Decorate Your Garden

Goddess Head Planter

As the snows swirl and you turn up the electric blanket, do you plan your garden? I do. It is one of my favorite winter pastimes. Not only do I spend hours poring over the dozens of catalogs that arrive daily selecting vegetables, herbs and flowers for my own garden and those of my customers, I think about decorating areas of my garden that might not offer the sunshine or soil needed for growing plants. So I create a different kind of “planting.”

An old cherry tree that long ago succumbed and was cut down, provided a perfect “stand” for a large pot and a beautiful Goddess Head Planter. I will soon be receiving my 2018 supply of these weatherproof concrete beauties in two sizes: Large 10″ and Small 8.5″ . Both make wonderful additions to your garden or gifts.

But don’t stop there. I have an old pole (not sure what it was for originally but it looks like it might have been a utility pole) in my garden in a dark spot where poison ivy and wisteria compete. So I decided to turn it into a Totem Pole, collecting various ceramic face masks that appealed to me.

My Garden Totem Pole

One of my favorite garden decoratives is my Garden Fairy statue. I have fun with her … putting a scarf around her when its cold, for example.

I have chickens. I love my chickens. And they boss me around. So this wonderful small plaque from Carruth Studio seems to capture our relationship perfectly. I placed it on the arbor that borders my girls’ compound.

Chick Chat Plaque

I have other decorative pieces placed throughout my garden. My chicken compound and arbor offer some structure to what can sometimes become an unruly wild mixture of flowers, herbs and vegetables. A memorial plaque for my dear departed yellow fellow Rusty, a mailbox that holds my hand tools, a bird bath. The trick is not to “junk up” your garden with such things, but also to have fun with them.

My garden Mailbox for hand tools

Let me know how YOU decorate your garden!

 

Oswego Tea … Beautiful Native, Historical Herb, Useful Medicinal

Oswego Tea

I wait with anticipation for the appearance in Spring of my beautiful bed of Monarda Didyma, or Oswego Tea. Before the blooms, I can enjoy the fragrant and delicious foliage.

Also known as Scarlet Bee Balm, it is an ancient American native plant. The genus is named after Nicholas Monardes, a Spanish physician who wrote in the 16th Century about New World medicinal plants. The common name was bestowed by John Bartram (1699-1777), a Quaker farmer known as the “Father of American Botany”, who observed Oswego Indians using it for tea. It was used as a substitute for black tea during the American Revolution.

Monarda Didyma is less medicinal in taste that its cousin Monarda Citriodora (Lemon Mint). Like all members of the mint family it has a square-shaped stem. The large shaggy brilliant red flowers grow 30-36″ high and are aromatic and edible. Unlike other Bee Balms, it does not invite mildew — that unattractive “frosting” on the foliage so common on Purple Bee Balm in particular — in the garden. It is delightful and impressive to scatter the red petals over any entree or salad. An important bee forage plant it is also very attractive to hummingbirds. Here in North Carolina it fills out beautifully from early Spring and then blooms for weeks May-June and, if you deadhead the blooms, you will enjoy another burst of color again in August. Also a nice cut flower, wonderful tea and potpourri when dried.

Native Americans used this plant to cure flatulence and insomnia. The Blackfeet used poultices of this plant for skin infections and minor wounds. It is also used for mouth and throat infections since it is a natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, used in modern mouthwashes.

The seeds are somewhat difficult to harvest as they appeal to many birds. You can either bend the stem over a bowl gently, so you do not snap it and tap the base of the flower. If the light brown seeds fall out you are in luck! If you miss them, there’s always next year, as this wonderful flower WILL be back! An alternate method, and one which may yield a second bloom, is to cut the spent flower heads back to a leaf union and carefully place the head on paper for drying. If you do this properly, your plants will sprout new stems with flowers at the union, and once your harvested flower heads are dried, you can gently crush and shake them over a white paper plate until the seeds are ejected. Now — this is important — you will see many many more little black square irregular grains that look a bit like pepper. These are NOT seeds. But there are lots of them and you need to carefully search for the few seeds which are roundish, smooth and light brown.

Finally, a note about harvesting for tea or medicinal use. When gathering herbs for fresh use, pick early in the morning, when still kissed by dew. But when gathering herbs for drying, wait until the sun has dried the dew, to prevent mildew. Gather small bunches of the healthiest plants and tie at the ends with string with a tail. Then hang in a protected environment. For me, it is from the shutters of my interior kitchen window over my sink. No sunlight at this window but plenty of fresh air as an overhead fan circulates during warmer months. This is ideal. Otherwise, special drying racks work well. The idea is to dry quickly, without sunlight, but plenty of air circulation to keep mildew from forming. Turn if necessary to make sure the bunch dries completely. Once dry, crumple the leaves from the stems and store in airtight canisters.

