden in 2011 at Cantigny in Wheaton, Illinois

Looking at a book like Rose Recipes from Olden Times, you get a feel for why the International Herb Society choose rose as the Herb of the Year. for 2012.  As a symbol for love and passion it has also been used medicinally and as decoration

Here are just a few possibilities:
·         Decoration for tables and banquet floors;
·         An aphrodisiac
·         To combat drunkenness
·         for remembrance when planted at grave sites, (red for lovers, white for purity of young women)
·         when used in the Church representative of the blood and wounds of Christ
·         Rose Beads used in the making of rosaries
·         Rose Essential Oil used in cosmetics
·         Perfumes
·         An aid for depression
·         To care for sensitive skin
·         To combat insomnia.

Another old book, this one from 1606 gives a recipe for a sweet bag whose scent will instill sleep.
“Take drie Rose leaves, keep them close in a glass which will keep them sweet, then take powder of Mints, powder of cloves in a grosse powder. Put the same to the Rose leaves, then put all these together in a bag, and take that to bed with you, and it will cause you to sleepe, and it is good to smell unto at other times. “
~Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606

If the scent is what you adore, then I suggest trying one of these three old-fashioned ways to capture that glorious fragrance of roses for use inside your home.  These are written so you can actually understand. 
Rose Oil
Make your own delightful rose massage oil with this simple recipe. Pack 4 cups of fresh scented rose petals into a glass jar. Cover with 1 cup almond oil and let stand for two days. Strain the oil into another jar, pressing the oil from the petals. Discard the petals. Repack the jar with fresh petals, and pour the scented oil over it. Repeat several times, until the fragrance is has reached the desired intensity.
Cosmetic Rose Water
Put 2 cups of scented rose petals into a non-reactive saucepan. Add 4 cups of distilled water, and simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by about half. Cool. Strain and discard the petals. If you.d like a stronger scent, repeat, using fresh petals and enough water to make 4 cups. Keep in a spray bottle to use on your hair and skin—even nicer when it's cooled in the refrigerator.
Rose Sugar
Make this fragrant sugar to sprinkle over strawberries and add to herbal tea. Bruise ½ cup clean, scented rose petals (use a mortar or a rolling pin). Stir petals into 1 cup granulated sugar and store in a lidded container for 3 weeks. Sift the sugar from the petals. Use immediately or store in a clean, dry container.
Come back each day this week for more on the uses, growing techniques and history of Roses.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Herb and Scented Plant Sale 2012

The Oak Park Conservatory (courtesy of their website)
Yesterday was the Herb and Scented Plant Sale held at the Oak Park Conservatory.  It is the major fundraiser for the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory.  Friends and I have been going to this event for about 20 of the event's 23 years.  We have only missed a couple.  This year I brought along two new friends,  Emily and Kassie.  Emily started herbs in her garden last year or the year before and I have been sharing some of my knowledge with her.  I love the fact that she grows much of her garden from seed which I have not been doing recently so it is great to swap stories about how certain things work from seed.

I have to say the event was as organized as it always is. The smooth flow of people, the plants organized alphabetically by botanical name, the pricing clear and volunteers galore to help you shop and give advice. 


Kassie & Emily with a Purple Sage plant.
The person they had answering questions about shade plants was especially out going and personable.  We had a wonderful time sniffing plants, choosing and imagining different places to plant them.


There was even help to get your car loaded provided by a local Boy Scout Troop.  This is Collin, the young man who watched over my plants and help me load them into the car.

My disappointment really came with the herbs, or should I say lack of herbs.  They had all the stand bys, dill, cilantro, thyme, basil, oregano, etc. but unless you count Lemon verbena, there were no exotic herbs to speak of.  I came home with a record of ONLY two trays of plants. 

I purchased a replacement lemon grass and bought another Lemon verbena, because you can never have too many. I did get another Mojito Mint (I did not being in  he one from last summer that was on the patio) and picked up a French thyme to replace the common thyme that died in the winter.  Then I got my old stand by of Basil Genovese and calendula and a Prince Rupert lemon rose scented geranium, but then I spent my money on a tomato plant, some peppers and a cucumber because there were no more herbs of interest.

I was unable to get even the most basic one step above ordinary herbs which I looked forward to purchasing at this event because of the quality and hardiness in past years.  There was no lemon or purple basil, no scented thyme of any kind, only three basic varieties.  They offered Bergarten and Purple sage, but none of the golden varieties.  They did not even have Rosemary ARP which is the best one for Illinois gardens, nor did they have the prostrate rosemary I was hoping to get to try to make another rosemary Christmas tree with like I did a few years ago.  They only had three types of scented geraniums and those I could get just about anywhere.  I think the flowering plants were definitely popular, but maybe it is time for me to look for another show to find the tender perennial herbs I need to replace those that sometimes do not make it through my Illinois winter, like scented thyme and tri-color sage, because this show offered only what I could get at the Lowes or Walmart.  Now I know that I am supporting a good cause and that is important to me, but so was getting plants I could not find any where else and for me that was missing this year.



As we were leaving my friends asked why I did not buy more flowers.  I realized that for them the show was perfect and successful, but for me as someone who has been coming to this show for over 20 years, the sale was a disappointment.  It was good to know that others would not think so because I believe in the preservation causes of the Conservatory and its Friends group, but I realize that perhaps staff changes that occurred in 2010 and 2011 have relegated the Herb and Scented Plant show to a less important place which resulted in a less than interesting selection of herbs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Celebrate in Miniature - Make a Fairy Garden

April 30th (yesterday) was May Eve, when everyone should be on the lookout for Fairies. When I read that in my email, I was intrigued by the idea.  I have toyed with the idea of a fairy garden on my patio for some time and with this push went hunting for Fairy Garden accessories.  I found three great vendors on Etsy during my search that have perfect accessories for you to create a personalized Fairy Garden.
This is an example of the Patio from Janit Calvo

The first person I found was Janit Calvo of Seattle, Washington.  Using her website Two Green Thumbs.com, she helps people turn up their creativity and become expert miniature gardeners. Her Etsy store and website are filled with accessories and kits, including my favorite which is a kit for making a stone patio in miniature.  As Janit says, “Miniature Gardening, it's where craft and garden meet.”

Fairy Garden by Susie Morgan Wilburn
Susie Morgan Wilburn was my next discovery.  She is from Toms Brook, Virginia and her specialty is pottery.  She makes great miniatures of tables, chairs and accessories.  She named her shop, Laughing Orange Studio which comes from the Sherwin Williams paint color on her house.  She has a blog and other information on her website: www.laughingorange.com.  What caught my eye was a kit for making a fairy garden in a broken clay pot.  So creative and fun.


Garden Flowers Wheelbarrow Ensemble


The third shop to catch my attention was from California.  The owner is named Jayme and her shop is filled with great Fairy accessories.  From a Gazebo to benches and chairs to watering cans and small clay pots it is a treasure trove of fun miniatures.  Being a nursery owner since 2003 she has been teaching classes on making fairy gardens and has noticed an increase in popularity recently.  She feels it is the charm and magic they bring.  My favorite was a wheelbarrow ensemble that included a shovel and garden boots.
According to Jayme "Fairy gardens are a wonderful way to let your imagination soar!They can be very magical for the young and old alike."
http://www.etsy.com/shop/gardenflowers1
For those who want to start small, I also found this little kit. You take this and your own inspiration and you can have fun with herbs like thyme, miniature rosemary, corsican mint and succulents to craft your own Fairy Garden.

I hope that you find these sellers as much of an inspiration as I did.  I am looking forward to finally crafting a cute garden nook for the fairies who gather on my porch each twilight.

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