It's a Wild New World

No, that's not a fuzzy photo with spots; what you see are golf ball sized snow clumps falling in a brief snowstorm. The ground was too warm for anything to stick, but for about 30 minutes, it looked like millions of cotton balls falling from the sky. Fortunately the clumps were light and fluffy. It was an odd snow and didn't last long, and it never did get down to freezing here. The red buds are still fluffy and pink and still providing tasty additions to our salads. (Red Bud is in the legume family, the flowers and young pods are both good to eat). The pods, when about an inch long, can be steamed like snap pea pods. Strip the strings off the edges, steam and toss them with a tiny bit of butter and salt. The flowers can be simply picked from the tree and scattered liberally across any salad.

The view from the deck above the garden, looking down, makes the whole garden look ethereal and other worldly. The snow seemed to add a frosty edge to the otherwise extra-green spring colors.

The brief flurries didn't bother the celandine poppies from being in full bloom the following day. Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is assumed by many people to be a native plant but it is, instead, an immigrant from Europe that has escaped and made itself at home in the woods. It was historically used as a folk remedy for treating warts, corns, ringworm and other skin ailments. According to Dr. Jim Duke and Steven Foster, in the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants, the juice is highly toxic, irritating and allergenic and is not recommended for use. I like it just for the bright yellow flowers and its funny habit of throwing its seed in all directions if you brush against the ripening pods.

Probably the new goat kid should have been named Celandine since she was born the same day as the poppy bloomed. But her mother's name is Althea, so I dubbed her offspring, "Zebrina" for the plant in our garden, Althea Zebrina, which grows at the south edge, near the fence. And, not one, but 2 goat kids were born yesterday, both doing well, nursing and walking, and waking up to the new world. Photos to follow, of course.

In the same bed with the celandine poppies is a patch of native ferns and the fiddleheads are just coming up. These are a treat in the spring. I flash steam them (drop them into boiling water for about 1 minute, then immediately dunk into ice and water for 2 minutes), then I add them to salads. Or simmer the fiddles briefly in butter and serve on top of grilled salmon. You can also saute briefly in butter, then make an omelette, dropping in the fiddleheads and a sprinkling of cheese just before folding over and serving. Fiddlehead ferns are one of the secret spring vegetables of us wild foods forager types. And Emeril Lagasse, on the Food Network, has a recipe for Fiddlehead and Morel Mushroom Ragout. Our morels aren't out yet, but will be popping up in just a few days.

This patch of tulips are at the perfect stage for stuffing. I like to make chicken salad in the springtime and serve it stuffed into individual tulip flowers. Take out the stamen first, break off the stem just below the flower and fill with chicken or seafood salad. Eat the whole thing; it's an elegant and impressive dish to serve to dinner guests. They'll feel so naughty, eating those beautiful flowers.

Did you know that not all tulips smell alike? Compare a deep purple tulip's fragrance to red, pink and yellow. Purple and dark red have the best fragrance, white and light pink have the least. Funny what you can learn by sticking your nose into open flowers.


It's Faux, Faux, Sweet!

This innocent looking little stevia plant is like the Arabian story about the camel. First, the camel puts his nose under the tent and no one notices because it's so small. Then he places just one foot under the tent and no one notices, still. Then he puts in his shoulder. Everyone is used to seeing the leg, so no one in the tent pays any attention to the shoulder. Then it's an entire half of the camel and eventually, over time, the entire camel has made its way into the tent. Stevia's like that, it has worked its way into our lives over a couple of decades, very quietly.

Stevia, originally from South America, has been around in people's gardens for a long time. I've grown it for 15 years or more, mostly out of curiosity. There were stories circulating about stevia being used to treat hypoglycemia. According to the story, the only legitimate way to get stevia extract for many years was in the form of a face plaster from France. It came in 2 parts, special clay, and a vial of stevia extract. Those who used it said they bought the facial pack from the pharmacy, threw away the clay and used drops of the stevia which seemed to help with the hypoglycemia. Government regulators did not recognize stevia as a sugar substitute. But this year Coca Cola introduced a new extract, Truvia, which is going into their beverages as an "herbal supplement." And with all the publicity, everyone is wanting to grow their own stevia this year.

