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pansies-and-violasThough we call them “Pansies,” they are anything but wimpy. One of the toughest flowers, Pansies are perfect in our climate. They come packed with history, folklore, symbolism and fun facts.

Wikipedia tells us that “the pansy is a group of large-flowered hybrid plants cultivated as garden flowers. Pansies are derived from viola species Viola tricolor, hybridized with other viola species. These hybrids are referred to as Viola. The common words “pansy” and “violet” are often used interchangeably. When a distinction is made, plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down. Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.”

The Meaning of the Names:

viola-yellow-sorbetThe website flowerforyou.org tells us that the Victorian meaning of Pansy is “to think,” particularly of love. If a maiden found a honeyflower and a pansy left for her by an admirer, it would mean “I am thinking of our forbidden love” in symbol rather than in writing. However, it is considered a bad-luck gift to man. Violet, however, means “modesty,” hence the term “shrinking violet.” Color also influences the message. Blue means “I’ll always be true, faithful and watchful,” whereas white means “let’s take a chance.”

Use as Emblems:

pansy-whiteSeveral states, cities and organizations have chosen the violet or pansy to represent them. The common blue violet is the state flower of Rhode Island, Illinois and New Jersey, while Wisconsin chose the wood violet. Osaka, Japan has the pansy as its city flower. The Kappa Alpha Theta sorority’s flowers are black and gold pansies. The pansy is also Tri Delta’s flower. It is a symbol of alumnae membership and the third step in the lifetime development of Delta Delta Delta’s members. It is also is the symbol of freethought, its usage inaugurated in the literature of the American Secular Union in the late 1800s.

The reasoning behind the pansy being the symbol of freethought lies in both the flower’s name and appearance. The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée, which means “thought”; it was so named because the flower resembles a human face, and in mid-to-late summer it nods forward as if deep in thought. The French believed that pansies could make your lover think of you.

Folklore and Mythology:

pansy-yellow-purpleThe three colors of the original pansy, purple, white and yellow, were thought to symbolize memories, loving thoughts, and souvenirs — all things that ease the hearts of separated lovers. The three petals were thought to be representative of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and thus the flower was sometimes called herb trinity.

In German and Scottish folktales, pansies were called stepmother: the large lower petal is the mother, the two large petals to either side of her are the well-dressed daughters, and the two small upper petals are poor stepdaughters.

In another German story, the pansy at one time had a wonderfully strong, sweet scent. People would travel from miles around to smell this scent. In doing so, however, they would trample down the grasses surrounding the pansy. Because this ruined the feed for cattle, the pansy prayed to God for help. God gave the plant great beauty but took away the scent.

According to the doctrine of signatures, pansy leaves, which are heart shaped, were used to cure a broken heart.

Pansies were used to foretell the future for King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. Plucking a pansy petal, the knights would look for secret signs. If the petal had four lines, this meant hope. If the lines were thick and leaned toward the left, this meant a life of trouble. Lines leaning toward the right signified prosperity until the end. Seven lines meant constancy in love (and if the center streak were the longest, Sunday would be the wedding day). Eight streaks meant fickleness, nine meant a changing of heart, and eleven signified disappointment in love and an early grave.

History:

pansy-bluePansy has dozens of common names, such as Johnny-jump-up, and the faces created by the patterns on the petals give rise to names like monkey faces, peeping Tom, and three faces in a hood. Its supposed magical powers in the ways of love resulted in names such as cull-me-to-you, tickle-my-fancy, love-in-idleness, kiss-her-in-the-pantry, and heartease.

Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth century English writer, said that a syrup made from the flowers was used as a cure for venereal disease. The Ancient Greeks considered the Violet a symbol of fertility and love, and used it in love potions. Pliny recommended that a garland of violets be worn above the head to ward off headaches and dizzy spells. The Celts made a tea from the dried leaves and used it as love potion.

In Literature and the Arts:

pansy-red-whitePansies and violets play a central role in many well-known plays, especially those of William Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the juice of a pansy blossom (“before, milk-white, now purple with love’s wound, and maidens call it love-in-idleness”) is a love potion: “the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote (fall in love) upon the next live creature that it sees.” (Act II, Scene I). In Hamlet, Laertes wishes that violets may spring from the grave of Ophelia: “Lay her in the earth,/ And from her fair and unpolluted flesh/ May violet spring” (v.I). Even Ophelia refers to them, “There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts”, in Hamlet (Act IV, Scene V).

pansy-okeefeLegend says that at one time all pansies were white, and it was not until they were pierced by cupid’s arrow that they gained the purple and yellow colors. With the colors, however, came the magic power to be used in love potions.