CherryGal.com is offering this wonderful and special herb in two organically-grown forms, both in LIMITED SUPPLY — as Seed and as lifted Seedlings in Spring. Don’t wait until they are all gone! Get your seeds now, or reserve your seedlings for shipment at the appropriate time for your growing zone.

My established bed of Monarda Didyma

 

Historic Garden Lima Bean … Sieva Carolina Baby Limas

This wonderful and hard to find bean was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. According to their website, “Lima beans were a hot-weather favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who sowed them yearly from 1809-1824. Monticello’s gardener, Robert Bailey, saved seed of White Carolina beans in 1794. Also known as Sieva, this variety is small and delicately-flavored. Originally from South America and grown by Virginia native tribes, lima beans were also called “bushel,” “sugar,” or “butter” beans in the 1700s.”

Very happy to be able to offer this year at CherryGal.com. Its been several years since it has been available in organic form. SIEVA CAROLINA LIMA BEAN, also known as Carolina Butter Bean, is a Southern heirloom with excellent flavor and dark green 9′-10′ vines. Sieva Carolina bears even during extreme heat, which is why it is a native in this Southern region. Pole habit. 60-75 days.

Limited Supply so don’t wait!

Get Your 2018 Gardens Started …

A wonderful DISCOUNT opportunity for your 2018 garden. CherryGal.com’s 2018 Organic Heirloom Seeds are now available! I gather rare and unusual selections of organic heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers for your garden, all packaged in small sizes and prices for the home gardener. Here is just a sampling of my 2018 offerings!

Rare and unusual seeds such as the French Crystalline Ice Plant, much prized by high end chefs for its unique presentation and flavor …

Beautiful garden flowers such as the Mother of Pearl Shirley Poppy….

Ed’s Red Shallot, the only shallot you can grow from seed!

Filderkraut Cabbage, huge pointy heads up to 10 lbs each, so sweet and flavorful they have their own festivals in Germany.

Morado Purple Corn, a popular South American treat for making of ChiChi Morado drinks during holidays.

North Carolina heritage varieties such as Sieva Carolina Pole Baby Lima Beans – a truly rare variety grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.

All manner of heritage vegetables and an enormous range of culinary and medicinal herbs!

I will also be offering selected herb plants and strawberry plants, as well as decorated Fit Of Pique Garden Pots and Strawberry Jars in the Spring at the Farmers Market beginning in April.

But to get you started now, I am offering a special discount of 20% off any Garden Heirlooms order over $50. Just use the code SeedStart2018 – and you can use as many times as you like until it expires January 10.

Best,

Deborah Phillips

CherryGal.com

New CherryGal.com is here!

My web guy has been telling me for months I had to do this, and being the frugal (i.e., poor) businesswoman that I am, I resisted. And resisted. AND resisted. But finally Google pushed the urgency because they changed their security viewpoint and I was forced to do this “update.” It’s more than an update. Its a totally NEW website, with all sorts of bells and whistles which I am just beginning to learn. But for the moment, it works quite well at processing orders and I am even able to offer a discount if you hurry and purchase $50 or more in CherryGal.com items, you will get $10 off. Just use coupon code at checkout NEWWEB. What could be simpler. Hope you do … this update cost me a LOT! 🙂

The “new” CherryGal.com is here!

A gem of a corn!

Glass Gem Corn

This is my first year growing Glass Gem Corn — a triple use maize that is absolutely stunning! You can harvest fresh for use as a popcorn or parching/roasting corn or dry for popcorn or grinding up as meal corn.

A brilliant open-pollinated variety from Oklahoma, created by successive and stabilized crosses of several Native American (Osage and Pawnee) varieties. The result is appropriately named for its translucent rainbow of colors. Stalks grow 6′ to 8′ and produce an abundance of 7″ to 8″ ears. Corn is easily grown in blocks, especially in home gardens where they will get the attention they need to be successful. I grew mine in a spare 4 x 4 raised bed with a flexilble fence around it to keep out my chicks. It was amazingly vigorous and strong — never leaned or toppled despite some truly incredible storms this year. It required little except occasional watering and addition of organic fertilizer. I think growing it closely in blocks aids in the fertilization.

So give it a try next year in your home garden!

Glass Gem Corn July 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For my Gourmet Artisan Gin Drinking Customers …

