Archive | January 2013

More Things Herbal

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it.”

Proverbs 15:17

Well, I’m fresh out of oxen, fattened or otherwise, but I am planting herbs, and this year I am actually going to try to USE them in my cooking.  At least more often than I have in the past.  I grow them every year–basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley,  and velvety, silver sage, to name a few. But I mostly grow them because I love how they look, how they smell when I brush up against them in the garden, and how many butterflies and bees they draw.  I always think I will snip them and use them daily, but except for the occasional cup of pineapple salvia tea, I tend to forget.  This year, I plan to remember!

Basil is my favorite herb to grow and to eat, and thus one that I do sometimes think about when making dinner.  I even like to substitute fresh basil leaves for lettuce on a sandwich, I enjoy it so much.  Sweet basil tastes the best, but African blue basil is the most beautiful and is an absolute magnet for honeybees.  The clumps can get 3 feet across or better, and just as tall.  

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(Click to see full-sized)

What are your favorite herbs to grow? Do you harvest them for drying or fresh seasoning?

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Herbs In The Garden – Borage

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Borage Officinalis

With temps hovering in the mid-70’s and even predicted to go as high as 85 degrees tomorrow, I’m feeling pressured to get my winter gardening underway, and to find time to clean up my beds and get ready for spring.  I really love planting herbs in and among my other flowers and shrubs, and in containers scattered throughout the garden.  One of my favorites is borage, which has edible flowers and leaves, but which I mostly grow for the lovely, Victorian look of the plant.  With its velvety leaves and gorgeous blue, star-shaped flowers, it just feels so romantic to me.  And it is a bee magnet, so it is always welcome in my yard.

I’ve read that both the flowers and the tender new leaves have a mild cucumber taste, and make a delicious and attractive addition to salads.  I’ve never tried this, and I’m curious to hear from anyone who has.  If nothing else, how beautiful would a sprinkling of these blue flowers be across the top of a crisp, green salad?  I have heard it recommended to try borage sparingly at first, as it might have a mild laxative effect on some people.  I find that can be true of many vegetables, so it doesn’t worry me overly much, but if you have a sensitive system, you might want to heed the advice.

Borage is an annual, but it often reseeds and comes back on its own.  I just picked up a beautiful plant this weekend so I could use it to jump start a container garden in a cobalt blue planter.  I also found a healthy seedling that volunteered in my raised bed. 

If you’ve never tried growing borage, you really should.  With its fuzzy leaves and sweetly nodding flowers, it will give a softness and a touch of beautiful blue color to any garden, whether you grow it as an edible herb, or just as a pretty and unusual plant.

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(Click to see Full Sized)

What herbs do you enjoy growing, and what time of year can you plant them in your area?

Time To Start Gardening Again!

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While much of the country is cold and snowy, here in central Florida, it’s time to begin planting the winter/spring garden, and doing the heavier yard work that you don’t want to tackle in the broiling heat of summer.  Today is sunny, clear, and in the mid-60’s out.  Perfect gardening weather.  Unfortunately, I have some other obligations today, but Saturday, I will be stopping by a nursery on my way to visit friends, and I’m specifically hunting for some lovely blue cabbages.  I used some last year as an edging in one of my beds, and they were gorgeous through winter, spring, and most of the summer.  The deep blue color held up the entire time, and they didn’t shoot up on long, bare stems like some of the pink & green decorative cabbages do.  I’m hoping the weather on Sunday will let me get busy weeding and setting out a few new things, like…blue cabbages!!

In the picture above, you can see a freshly set out blue cabbage (they get much fuller and pretty), and a beautiful little green cabbage with a bright pink center. The blue cabbages all got better and better, bluer and fuller, and very pretty. The green and pink ones gradually turned an all over dusky purple that wasn’t especially pretty.  They also got leggy and ended up sitting on top of  bare stems nearly a foot tall.

I’m also hoping life slows down a bit, and I can find more time for posting on this blog.  That’s one of my goals, especially over the next few months. 

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This one started out SO pretty, but didn’t hold up as well.

Do any of you grow decorative cabbages and kales.  If so, which ones have you found to be especially pretty? 

Dandelions and Mosquitoes…in January!

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Dandelions

Today, as my husband and I left Steak N Shake after our decadent Frisco Melt sandwiches (we are SUCH gourmands!), he noticed dandelions blooming in the parking lot.  In January!  And yesterday, as he was taking down our Christmas lights (finally), he was swatting mosquitoes. Yep. In January.  After reading several blogs from more northern climes lately, I realized what a cool thing this is. Cool, as in neat, fun, and amazing, as opposed to cool, as in snowy, icy, or ten degrees below zero.  Just one more aspect of winter in central Florida.  Now whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your preferences, I reckon.

Me, I love cooler weather, and I really don’t want to be wearing shorts in January.  BUT. I also don’t want to be shoveling six feet of snow off of my car, and sliding down icy stair steps every time I leave my house.  So, I’m going to go with the whole “bloom where you’re planted” thing and revel in the many blessings surrounding me in this part of the country.  Hope you are able to do the same, no matter where you live.  In other words, if you find a dandelion in winter, make a wish.  And when Life gives you snow…BUILD SNOWMEN!!

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Winter On A Florida River

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Perfect Weather!

Cool Enough For Comfort, Warm Enough For Basking Alligators

My daughter (who is seven months pregnant with her first baby) and her husband were here for four days last week, on a trip from San Diego.  They are planning a possible move back to the east coast from San Diego after the baby is born, and in addition to visiting with family, are spending some time in Savannah and Charleston, the two cities they are most interested in moving to.  When visiting home, Erin always likes to do as much “Florida” stuff as she can, and this time around, that included an Eco-Tour on the St. John’s River.  The weather was perfect, and the birds and alligators were everywhere.  We saw at least three mama gators with babies piled all over the place, in addition to at least two males in the 12 foot range.  I actually think one of them was larger than that.  It was a whopper!  Highlights of the day included several purple gallinules, a yellow-crowned night heron, wood storks, sandhill cranes, and a very hungry manatee, busily feeding on shoreline vegetation.  This is why people come to Florida in the winter.  Well, and the beaches, of course.  But for many, a peaceful, two hour glide down a Florida river can’t be beat.

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Daughter and Hubby, Just Before Embarking On Our Tour

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Erin, Busy Doing What She Loves

(This was one of the Mamas, though you can’t see the babies in the photo).

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Purple Gallinule

(Photo Found Online)

When Erin sends me some of the really good pictures she took with her various zoom lenses, I’ll share some with you.  These are just iPhone snapshots and an online pic of the gallinule, but they’re all I have right now.  Hope you enjoy seeing what MY world looks like in January.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

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(Click to Read Quote & See Picture Full Sized)

“The roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”

How beautiful is this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson?  And how fitting the message for the start of a new year.  My friend Nicki took this picture of a rose in her garden, Souvenir de la Malmaison, which is a favorite of both of us.  Then she printed this beautiful card to tuck in my Christmas “basket” and I now have it framed and sitting on my desk. 

I want to keep this quote in mind throughout 2013, to remind me to live in the moment, and to never compare myself to anyone else.  Treasure your own individuality, folks, and fill your days with as much happiness and laughter as you can.  Don’t worry a moment for what anyone else is, or has.  You are exactly who you are supposed to be and you have everything you really need in order to be happy.  At least, that’s going to be my personal philosophy this year, to the best of my ability.

Thank you, Nicki, for such a splendid card and sentiment.  It’s a treasure.