Throughout the ages, the violet has been the emblem of constancy. A Proverb states, “Violet is for faithfulness,/ Which in me shall abide, / Hoping likewise that from your heart/ You will not let it hide.”

In 1926, Georgia O’Keeffe created a famous painting of a black pansy called simply, Pansy. She followed with White Pansy in 1927. D. H. Lawrence’s Pansies: Poems by D. H. Lawrence was published in 1929.

Pansy was the name of a beloved Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Custom guitar with an Alpine White finish, played by guitarist Frank Iero (whose nickname, coincidentally, is also Pansy) of the band My Chemical Romance. Pansy was unfortunately broken during a show.

pansy-aliceMovie fans may remember Disney’s classical animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, which features a chorus of singing pansies.

Clearly, Pansies and Violas have played a major role in human activity for centuries. But, for most of us, what we love about these beautiful flowers is their vibrant colors, which include yellow, orange, red, white and even near-black (a very dark purple). They grow well in sun and partial sun and look fabulous in any garden.

Now is a great time to add the history and beauty of Pansies and Voilas to your yard. Come on in to The Plant Farm and pick up some of these colorful flowers (and feel free to use some of these fun facts to impress your friends!)

Lavender

Lavender

As you can imagine, I love gardening and getting my hands dirty, but I also like to play outside my garden, too. That’s why perennials are a big part of my garden. They afford me the freedom to come and go as I please because they get on quite well by themselves if planted in a site they like. I love the way each season brings on bigger and better growth, and more flowers. More flowers mean more garden visitors as they attract hummingbirds and butterflies alike. Below I have listed my top five faves, but I have to tell you, it was tough to whittle down my list!

Lavender • Ok, maybe Lavender is not technically a perennial as it is more of a woody shrub, but in my head I had always grouped it into that category because it plays so well in the garden with my other perennials. This is my favorite summer blooming plant of all! Have you ever seen the fields of lavender near Sequim in the summer? What an incredible sight it is! The large fields, frosted in rich purples as far as you can see and smell, are amazing. Every part of the lavender plant is saturated with aromatic oils. I just can’t get enough of the delicious aroma that lavender exudes on warm afternoons in July. Hidcote lavender is a special favorite of mine. It’s bushy and compact and I suggest it often as a ‘blooming rock’ when Plant Farm guests are looking for landscape ideas.

What a great performer to sprinkle into a landscape’s sunny, dry spaces that other plants may struggle with. Can you imagine tucking these near entryways, along paths or near your patio spaces so the heady fragrance can delight your guests and family? Grouping them in drifts for dramatic effect will add a powerful punch of color every summer. Or use them as a common color to pull areas together and unify your look.

Hosta 'Golden Tiara'

Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’

Hosta • Hostas just make me happy! I absolutely love all the different leaf textures and leaf sizes, and many of the varieties have incredible variegation that adds an extra layer of interest. The larger leaves are a must for making a statement in your shaded garden areas and combine well when planted with other shrubs and perennials. The flowers they sport in the summer months are greatly enjoyed by hummingbirds and are like “the cherry on top” of an already beautiful plant! While most Hostas love the shade there are many varieties can handle some sunny spots as well if the soil is moist enough. Check the plant label to see if the variety can handle some sun.

One of my favorite varieties is a real beauty called ‘Golden Tiara’ and it has to be one of the very best for filling in the shady spaces! Golden Tiara was selected in 1993 to receive the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its outstanding and easy to grow virtues. This sweetie has a vigorous habit growing densely to 12-15” tall by 24-30” wide, making it ideal to plant along walkways, as borders or covering large areas. They do ask for protection from the hottest afternoon sun.

Gardeners may have had experience with slugs or snails munching on the leaves of their plants but I never have a hole in my Hosta leaves or other plants for that matter! I start sprinkling ‘Slug Magic’ by Bonide (pet and people safe, made from iron phosphate) as soon as I see the leaves poking through the ground in the spring and once a month thereafter and just like ‘magic’, I have perfect, lush, totally intact Hosta leaves gracing my patio area all summer long.