For anyone who does not imbibe, or for those who are struggling, please know that I do not want to encourage anyone to drink alcohol. But for those of my customers or followers who occasionally like a nice gin & tonic in the summertime (and you can put me in that column), this is for you.
Did you know that gin is just infused vodka? High end gins (and there are many) infuse their own special botanicals, spices and fruits before performing a final distillation. But the final distillation is only to remove the color and particulates. Before that is done it is “compound gin” as long as the primary infused ingredient is juniper berry. So you pay an exceptional price for this artistry or artisan flair.
But you can actually create your own compound gin by infusing these same selected botanicals at home. You will save money and create an incredibly delicious and fresh gin for mixing your cocktails.
Now, you can go and purchase or gather these infusion ingredients yourself — and it is fun to do — but CherryGal Heirloom Organics has done the research and put together a great little kit for infusing a 750ml bottle of neutral Vodka which you will purchase. It is a fallacy that inexpensive vodka is inferior vodka. There are very good and inexpensive neutral Vodkas available, including UV, Deep Eddy, Svedka, Luksusowa, Finlandia and Sobieski. Just be sure you choose a clear, neutral vodka, since flavored vodka is also on the shelves.
Another advantage to choosing a CherryGal Heirloom Organics Do It Yourself Artisan Gin Kit  — and an important one — is that the botanicals are all organic. When botanicals are infused in alcohol, the alcohol extracts everything from the botanicals — the flavor, the fragrance, the color and, unless it is organic, any pesticides or chemicals used in production. Yeck! Using my kit you will achieve a beautiful, clear gin with a golden botanical coloration.
So I hope you will give my new product a try. It is legal. It is fun. It is inexpensive (especially compared to Williams and Sonoma and others). And it takes about 5-10 minutes of your hands-on time and 36-48 hours waiting time. Available online at www.cherrygal.com or at the Warrenton Farmer’s Market each Saturday! Enjoy!

The Importance of Being Earnest(ly Organic): Cucumber Edition

I am embarking on a new Farmer’s Market initiative … organic produce! I will be bringing small lots of organic cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to market beginning this weekend. Although I cannot compete with the larger market growers, I hope to provide some education to market customers on the importance of organics in produce.

For example, take the cucumber — that wondrous fruit grown 10,000 years ago in India and often overlooked in the vegetable aisle. It is remarkably healthy for you, providing so many benefits for digestion, skin and major bodily functions. But the Environmental Working Group, a respected public interest organization, ranked conventional cucumbers second for cancer risk and 9th most contaminated food. The USDA has identified 86 pesticide residues on commercially grown cucumbers:

  • 10 Known or Probable Carcinogens
  • 32 Suspected Hormone Disrupters
  • 17 Neurotoxins
  • 10 Developmental or Reproductive Toxins
  • 24 Honeybee Toxins

The only way to mitigate against the poisons both in the wax coating used to preserve moisture and the vegetable itself is to peel. However, doing so removes the most nutritious part of cucumbers! So much easier and healthier to just buy or grow organic!

My favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers are simply slicing and dressing with dill, a little sugar, and a little vinegar or slicing them into spears and eating with a good sour cream dip. And don’t forget, after a day in the sunny garden, that cucumber is great for restoring your skin to dewy freshness!

I’ll be doing a series of short posts as I add organic veggies to my Farmers Market offerings. For now, you can get some delicious ORGANIC slicing cucumbers from me this Saturday at the Warrenton NC Farmer’s Market, 8 am – Noon. See you there!

Enter … Papilio polyxenes

Weeding my herb bed this morning, I turned a corner to weed my beautiful bulb fennel plants and the lacy fronds of the one closest to me were gone! Only a stalk remained covered with a dozen or so beautiful yellow and black striped caterpillars. I knew immediately that I was looking at a “flock” of Eastern Black Swallowtails-to be. The other two plants were also in the process of being decimated by these beauties. But I don’t begrudge any butterfly its dinner, since they grace my garden once they complete their metamorphosis. Their scientific name derives from the Latin “Papilio” for butterfly and “polyxenes” after the Greek mythological character Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

I am reminded of a book I used to read to my young son called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. It described the process in terms a 4 year could understand with charming illustrations. Basically, my very fat caterpillars will stuff themselves with my wonderful herbs until they are ready to begin the magical process of spinning their cocoons and metamorphosing into their new form and take flight. I hope it is soon … while I still have some herbs left! Once they do begin their transition, it will be about 10-14 days before emergence from their chrysalis. Can’t wait!

Courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson

Get Ready ‘Cause Here They Come!

We know the dangers of these pests, for ourselves and our pets. Deet-containing Mosquito Products are known to be effective and the most-often used. But there are increasing alarms being raised about DEET. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” And I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, it’s made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and which now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonics for your garden.

That is why I have researched and created CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray with the active ingredient of Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you. It is safe for you, your family and your pets. I will have 4 Fl Oz Spray Bottles of my special formula available at the Warren County Farmer’s Market each Saturday from 8 am to Noon, at the BBT parking lot, corner of Macon & Bragg Sts in Warrenton, NC.

Of course, I will also have All Natural and Organic LuckyLike Dog Treats (Bacon Cheddar Barley Bones and Crunchy Peanut Butter Biscuits), and CherryGal Organic Heirloom Seedlings and Plants. (This week I have a few Fraises des Bois Alpine Strawberry perennial plants, herb and vegetable seedlings and decorative plants.)  I hope to see you there!

Best,

Deborah Phillips