It's easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil. You simply dry the leaves and crumble them up in things you want sweet. In this form it's not good in cooking, only in foods that have already been cooked. So far, I'm not much impressed with the flavor but I'm still experimenting with it. I like it much better fresh rather than dried.

Taylor Miller, the blogger guru at Ogden Publishing, has gnomes in his pockets. Probably gnomes on his walls and a few loitering around in his garden, too. He posted a photo this week of a group of people, including him and President Obama. His posting told of an interview he conducted with one of the reporters who was at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new vegetable and herb garden at the White House, was quite interesting. I suggested we drive up to D.C. and make a presentation of (1) a gnome for the new Presidential household garden (which I have tentatively dubbed, "Gene-Gnome") and, (2) a lifetime subscription to The Herb Companion magazine, which is where Taylor's blog resides. Most months you'll find my Down to Earth column in the magazine but since I wrote the article on Mints this issue, I'm left missing in the columns dept. But check out Taylor's blog on The Herb Companion website. Here's a picture of Gene-Gnome, too.

The campaign to establish a real garden at the White House was conducted by a wide variety of plant organizations with letter writing, email sign-ups, petitions and more. Once people learned that Mrs. Obama actually cared where her food came from and that she supports locally grown food as opposed to imported food that costs more to ship than it pays the farmer to grow. Lots of us gardener types got really excited about the possibility of a First Family in the White House who pays attention to real food.

Chef Alice Waters, the sometimes outspoken and often controversial California foods activist and owner of Chez Panisse restaurant has been a supporter of the Slow Food movement worldwide and internationally known for her projects to put healthy food in schools, made a big push to the First Family for the placement of a garden, as well. (Alice and I were both among the delegates to the first International Slow Foods Conference in Turin, Italy, in 2004). And why shouldn't there be a vegetable garden at the White House. Historically there was, a long time ago. And during the World Wars, Victory Gardens thrived there.

Last summer, when salmonella scares on lettuce, spinach and jalapeno peppers made us all aware of how important protecting our food safety has become. Having had a kidney transplant just 3 years ago, I'm very aware of the food I eat and how important it is for the food to be safe and healthy. You could call it homeland security, with a small "H," or simply call it eating healthy food you've grown yourself, but the bottom line is, this new family in the White House will have food on their table that was plucked from the soil just hours before, rather than food that's full of preservatives and possibly harvested halfway around the globe, days, even weeks, before.

You can read the details about getting tickets to tour the new garden here and go see for yourself. Happy gardening!

Here are some National Food Holidays coming up in case you need something to celebrate: March 31 - National Clams on the Half Shell Day (now there's a reasonably interesting way to get sick!); April 2, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (I guess it could be re-named, "Salmonella & Jelly Day"...ok, that's not actually fair), National Egg Salad Week, April 12-18 (Josh's mother celebrated early this year and made egg salad sandwiches for our picnic in the woods yesterday), and last, for April is National Pretzel Day on April 26. You can find more odd and unusual food holidays to celebrate if you look under "my favorite blogs" list to the right and click on Bizarre Food Holidays.

And another bit of news in case you missed it:
Buying organic may be hazardous to your health!

TULSA, Okla. — One of the most deadly spiders in the world has been found in the produce section of a Tulsa grocery store. An employee of Whole Foods Market found the Brazilian Wandering Spider Sunday in bananas from Honduras and managed to catch it in a container.

The spider was given to University of Tulsa Animal Facilities director Terry Childs who said this type of spider kills more people than any other.Childs said a bite will kill a person in about 25 minutes and while there is an antidote he doesn't know of any in the Tulsa area. Spiders often are found in imported produce, and a manager at Whole Foods says the store regularly checks its goods and that's how the spider was found. Won't that make you think twice the next time you grab a bunch of bananas for the shopping cart!