Salvia 'Hot Lips'

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’

Salvia • I like almost all the beautiful varieties of Salvia, just like my hummingbirds do! Their striking flowers come in shades of blue, purple, red, pink and more, and they bloom for countless weeks if the spent flowers are removed after the first big flush of color in late spring/early summer. All Salvia is a type of Sage and the foliage is quite fragrant and reminiscent of the sage we cook with. If you want to become a little adventuresome, you should check out the salvias whose foliage smells like pineapple! Salvias are easy to grow in the sunny areas where your soil is well drained and not too fertile, as they like the leaner life.

Know what Ciscoe Morris, hummingbirds and I have in common? Our favorite Salvia is Hot Lips. This Salvia has red and white blooms. The two-toned color scheme starts out with an entirely red flower and then the top half of each blossom turns white, leaving the bottom of the blossom with two luscious pouting red lips. The effect comes off as ‘sparkling’ in the sun and the foliage is deliciously aromatic, adding in one more layer of interest.

I admit, in our wetter climate the perennial types of Salvia are sometimes thought of as a short-lived perennials and this is often because they are planted in shade and overwatered or over fed. They are of good value when planted for their long bloom time and if you plant some areas of your gardens with hummingbird attractors like Hot Lips Salvia you won’t need to hang up a feeder all summer! The Salvias as a whole are so worth planting… the Hummingbirds, Ciscoe and I will thank you!

Penstemon

Penstemon

Penstemon • Another great and easy to grow group of perennials is the genus Penstemon aka Beardtongue or Bearded Tongue. My hummingbirds love the incredibly long blooming time and I love the different foliage textures and flower colors available. While the sunny sites are preferred, part shade areas are tolerated quite well as long as the soil is not overly damp, especially in winter. The leaner soils are appreciated by Penstomen, meaning you won’t be planting in rich loamy soil or fertilizing these much at all. I have a Penstemon in my backyard garden that gets only about 4 hours of sun a day growing in Marysville sandy soil and it thrives and blooms spectacularly. In fact, as I write this, there are hundreds of blossoms opening up on one of my beauties and there are two hummingbirds jockeying for position around the flowers!

Astilbe 'Vision in Pink'

Astilbe ‘Vision in Pink’

Astilbe • What a pretty plant! Astilbe, common name ‘False Spirea’, has been a staple in shade gardens of the NW for ages and it makes sense. Most gardeners are attracted to the soft fluffy plumes of flowers and the intricately cut fern-like foliage. One of my favorite varieties of Astilbe is the yummy ‘Vision in Pink’. I absolutely love its bright flower color and, because it can tolerate more sun than some other varieties, I can plant it in more of my gardens and it will bloom again freely if sheared back after the initial flush of flowers.

Besides the pretty flowers, another reason these beauties are so popular around our part of the world is because of the damp cloudy weather which the Astilbe loves, so they perform to perfection. Astilbe will thrive in the moist damp sites in your shade garden and can even handle quite a bit of sun, as long as it’s not too hot or dry. The arid spaces under fir or cedar trees just won’t make these lovelies happy, so plant outside the big tree’s drip line, mix some compost into the soil, add H2o and watch them smile!

Did I kindle your curiosity about perennials? I hope so. As I said, it was difficult to hold the list down to five. There are so many more varieties of perennials available at The Plant Farm and we’d love to help you select some for your garden.

Indigo Rose Tomato

‘Indigo Rose’ Tomato

Pink blueberries and now blue tomatoes!  Not just cool in color, the ‘Indigo Rose’ Tomato, newly released in 2012, is one a few exciting new tomatoes, part of a series of tomatoes bred by Oregon State University.

'Indigo Kumquat' Tomato

‘Indigo Kumquat’ Tomato

The reason this tomato sports a blue-purple color has everything to do with anthocyanin.

Research on anthocyanins has intensified recently because it is believed to offer protection from cardiovascular damage and have anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show a role in vision improvement and diabetes prevention.  So how do you get more anthocyanin in your diet?  You get fruits and

'Indigo Apple' Tomato

‘Indigo Apple’ Tomato

vegetables that have this bluish-purple color like red cabbage, plums, eggplants and blueberries.

The purple pigment develops as the tomato is exposed to the sun. Portions shaded by leaves do not develop the anthocyanins. As the tomato ripens, it becomes less purple and the green turns red. The flesh is red but the anthocyanins are primarily in the skin and outer flesh.You can learn more about “Indigo Rose” and the Indigo Tomato Series on the OSU website.

