Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's May--Let's Celebrate!

Here's to May!

His mantra is "mulch, mulch, mulch...more mulch..."
Yesterday was May 6 and the 143rd Kentucky Derby was on and, it seemed like a good excuse to take a break from the mulching and the weeding in the rain and have a good stiff drink, even if it was for just two really exciting minutes.  So, what should you drink when the horses are "running for the roses?"  Why, Mint Juleps, of course!  A little bit of whiskey, a lot of crushed ice, a good amount of sugar and a long, cool sprig of "Kentucky Colonel" mint makes a hardy pick-me-up while we sat down to cheer on the horses. 

Cold and frosty.
Anywhoo, I realize that we are first and foremost a lavender farm, while we sipped on our mint-inspired drinks, but when you think about it, mint is a member of the same plant family as lavender (Lamiaceae, which basically means square-stemmed flowering plants) and we kind've "took care of that bottle of whiskey--however, it was almost empty, anyway and we will recycle the bottle.  So, hey--it's all good!

Cheers to you!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Who's Fooling Who?!?

When I was a little girl growing up in the Chicago suburbs, there was a commercial on television for Chiffon Soft Stick Margarine that featured an actress portraying "Mother Nature" who tastes the margarine, thinks it's butter and then she is told it's really margarine.  Ms. Au Naturale gets a bit testy, to put it mildly, and then says, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" Then, she waves her hands causing lightening to strike.  It was a cute ad.  I'm not sure how effective it was when it came to selling Chiffon Margarine. I'm not even sure if Chiffon margarine is produced and sold anymore! However, forty years later, I still remember the advertisement and it still makes me smile.

Displaying IMG_2908.JPGThe weather, however, that Mother Nature seems to keep handing us this winter of 2016/2017 has been no joke!  Beyond winter, last summer never really translated into fall while fall never really turned into winter and winter, as confused as he may be, is trying his darnedest to at least make one brave stand before he hands the keys over to spring next week.  Who knows what spring has up her sleeves?  Perhaps we should check with Mother Nature.😉
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Well, at least the Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis) is blooming during Lent, out in the
yard, in spite of the snowy and frigid cold weather.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Purple Door

That's a very young me (in my twenties) on the porch.
Peter and I once lived in a purple house.  No kidding.  It was a grand, 100-year-old Queen Anne Victorian in an historic Maryland neighborhood just to the north of Washington, D.C.  that we restored and painted during, what now seems and is, a lifetime ago.  That royal "grand dame" was the beginning of my lifelong foray into and love affair with the world of lavender--plants, that is. Fast forward 24 years later and now we live in a grey-blue colonial saltbox, surrounded by lavender plants, that boasts none other than a purple front door.
Our house here at Blooming Hill, this
past summer just before we took the
leap of painting the front door purple.
A side view of the house and just some of the lavender,
this past summer.  In the early evening light, the grey-blue
takes on a purple hue.

Related imageview beautiful custom door hardware handcrafted by master artisans >
A home's front door says a lot about the person or persons who live inside.  It's one of the first things you see as you often take the hand of the homeowner in greeting and are welcomed into the heart of their humble abode, whether it's a tiny trailer or a magnificent mansion.  Often, brides are carried over the door's thresh hold in celebration of life, love and happiness. A door, like the pineapple, is the quintessential symbol of hospitality.

My beautiful front door in winter.
My beautiful front door in the fall.

I've thought a lot about this in the past several months as I've began to notice more and more front doors on all sorts of houses painted in shades of pale lavender to deep purple, the colors of royalty, love and good fortune.  And, as the owner of a lavender farm, I've come to believe that if people who don't own a lavender farm think a purple door is a good idea for their front door, well then, it's got to be a great idea for my front door by showcasing a little bit of our welcoming Blooming Hill personality. So, this past October, we painted our front door a lovely shade of purple to compliment our field of lavender any time of the year! I hope it says that very welcoming, lavender-loving people live here, too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Purple, Or Shades Thereof!