Lime Balm Peeks Up Through the Leaves

LinkThis week I tilled up last year's leek bed to make room for parsnips and noticed the lime balm (Melissa officianalis 'Lime') was peeking up through the leaves. A visitor to the garden, years ago, brought this lime flavored lemon balm. It stays primarily in that same bed, which is 4 ft. x 6 ft. The other end has a clump of Blue Eye Spring mint, which is agreeable to having that small space. Of course every year I have to pull out the mint roots or it would take over the whole bed. The leeks didn't mind, nor the garlic the year before, nor the potatoes before that.

Want to know more about lemon balm? Check this article written by Jeanine Davis, the Extension Hort Specialist at North Carolina Extension Svc. I met Jeanine some years ago when I was a speaker at the NC Herb Assoc, a great organization of herb growers.

So just what's lemon balm, or in this case, lime balm good for? Pie, cake, cookies, tea, just to name a few uses, and it's a very beneficial medicinal plant, too. Owners of orchards, back in previous centuries planted lemon balm between the fruit trees to attract bees, and as you know, bees are required to pollinate the trees. Lemon balm, it seems, is a favorite plant for bees' nectar collection. Of course if you're growing lemon balm for your own use, it's best to keep it pruned instead of letting it bloom and go to seed. Once the plant starts blooming, the flavor of the leaves turn from "Ohhh, that's lemony!" to, "Blescch, that tastes like soap, why would anyone eat that?" Just a few weeks makes a big difference in flavors. Just like basil (or most herbs), if you leave lemon balm, or lime balm alone and don't give it regular pruning and use only the old leaves, you will not like the plant one bit. If you'd like my recipe for Lemon Balm Cake, using either lemon balm or lime balm, here's the link: Jim Long's Recipes: Lemon Balm-Blueberry Cake and if you'd like to find lemon or lime balm to grow, you can find it by going to my website, click on "Looking for Plants?" button and then go to the Richters Herbs link. There are also more links to plant sellers we recommend highly there, as well.

Our long time friend, Nellie Neal, who has a great garden radio talk show, the GardenMama, in Jackson, MS just added Horticultural Projects Manager at Bass Pecan Company to her impressive resume. I have no idea what a Hort. Projects Manager does, but if it has to do with plants, Nellie knows how. At age 7 she planted eggplant seed and when the plants were big enough to transplant, Nellie sold the plants to her neighbors. In college at Louisiana State Univ. while other students were doing wild and crazy things, Nellie was growing 90 tomato plants in her front yard. We were very happy to have her visit us here last summer. And it was fun to be on her radio show. She helps gardeners find answers to their questions about growing organically, in Zones 8, 9 & 10 and is The gardening guru of the South.

One of our customers has a camel dairy business in California and sent a photo of one of their camels, Goldie, and her new baby, Aziz. The Oasis Camel Dairy has 18 camels, which they milk and use to make a very rich, wonderful herbal soap. The husband and wife team of Gil Riegler and Nancy Kobert have been raising camels at the farm for over 20 years and use them in therapeutic therapy programs for the physically challenged. Camels are sensitive, patient and highly intelligent and seem to thrive on their arid California farm. They offer lavender, Rosemary Mint, Gold-Frankincense-and-Myrrh, Orange Blossom and Milk and Honey soaps.

The garden is coming along, beds are being cleaned and every day something new blooms. Yeah spring!


Gremlins in the Spicebush

Poindexter, our resident gremlin, doesn't say much but the dirt on his fingernails tells the story. He's been digging in the flower beds again. I never know just where I'll find him when I'm in the garden but today he's resting in a bed of naked ladies (also known as hardy amaryllis, which has foliage that comes up in early spring, then dies down; along about August, clusters of naked stemmed, pink flowers pop up out of the ground like dancing showgirls of the '40s). He was under the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) a bit earlier, doing who knows what.

Gremlins, in case you don't know, aren't like fairies, elves or gnomes. Fairies were the little wee spirits who hide in the daytime but come out at night and fluff up the hollyhocks and comb the ferns and teach the ladybugs how to protect the garden plants. Gnomes, on the other hand, don't do a whole lot beyond stand guard. Elves, well, we don't have elves here, they all reside in England as far as folk tales go. But gremlins, they're the mischievous little fellows who dig holes in the garden and blame it on Molly, the dog. Or hide tools, which is their favorite game to play. Ever wonder where the trowel went that you know you just laid down, second ago and now can't see anywhere? Gremlins. And so I have no idea what Poindexter was doing under the spicebush, but I'm guessing I'll find my pruners there later on.