'Indigo Blue Beauty' Tomato

‘Indigo Blue Beauty’ Tomato

Other fun Indigo Tomatoes you will find at The Plant Farm this year include: ‘Blue Beauty’, ‘Sun’ and ‘Kumquat’. Arriving soon from the Indigo Series are ‘Apple’ and ‘Blue Berries’

Healthy eating was never so much fun.

Plymouth Plantation

Plymouth Plantation

Magical… that is the best way to describe the sensory experience that greets you when you walk into The Plant Farm’s front door every spring.  The greenhouse is verdant and lovely year round, but in spring, it feels like you’re walking into a secret garden. There are intoxicating fragrances and brilliant colors, but the best is the canopy of full, colorful hanging baskets.

Evening Gown

Evening Gown

We have many new basket recipes this year, which I had fun strolling through the greenhouse to see for myself.  There is a terrific new MixMasters basket series with super fun basket names like Bubble Bath and Evening Gown.  The Evening Gown basket is an elegant blend of Petunia Black Velvet, Euphorbia Breathless White and then Gaura Ballerina White, which have flowers with a delicate, wispy quality; so pretty!I was also very attracted to a striking new basket called Velvet Skies.  It’s no wonder since this basket which features Royal Velvet

Velvet Skies

Velvet Skies

and Mini Silver Petunia Supertunia varieties and Lobularia Blushing Princess, is the Proven Winners Consumer Ad Combination for 2013.  My eye is normally drawn to vivid color combinations, but this basket’s timeless, stylish color combination is very effective.In last week’s blog, I talked about pumping up your color palette, and the lush, stunning Plant Farm Grown Hanging Baskets are a perfect way to achieve that effect.  A Plant Farm classic like Tuscan Sun or Parade of Color or the fantastic new red, white and blue basket, Plymouth Plantation, will boost the color quotient in your landscape.   Strategically placed baskets give your front door, deck or patio an instant summer-ready look; and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty. Linda Gribble, who

Tuscan Sun

Tuscan Sun

works in The Plant Farm’s accounting office, was doing just that last week.  She picked up two of the new MixMasters Circus Parade baskets for her family’s weekend gathering.  MixMasters Circus Parade is a vibrant mix of Lobelia Waterfall Blue, Verbena Aztec Red Velvet and a dazzling yellow, Bidens Sunbeam.  “They were highly complimented and no one noticed my un-weeded flower beds!” Linda says.  That’s a success by anyone’s standards.

If you love to get your hands dirty and want to build your own hanging baskets, we have all the materials you need to get creative including a vast array of 4” annuals, all sorts of hanging basket accoutrement, cool pottery (if you want to go the container garden route) and the perfect soil blends and soil amendments.  If you’re thinking of starting a container garden be sure to ask for our design expert, Tami Hylback.

Parade of Color

Parade of Color

And hey, Hanging Baskets aren’t just for hanging anymore.   I saw a great way to repurpose an old rocking or wicker chair.  Cut a hole in the seat large enough to hold your baskets and add your favorite combo basket.  I was thinking I could make a shabby-chic masterpiece with an old rocking chair painted a distressed white and the adorable new Petunia basket called Above & Beyond.  Above & Beyond is a charming mix of pinks; Petunia Supertunias Vista Bubblegum, Vista Fuchsia and Vista Silverberry varieties.

Now you have the basket, here are a few tips for keeping your basket blooming all summer long:It’s a good idea to rotate your basket often so it will receive even Sun as it continues to grow through the summer.

Above & Beyond

Above & Beyond

A fertilizer with a high Nitrogen formula will keep your basket covered in blooms.   The Plant Farm uses Summer Liquid Fertilizer (20-10-20) every day in the greenhouses to grow our amazing annuals and hanging baskets.  We shared our secret ingredient for increased flower production on FaceBook last week:  give your annuals some Epsom Salts, which contains Magnesium (Mg).  At home use a gallon milk jug and mix 1 ½ teaspoons of fertilizer into the water along with ¼ teaspoon of Epsom Salts.  Your blooms will boom!

Circus Parade

Circus Parade

Watering is crucial and balancing your watering task so as to not over water or under water is tricky.  Many factors such as the location of the basket and wind patterns change how much and how often you water.  My tip on this one is to talk with our Annuals Expert, Apollonia Chambers, when you come in to pick out your baskets.   Apollonia oversees our annuals and hanging baskets from our growing operation to our retail floor, so she’ll know just how to keep your baskets thriving.

