Open House, Homemade Crackers

Anthony giving garden tours.
Visitors started arriving at 8:30 a.m., just as we were setting out the lemon balm-lavender lemonade, the homemade crackers and lemon balm cookies. And they kept coming throughout the day, just perfect for us to get to visit with each group and person.
Cricket and Anthony Bongiovani.

This was the last day with us for our intern, Anthony. He's from Pennsylvania and has been with us since April. He has planted a good part of everything growing in the garden this year. So when the first group arrived I asked if he would give the tour. He jumped at the chance and did a great job. He said later he had surprised himself at how many plants he could identify and how much he'd learned while here.

That's Cricket, our pup, who sort of adopted Anthony as her own and the two played together every evening after work.

Anthony had spent the previous couple of days making an assortment of homemade crackers from my book, Easy Homemade Crackers Using Herbs, and lemon balm and lavender cookies, to serve at Open House.

A few of the kinds of homemade crackers Anthony made.

Anthony, having worked at pizza joints in previous years, had a real feel for making crackers and does a better job than I do when I make them.
Lavender and Lemon Balm Cookies.

Visitors came from several surrounding towns as well as from Huntsville, AR, even one couple from El Paso, AZ (although they didn't travel just to see us). Everyone who came were gardeners, and we talked about the new dwarf heirloom tomato, 'Big Purple' from the international Tomato Dwarfing Project.

'Big Purple' dwarf heritage tomato.
One view inside the Herb Shop.

Salvia argentia and daylily bed.
Herb Shop door.
Thanks to everyone who came, including dinner guests, Darcy and Paul, who came to help us celebrate a successful Open House. It was an excellent day. And thank you, Anthony, for all your cheerful help. We wish you the best in your next WWOOFing farm in New Mexico.


Black Swallowtail Butterflies

Copyright 2013, Jim Long
No reproduction or reposting of this material is allowed without permission of the author.
Black swallowtail caterpillar, eating one leaf of fennel.

Black Swallowtail on Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
This is a re-posting of what I wrote about black swallowtail butterflies in 2010 and it's timely today because these colorful caterpillars are appearing in the garden this week.

Butterflies look so slow and docile, gently flitting about the garden. Just get our your camera and try to catch them in their daily duties of sipping nectar out of flowers; you'll quickly see they are shy, move fast and don't like being photographed.

I doubt their eyesight is so great they can see me, but maybe they can. I guess if you're an inch tall and a looming giant, 500 times bigger than you are and carrying a menacing black box with a big moving eye-lens, you might run, too.

Weak, tired and with much of her color worn down, she drank nectar for a day before laying eggs.

Maybe they simply sense a person following them in the garden. After all, their senses must be impeccable, or else they couldn't travel great distances. This Monarch butterfly, above, on the white flowered chives, showed up just as the chives were blooming. As you know, Monarchs spend their winter in South America and manage to navigate northward as the weather warms in spring. This one was worn to a frazzle, weak, but sipping nectar in order to regain her strength for laying eggs for another generation of Monarchs.

A Tiger Swallowtail, dishing up breakfast from dianthus in my edible flower garden.
Most people seem to like butterflies, but many of those same folks have no hesitation for stomping caterpillars. This time of year you'll notice what we always called "dill worms" when I was growing up.
The caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly on a fennel leaf.
Black Swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on: fennel, dill, parsley and related plants. Those hatch into the caterpillar you see above. The caterpillar hangs around on one leaf and eats most of it, then pupates, building a little cocoon around itself and hanging there in a little hammock until it has grown. The cocoon splits and out comes the adult Black Swallowtail.
The majestic Black Swallowtail, newly hatched.
An older Black Swallowtail, on oregano.
The list of herbs that attract butterflies is long and extensive. A few you might want to plant if you wish to attract butterflies: Mint, oregano, butterfly weed, Mexican butterfly weed, rue, dill, fennel, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, roses, sweet marjoram, hyssop, chives, monarda, yarrow - the list really is quite long.
Monarch caterpillar, see how different they look from the Swallowtail caterpillar?
Monarch caterpillars, however, hang out, sip nectar and lay eggs on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) which is in bloom right at the time Monarchs are looking for food and home. In case you don't recognize butterfly weed, here's a picture, below. Note that lots of butterflies like the nectar from this plant but it's the Monarch that likes to hang its hat there.

Fritillary butterflies on butterfly weed.
Here in the Ozarks, the butterfly weed is a common roadside plant, starting its bloom around the end of May. This is an old-time medicinal plant, sometimes called, "pleurisy root" because of its use in treating that ailment.

So, if you see, "worms" in your herb plants, let them be, they turn into butterflies or moths and they're not going to ruin your plants. You'll be glad you left them alone when they turn into butterflies! And if you're going to photograph them, well, give yourself more time than you think you will need, they can run faster than you can.


Herbs and Flowers

Took some time off from garden work to snap a few photos to share with you. The roses have been spectacular. Lots of herbs and flowers are really showing off this week. We're getting ready for our open house June 15, tidying up and finishing the planting.
Valerian flowers.

Mostly I stood in one spot and clicked away in various directions. The first one, at left, is the 6 ft. tall valerian plant in the medicinal bed. Valerian, as you may know, is a good natural relaxant and sleep aid.

Yarrow in bloom, beneath the valerian plant.
Medicinal bed on the right, edible flower bed in the center.
The sages, thymes, lavender, poppies, water iris and lots of other herbs are blooming profusely.
Look at those Egyptian walking onions! They look like a crowd of waving hands. Their little bulbils are already putting out more little onions sprouts and in a month, they'll be tipped over to the ground with bulbs on top.
The valerian is a regal plant. This is looking back toward the herb shop porch and bell tower.
Larkspurs, Sweet Williams and Russian salvias are showing off this week but next week the Asiatic lilies will take over for color.
Vines are climbing to the top of the gazebo.
On the left are mostly basil varieties and several oregano plants. On the right is the medicinal bed, mostly native plants and a few non-natives.
And Cricket waiting for someone to throw her favorite flying toy. She spends part of her time hunting lizards, which gratefully, she can't catch yet.
So that's what's happening in the garden today. I hope you will enjoy the views.