If you don't know spicebush, it's native from east Texas up to Ohio and into Pennsylvania. A great medicinal plant if you have a cold, we use it primarily for it's culinary puproses. It's an excellent plant in poultry, beef or pork dishes, and makes an excellent marinade for tofu. The berries, leaves and twigs are all used. It flowers now, sometimes even earlier in February in the Ozarks, and is pollinated by a little fly, although bees can sometimes be found on it if the weather is warm enough. The fragrance isn't strong at all, but it is one of the sweet fragrances of early spring in the Ozarks. I learned to use this native plant from my friend, Billy Joe Tatum, many years ago and learned its value in seasoning wild game. This is one of the few shade-loving herbs. Growing to about the size of a lilac bush, the plant can be found in the wild in deep forest shade, in moist or lightly damp places, although it will also grow at the edges of fields.

I visited our friends, Olee and Sharon Jobe at Spring Fever Greenhouse this week. They'd just gotten a shipment of 60,000 plant plugs a few days back and were busy transplanting, seeding and generally getting ready for spring. All those seed flat with no plants in them don't look like much now (except a whole lot of work filling the little plastic pots, in trays and getting them ready), but in a few weeks the greenhouses will be bursting at the seams with little garden plants that are being readied for their spring customers.

I'm hearing repeatedly from seed and wholesale agricultural suppliers that there seem to be more people gardening this year than in a very long time. Lots of neighborhood co-ops of people who have gone together to buy seed and supplies and are planning community gardens for the first time this year. Lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet have realized you can but a couple of tomato plants and grow your own tomatoes, with very little effort, for about $4, which is much cheaper than buying tomatoes at the grocery store. Lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, all easy crops, are giving the seed, and hopefully the plant companies, a bumper sales year. Most plant businesses need it because last year was disappointing for sales.

The old mule out front is known far and wide by people who travel past Spring Fever near Ozark, MO. Sharon always decorates the mule with fun things, like the St. Pat's hat here, and in the summer, the wagon behind the mule is overflowing with blooming flowers and later, with gourds or pumpkins. Sharon is a very talented painter and used the side of the shed where their gift shop is housed to paint this welcoming lady with doorway and flowers.

We've had more bird feeders around the deck this year and kept them filled so that Josh's mother, Barbara, can enjoy the birds. Unfortunately the squirrels have seen the "free, all you can eat buffet" sign and have been coming in increasingly larger numbers. We have 2 squirrel proof feeders, one that shocks, one that closes when a squirrel climbs on. That doesn't stop them from trying to gnaw through, tear down or otherwise destroy the feeders. Today I took new steps to deter the little fluffy tailed rats. I got out my stash of bottle rockets and exploding Roman candles. It doesn't hurt them, but it does scare the daylights out of them, and that's what I want. Go back to the woods, there's plenty to eat out there. If they stay around, they'll be attacking the tomatoes and that will be a worse problem than eating the bird seed.


More Signs of Spring Each Day

Our friend, Sandy Marik, brought lettuce and dill she is growing in her AeroGarden. The AeroGarden company recommends replacing the grow-light bulbs every 6 months or so, which I believed was silly, just a company wanting to sell more components. Well now I'm convinced. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the lettuce we're growing here in Barbara's AeroGarden, and the big, leafy lettuce Sandy is holding. She said she picked just 2 Aero-cells (2 little 2 inch pots) of lettuce for that big handful she brought to us. And the dill is big and beautiful. Some of us here at Long Creek Herbs are envious today! And delighted for Sandy, who's enjoying salads out of her AeroGarden. while our light-starved little lettuces, in the background, are pretty wimpy. We'll have broiled salmon with dill and butter for dinner tonight! Thank you, Sandy.

The weather turned from the mid 70s yesterday to the low 40s today & 20s tonight. Perfect, considering the peach tree is in bloom and needs to slow down a bit. Chilly temperatures, even some possible snow tomorrow, will be good to slow down plants that are racing toward spring.