Argyranthemum butterfly

Argyranthemum butterfly

Spring is finally here! Okay, yes, in typical Pacific Northwest style, it’s a wet spring, but that just means that in this time of putting away sweaters and woolens, it’s more important than ever to bring out your brightest spring prints. Your wardrobe isn’t the only place you need to pump up the color palette.  It’s time for your garden to have a spring makeover as well. Let’s get some fresh color into your spring garden.

Calibrachoa Cabaret Cherry Rose

Calibrachoa Cabaret Cherry Rose

Color is a basic of gardening and with a bit of planning it can transform your garden from a collection of plants into something that can really create a mood. Color works in relation to other elements, so think of it like the movie Pleasantville. Without color, your garden might be a beautiful place of contrasts and textures, but it would be like a static collection of plaster sculptures. It’s the addition of color that brings it to life.

Have you ever been in a garden that transformed your mood? Do you ever find your eyes being drawn to one part of a flowerbed or overlooking something even though it’s right out in the open? Color has a lot to do with that. The proper use of color can influence

Begonia Bon Bon Sherbet

Begonia Bon Bon Sherbet

mood and perception and by selecting and mixing your colors with care, you take your garden and make it an exciting party place or a corner of quiet contemplation.If excitement is what you’re after, go for warm colors like the reds of a Calibrachoa Cabaret Cherry Rose, the yellows of a Begonia Bon Bon Sherbet or the orange of a Calibrachoa MiniFamous Double Rose Chai. Warm colors draw the eye and stimulate the senses as they shout, “look at me!” They create a focal point and draw attention. Alternatively, do you want to draw people to a particular corner of your garden or highlight that birdbath? Then use something like an Argyranthemum butterfly or a Verbena Superbena coral red.

Petunia Supertunia Royal Velvet

Petunia Supertunia Royal Velvet

If peace and meditation is the mood you want to set, then go for cool colors like a Blue Verbena Superbena, purple Petunia Supertunia Royal Velvet or maybe a Green Ipomoea Marguerite. These colors soothe and welcome visitors, inviting them to sit a bit and enjoy the quiet.

You can even use colors to change the size of your garden. Okay, not really, but they can make it seem larger or cozier. Warm colors make things seem closer while cool colors make them seem further away. For example, if you use small plants in warm colors close up and larger, cool-colored plants further away, they give your garden a sense of perspective and make it look bigger. On the other hand, if you want a large garden to seem more intimate, then use warm colors like a Coleus Chocolate Covered Cherry.

Petunia Supertunia Raspberry Blast

Petunia Supertunia Raspberry Blast

I love a bright green potato vine against a deep pink Petunia Supertunia Raspberry Blast. That’s because colors are great for giving a bit of contrast. Ever use a color wheel? You may remember it from the last time you painted the living room. Color wheels are used by decorators and artists to see which colors go together and which ones contrast. As a rule, colors close to one another on the wheel produce a sense of unity while colors from the opposite sides of the wheel produce contrast. Yellow and purple, for example contrast while yellow and green complement one another.

Bacopa Snowstorm Giant Snowflake

Bacopa Snowstorm Giant Snowflake

This means when you start getting out the potting soil, using contrasting and complementing colors, you can control how strong an impact your plants make. If you want them to stand out from one another, then use contrasting colors. If you want to produce a harmonious effect, then go for complementary colors. And it’s not an “and” “or” situation either. Whites, such as a Bacopa Snowstorm Giant Snowflake, and neutral colors can soften the effect of vivid colors. Throwing in some white or pastels like a Calibrachoa MiniFamous Double Rose Chai can tone down a color effect and let one bed of plants blend into the next.Here’s a tip: choose one dominant color and keep repeating it. It can be different plants, but try for the same color. It

Green Ipomoea Marguerite

Green Ipomoea Marguerite

really helps to tie everything together. With a bit of planning, you can manage all sorts of effects. Think out your patterns and you can use unity and contrasts to draw attention to highlights in your garden and away from things you’d rather not be noticed, such as standpipes and composters.Still not sure, what would look good in your garden? Our Landscape Design expert, Ryan Sanders, gives this advice: “Walk the aisle to see what attracts your eye. One of the best ways to pick garden color or work out a garden design is to see your plants working together.”

So, here’s one more great tip: come into The Plant Farm, grab a cart and start picking up what draws your eye.  Our friendly and knowledgeable Plant Farm staff members are ready to offer advice and show you our vast selection of Annuals so you can turn up the color dial in your garden.