Okay, so the Pantone Color Institute may not have chosen a shade of lavender to be the hottest color for home and fashion trends for 2017.  They did, however, manage to include "Twilight Purple," "Bodacious," "Grape Kiss" and even a little purple-y number called "Smokey Grape"  in the spectrum of what coordinates flawlessly with the favorite chosen child this year, called "Greenery."  The nature inspired spectrum ranges from this yellow-green combo to a fiery orange appropriately called "Flame" and reflects the ever changing dynamics of the outside world we all long to bring into our homes and lives.  "Island Paradise," "Primrose Yellow," "Pink Yarrow" and even "Lapis Blue" made the cut this year, too.  They are colors with a modern vibe, fit for Fixer Upper with other airy shades like "Pale Dogwood," " Kale," and "Hazelnut" completing this year's Pantone rainbow.  But can somebody tell me where the color purple--or shades thereof--  IS when it comes to the hottest of our what's trending for 2017?  Anyone??? Anyone???

Image result for images of purple colored vegetablesWell the color purple, or shades thereof, is showing up in the culinary world and zeroing in on healthy and fashionable eating in a big way.  Just travel down a few of the aisles in your grocery store's produce section and take a gander at the stacks of blueberries, piles of fancy lettuces with their lavender and magenta ruffled edges and rainbows of radicchio showing off smooth, tasty stalks. Maybe select some iridescent bell peppers or go for the ever-ready eggplant, stalks of midnight asparagus, waxy, purple cabbage and even, dare I say it, purple-brained cauliflower.

Image result for images of purple colored food and vegetablesDon't forget the beets your mother made you eat when you were little.  They are now prettier than ever and aren't those cute little bunnies raiding your vegetable garden showing off their good taste when they choose the purple carrots over the old orange standbys.  Peter Rabbit never ate so well! The options and possibilities in eating purple and shades thereof, are endless and all the better for you to eat healthy, my dear!  Oh, you want something a little more party-hardy?  How about purple potato chips or acai berries covered in chocolate!  (I think I'm making myself hungry.) And, tea and coffee infused with lavender buds never tasted so delicious.
Lavender, fresh off the bush.
Bits and pieces, all usable.
Strained, cleaned and separated purple, lavender and pink lavender buds.

Although you may not think about actual lavender buds, out there on that bush that blooms so elegantly in your yard every summer, as something at the top of your "must-eat" list, when it comes to food trends this year, it's totally in the color scope of purple--and shades thereof--and edible things that taste really good.  Next time you are looking for something special to treat your pallet to, try a few lavender buds mixed into your sugar and top that morning slice of wheat toast with it or blend a little into some sea salt and  sprinkle it over your deviled eggs, chicken wings or fish patties.  Maybe mingle lavender buds with a little black pepper and shake it on those juicy, thick hamburgers out on the grill.

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Image result for images of purple colored drinksIn the mood for something that says a little more lavender and you want to go whole hog?  Try some lavender-infused ice cream or lavender flavored cookies, cakes and pastries of all kinds.  Who says you have to stop with grape soda? Make some easy to prepare lavender syrup and mix it with your favorite bubbly beverage like ginger ale, tonic water or vodka. Lavender syrup is great with champagne or, if you are looking for something a little more pedestrian but still very tasty, celebratory and, let's face it cheaper, mix it with your favorite Proseco and enjoy!  Salads, casseroles, spreads and toppings of all kinds are compatible with this versatile and tasty herb that has been around for centuries.

So, you want to start with something easy and tasty? Well. here it is--Lavender Sugar...
Herbs in salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, cut in half and split lengthwise and then into small pieces.
1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender (your choice of variety but I would stick with a Lavandula
       angustifolia like 'Royal Velvet' or 'Buena Vista'.

In a spice grinder or blender, pulse the ingredients together until finely minced.  Transfer to a jar, cover tightly and store in your spice cabinet for at least 5 days before using to ensure that all of the flavors will infuse nicely together.  Use on or in wherever you normally use sugar and see how you like it.  There are lots of great lavender-inspired Cookbooks out there, not to mention a plethora of recipes all over the internet.  Go ahead and experiment!
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PSSST!...If you are looking for lavender to cook with, craft with, decorate with or anything else you can think of to use it for, we've got it here at Blooming Hill.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Goodnight Moon

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 The full moon over Blooming Hill at 7am in the morning on December 14.
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It is a good night for the last full moon of 2016.  The clouds stretch across the sky in wisps and clumps but the moon shines strong while the stars twinkle bright.  The moon's glow is a fitting tribute to the holiday season as this super moon is one of the biggest and brightest full moons we will see for many years to come, providing an illuminating show in the dark gray night. I think of Margaret Wise Brown's book, Goodnight Moon and the comforting and quiet picture it paints in my imagination.  Named long ago by American Indians as a "Long Night's Moon" since the nighttime darkness engulfs the earth longer and longer as the winter solstice approaches, this December moon glows contentedly in the cold and cloudy sky lighting our country road with a slippery glow.