Speaking of lettuce, our WWOOFer, Lauren, planted lettuce last September when she was here. I gave it a bit of straw and it has overwintered fine, even without a cold frame. You can see it's up and will soon be ready to begin harvesting. It's amazing this seemingly soft, tender plant, is one tough cookie.

And speaking of tough cookies, Helleborus is getting nicer every day. The first blossoms popped up around New Year's, and the flowers will be winding down sometime in May. Most of ours are white, or white with freckles in the center, but I have a couple of deep wine-red ones. Hopefully they're mixing because they are reseeding themselves throughout the bed. Later the Solomon's seal will come up between the plants, along with goldenseal, but for now it's just a big bed of hellebores and a few daffodils.

The daffs are really showing off their colors now, as well. I never remember the names of the various jonquils I plant, but I have a considerable collection. By fall I will have forgotten where they're planted and when I start planting new ones, often dig into the old bulbs. Try as I might to find a new location that has no bulbs, after 30 years of planting more each year, I seldom dig anywhere without running into clumps of bulbs.

Steve Bender, Southern Living's Grumpy Gardener, posted instructions for pruning crepe myrtle. I probably should have read those before I started snipping away at mine. A few weeks back I wrote that I hadn't pruned my crepe myrtles since before the surgeons had been pruning on me in 2006. When one is brought low by kidney failure, you just don't have the strength to bring out the pruners and whack away at 16 ft. tall shrubbery. But with a new kidney and renewed health and overall contrary prunicity, I decided it was high time to bring the crepe myrtles down to size. The myrtles bloom considerably better when pruned every couple of years and I pruned, not knowing what I was doing, just using my nurseryman's instinct. But Steve's a true Southerner and it's in his genes, I'm certain, to know exactly how to deal with that truly Southern plant. There he is, standing in his front yard, ready to mow a myrtle down to size.

Many, many years ago, when I was young and newly in the landscape business, I was amazed that crepe myrtles would even grow in the Ozarks. Then one day a landscape customer asked me to eradicate an enormous crepe myrtle in her back yard. It was a very sheltered, protected location and the myrtle had become a 20 ft. tall tree, too large for the homeowner's tastes. The plant had never been pruned at all, so, reluctantly I took a chainsaw to it, sending the wood off to my friend, Dr. Halley Tatum, who loved the wood for carving spoons (he dubbed the wood, "Crazy Myrtle" because of a grandchild's mispronouncing of the words). The rest of the plant I hooked a chain to and pulled out with my truck. I salvaged some of the stump and brought it home to plant, and was amazed at how tough and maintenance free it is. Once it begins blooming in July, it stays in continuous color until frost stops it. I've planted several crepes over the years and once I discovered the method for pruning to get more blooms, I have grown to love the plants.

Peeking up through the leaves and grass, the blue grape hyacinths are tentatively standing up. They'll withstand snow if it comes, but will soon show themselves all over the edges of the lawn like bright blue toy soldiers. No spring peepers today, but lots of spring color. And all the birds coming to the feeders each day have a look of love, or lust, or something in their eyes. I noticed the bluebirds are trying out the houses already, checking them for space and room. Spring is marching northward a few inches each day.


Madalene Hill on a Sunny Day

Today is the kind of day, 70 degrees, sunny, that my friend, Madalene Hill would have liked. I last visited her two summers ago at her residence in Festival Hill, not far from College Station, Texas, in the Texas hill country she loved so dearly. I was in the state to present programs to the Texas Herb Association and one of their garden tours included Madalene's garden.

Madalene has been a plant collector and entrepreneur for most of her life. When I visited her a few years ago and she was touring me through her gardens, I inquired whether her plants were indexed in some way and if she knew how many herbs she had (the gardens cover acres).

She said, "We worked most of last summer on the index but got sidetracked before we were done. When we stopped, we had 2,167 herbs listed in my collection, so far, but we have a few more beds to count."