Herbs: Beyond Spice

herbsWe all know that herbs, especially fresh herbs picked right out of your garden or from your window box, can transform a simple meal into a flavorful feast. But herbs are so much more than deliciousness. They’re an essential part of the ancient and wondrous healing arts as well as a fragrant and decorative addition to your home.

Mint

Mint

Want a delightfully refreshing greeting when you come home from work? Plant mint in your walkway. This plant actually loves to be stepped on and every step you take will make your nose happy. Mint is an excellent remedy after a hard day of the stress you’ve been building up at the office. A few drops of essential mint oil on a cotton ball can help relieve migraines, improve your mood and all while making the room smell wonderful.

Basil

Basil

One of my favorite herbs is basil. I love cooking with it and I had heard that if you’re feeling tired, smelling basil will reduce your fatigue. What I didn’t know is that some basil is also excellent for better memory and clearer thinking. Added to bath salts or essential oils, many herbs have the power to balance our minds and transform our moods. At the end of this article I have a simple method for making your own essential oils and some awesome bath salt recipes.

Dill

Dill

The medicinal use of herbs can be found in almost all cultures and they are the base component of many modern medicines. But there is a certain comfort in knowing you have the ingredients for dealing with simple ailments growing in your backyard. For an upset tummy, try some mint, dill, basil, rosemary, fennel, or turmeric from your garden. For a memory boost, you could also try sage, turmeric or, what do you know, rosemary. You want antioxidants? We’ve got them in oregano, basil and that rosemary that keeps turning up.

Rosemary

Rosemary

Herbs can keep your garden healthy, as well. Our edibles expert, Kip Litehiser says, “There are a lot of herbs that are great for controlling pests in your garden and herbs are so easy to grow.” Rosemary is a robust plant that helps ward off cabbage moths, bean beetles, carrot flies and root knot nematodes. If you’re barbecuing in the summer, you can also put some of it on the grill to scare away mosquitoes. No one likes slugs feasting on their spring garden, but the sweet smell of lavender keeps the slimy pests at bay. It also looks beautiful in any garden and can attract friendly butterflies while deterring pesky moths and fleas.

And mint’s strong smell is exceptionally unattractive to a number of critters, including ants, aphids, rodents, cabbage worms and cabbage moths. I’m already thinking about how to make a garden border of mint and lavender. Herbs are naturally beautiful and with their wonderful fragrances they’re ideal for creative fencing and borders. I know our landscape expert, Ryan Sanders, has some charming ideas for your yard or garden.

Lavender

Lavender

On Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 pm, we’re excited to have Patrick Matthews of Blooming host Herb Gardens: Beyond Spice, a free seminar at The Plant Farm. The Plant Farm staff can set you up with a great combination of herbs to put in your garden this spring. You’ll not only have the ingredients for spicing up your kitchen and table, but the means to bring harmony and health to your family and friends.

Essential Oils

There is a quick and easy method of making your own essential oils that’s as easy as preparing mint julep: In a glass container, place you herbs. Gently crush or bruise the herbs, which will begin releasing the oil. Fill the container with a mild vegetable oil, such as canola, and seal the container. In two to three weeks, strain the herbs from the oil and bottle the oil.

Seize the Day bath salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● 10 drops rosemary essential oil
● 10 drops lemon essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried rosemary leaves

Seize the Sleep Bath Salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● ¼ cup lavender essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried lavender blossoms

For each recipe:
Combine the salts, essential oil and dried herbs into a large mixing bowl (I prefer to use a ceramic bowl) and mix until the oils and herbs are thoroughly distributed in the salt. If you don’t like the mess of the dried herbs you can skip them or make a tub tea-bag by putting the herbs into a cheesecloth and tying off the top.

It’s best to store your bath salts in a glass, air-tight jar. At bath time, add ½-1 cup of the salts while filling your tub. Give the water a swish, lower yourself in and exalt.

Onions, ginger, potatoes and carrots

Onions, ginger, potatoes and carrots

It’s time to dig into a fascinating subterranean subject: root vegetables. According to the boring dictionary definition, root vegetables are edible plant roots or modified stems that have evolved or been bred to act as energy storage organs for the plant as a way of storing up sugars, starches, other carbohydrates and nutrients.