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Our country road shines under the December full moonlight.

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From my vantage point, looking out the window, I half expect to see my neighbor's cow jumping over the moon tonight, as it is so bright.  The deer and fox take advantage of the moonlight and forage quietly out on the great green lawn. The dog barks.  He's a bit afraid to venture off of the porch as those quiet, ghostly figures dash and dance in the yard, rustling leaves and snapping sticks--subtle noises everywhere. Thanks to the old man high in the sky, the field is veiled in midnight blues and deep winter greens.   Let the old man in the moon have his last hurrah of the year and dream of all his encores yet to come. The winter clouds cannot dim his enthusiasm and the stars compliment his stature.  This particular "Cold Night's Moon" is a celestial holiday gift, whispering hush as the night unfolds. It is a good night, moon.   

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Back by popular demand--Blooming Hill's Topiary and Tea Event scheduled for December 2 & 3! Make your reservations early as space is limited.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Franklinia--A Statesman in the Garden.

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A rare Franklinia (tree in foreground) stands in a garden amidst coneflowers, bee balm, day lillies, lavender and more.  It's a true statesman in this perennial garden bed.  A red maple (Acer rubrum) anchors the other end of the border and shines bright crimson in the fall, so as not to be totally outdone by the more diminutive yet regal Franklin Tree.  By the way, how do you like my china teacup flower, made by my very talented friend, Rick Wiedner?  As an artist and blacksmith, he certainly has an green-iron thumb!
The flirty and flouncy Franklinia Tree blossoms that had fallen to the ground during a fast moving rain storm dress up an old blue and white serving bowl.  I think Benjamin Franklin would be flattered as he was not only an inventor but also a true admirer of women.

High heat, hefty humidity and soaking raindrops, that come out of nowhere and then disappear just as swiftly, cannot keep a good tree from blooming its little heart out in these dog days of summer.  Have you ever heard of a Franklinia Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)?  Named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the Franklinia, or Franklin Tree, was discovered way back in the middle 1700's in the state we know as Georgia, along the Alatamaha River by botinists of the time, John Bartram and his son William. This heirloom and rare ornamental has been considered extinct in the wild since the middle 1800's and can only be found/cultivated by nurseries.  In fact, it is believed that all of the Franklin trees grown today came from the few specimens the Bartram's brought back from the Georgia territory and then propagated and grew in their own Philadelphia garden.

Fresh blooms framed by clusters of waxy green leaves at the end of each branch release a pleasant scent  that attracts not only pollinators but also people. The soft scent lends a bit of lightness to the heavily perfumed lavender plants on the property.
Blossoms appear like fireflies in the duskiness of a hot summer evening.
The Franklinia tree we have here at Blooming Hill was a gift to us from Peter's mother, Lynn, soon after we moved in 23 years ago and has been a source of beauty and pleasure since it took up residency in the garden just off the covered back porch.  It took a couple of years for the once small sapling to produce it's lovely camellia-like flowers that appear from perfectly round, tightly wrapped buds in midsummer. However, around year number three, it started blooming and, since then, this venerable tree  never fails to dress itself up in cotillion-like fashion, each year, just in time to give some of the fading flowers of late summer a little boost.

Butterflies visit this tree all day long.
Marble-sized and pearl white, the buds will unfurl new, long-blooming flowers each day for about a month.
What did I tell you?  The butterflies love the Franklin Tree!
Franklinia's glossy foliage provides beautiful fall color too, making this ornamental a striking addition in the cultivated landscape. So, while the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) that towers over the little Franklin tree, situated just 15 feet away, may choose to only produce 2 or 3 blooms a year--for whatever reason--here at Blooming Hill, the Franklinia has proven that it is just as distinguished as ol' Ben himself, never holding back its many virtues while proudly leading the gardens into fall.