But that’s like describing vintage champagne as grape juice that’s a bit fizzy. The fact is, root veggies aren’t bland at all. If all you’ve ever experienced is ground ginger off the spice rack or horseradish out a jar, then you’ve never tasted them. Fresh ginger has a symphony of tastes that can make Asian dishes soar and when you have a bit of fresh-grated horseradish with your roast beef, your eyes will water… with pleasure!

Fresh Horseradish

Fresh Horseradish

These are what we mean by staple foods. Root vegetables are among the most versatile, diverse and nutritious things that can come out of your garden. A properly mixed crop of root vegetables can not only give a beautiful harvest of fresh, colourful bulbs and tubers, but can set your table with dishes packed with vitamins and other nutrients.

A lot of what we call “root” vegetables are actually modified plant stems, but taproots are the real deal. A taproot is an enlarged root that’s broad at the top, fleshy and tapers off at the bottom. From this, little fibrous roots spread. Some tasty varieties of tap roots include beets, radishes, turnips and…

Did you know carrots aren't always orange?

Did you know carrots aren’t always orange?

…Carrots! They are such a sweet, crunchy and low calorie treat that even my dog tries to sneak them off my daughter’s plate. Did you know that carrots aren’t always orange? It’s true. They can come in any color from white to purple. It wasn’t until Dutch plant breeders in the 17th century got going that we had the long, orangey treats we have today. At the store, we have several seed packs of heirloom carrots in a rainbow of colors.

Okay, here’s one you might not know. A bulb is a root vegetable, but not a root. That’s right. It’s a fleshy, globe-like stem that lets plants like tulips and dahlias survive the winter. It also gives leeks, garlic and elephant garlic (no, it’s not the same) their crisp, pungent goodness.

Copra Onions

Copra Onions

Ah, the onion! People have been eating onions for at least 5,000 years. The Egyptians had a prayer, “Lord, give me bread and onions” and the builders of the pyramids were fed them. And ancient Greek athletes used to eat huge quantities of onions while training.

There are gorgeous varieties of onions: Walla Wallas, Copras and Red Zeppelins as well as the more familiar yellow, white and reds. All parts of the onion are edible and you can eat them on their own or as an ingredient in salads or soups; boiled, fried, or roasted, the list is endless!You want to talk onion nutrition? Onions are packed with antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. Onion extract may even reduce scars.

Walla Walla Onions

Walla Walla Onions

If you want to have a go at growing onions, remember that they’re a cool-weather plant and if it’s too hot they grow and flower too fast. This means it’s best to start them indoors to give them a headstart on their four-month growth cycle. Plant them as soon as the ground is workable and you can harvest in early summer.

The root vegetable most of us are familiar with is tubers. They are another modified stem, but instead of bulbs, they come out as a starchy growth for both storing food and reproduction. They include yams, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, groundnuts and one of my favorite comfort foods, potatoes.

Austrian Crescent Potatoes

Austrian Crescent Potatoes

Potatoes are bursting with goodness. They’re the egg of the root world and a person can live healthily on potatoes with just some milk or butter to make up the vitamins A and D that potatoes lack, so pass the mashed potatoes!You can even be adventurous with your garden-grown spuds. Branch out from the comfortable Russets and Reds and you’ll find the delicious and cool new varieties we have at The Plant Farm. Austrian Crescents are rich, firm fingerling potatoes prized by chefs. Viking Purples are vibrant, deep-purple mid-season potatoes. They adapt well to many types of potato dishes, but I think they’d make an awesome mash.

Viking Purple Potatoes

Viking Purple Potatoes

With potatoes, carrots and onions growing in your garden, you have the foundation for hundreds of delicious dishes to feed your loved ones. To get the best seeds and starts, and skilled advice from our knowledgeable staff, come down to The Plant Farm. We can get you set up to grow a successful root vegetable garden. Here’s a delicious tuber-and-bulb-based recipe to tempt your taste buds:


Sweet Onion and Potato Bake

6 potatoes (or 12-15 Austrian Crescent Fingerlings), do not peel
2 large sweet onions, such as Walla Walla onions
1 stick butter (or 1/2 cup of oil for lighter option)
1 tsp. salt (or salt substitute like Mrs. Dash)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic
optional: for added kick add 2 tsps. of mustard or play with other spices you enjoy.

Slice onions and potatoes about 1/4″ thick. Create alternate rows of potato and onion in casserole dish. Melt butter and add seasonings. Pour over potatoes and onions. Bake in a 400 degree oven, covered for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

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