Madalene and daughter, Gwen Barclay, moved several years ago to Festival Hill, which is primarily a music colony where world-renowned musicians come to work with other talented musicians. Gwen is a talented cellist, and also serves as the food coordinator for the meals and events at the institute. Madalene has served as "Herbalist in Residence." They were invited to come to Festival Hill, (correctly known as the International Festival Institute at Round Top) just outside Round Top, Texas, several years ago, and giving a permanent home to Madalene's lifetime collection of herbs.

Just after she had moved there, a dozen or more years ago, she said one day one of the workmen came to the door of her residence and asked what kind of garden she envisioned for her collection. She said, "Before I'd had time to think, I just laughed and said, 'Oh, I've always thought a Roman ruins would be appropriate for the plants I've collected." She walked with me through the lawn to the edge of a wall and said, "Look down there, that's what they've built so far." The view you see here, is what was the beginning to the gardens, little tower, columns and all.

The workmen took her at her word and over the next ten years, built some impressive faux-Roman ruins. The institution exists because of grants and donations, and one of the ways business owners can donate, is by giving building materials, often reclaimed ones from buildings torn down in nearby Austin, College Station and Houston. So, using reclaimed materials, the workmen assembled an impressive series of structures, broken "aqueducts" and other pieces that all highlight the substantial plant collection. Nearly all of the "ruins" are now covered with vines, which gives a look of age and authenticity to the location.

For reasons I don't yet understand, the gardens were named the McAshan Herb Gardens, possibly because they donated to the project. Madalene was always more than generous in honoring others beside herself. The gardens include the Terrace Gardens, Sun-Shade Garden, Fruit Tree Garden and Beethoven's Woods, Cloister Garden, Mediterranean and Wall Gardens, Cultivated Grasses Garden, Medicinal Cacti, Pharmacy Garden, and several more. Her gardens have evolved into one of the outstanding gardens in the United States and attracts visitors and plant researchers from far and wide.

Madalene was also generous with her plants, believing that spreading plants around to friends was the best way to insure the plants' survival. It was from her I received my start of the orchid pepper (also known as turk's cap pepper). And she is the one who gave me the start of green pepper basil (seen here), which I wrote about in The Herb Companion magazine a few years back, and passed the seed on to Nichols Garden Nursery where they continue to sell the plant through their website. She also gave me my start of Greek columnar basil, which quickly became one of my favorite basils making fruit sorbets.

Madalene's Medicinal Gardens include plants listed by specific country. India, for instance, includes 20 or more medicinals; the same is true for Ethiopia, Egypt, etc. She didn't just collect herbs, she knew each one very well. I commented on some Fo-Ti, a Chinese longevity tonic herb, she had growing on her fence and I mentioned I had it in my own herb garden on a little trellis. She, having visited Long Creek Herb Farm some years ago, knew the limitations of my bed areas and said, "Be careful. Fo-ti is an aggressive medicinal. It will take you years to get rid of the roots." She was right, I'm still digging and removing little rootlets that keep trying to come up.

Rosemary 'Hill Hardy' is named for Madalene (you can find it at Mountain Valley Growers, by mail). She discovered the rosemary, blooming vigorously in December, on an old farmstead. It was Madalene, too, who I credit with teaching me how to grow rosemary in the Ozarks. Most people plant rosemary here as an annual because they believe it is hard to get to live over from year to year.

Madalene and her daughter, Gwen Barclay, were here visiting us about ten or twelve years ago. We were walking through the herb garden and talking about some of the newer plants I had. We stopped at the rosemary plants and I said I envied her being able to grow rosemary the year around. I said I had tried and tried and just had given up on getting it to live over.

In Madalene's wonderfully direct method of speaking, she said, simply, "Jim, you just don't know what you're doing. There are some tricks to getting rosemary to live. It's not the cold you have here, nor even the heat in summer, but how you treat the plants."

She went on to explain that rosemary plants have very small root systems and suggested I try this: Plant the rosemary plant in the garden in the spring, regardless of what size the plant is. Grow it all summer and after the first frost, dig the plant, repot it and bring it indoors. Keep the plant in an unheated room, with light, like a garage window or unheated back enclosed back porch. The following spring, unpot and plant the rosemary back in the garden, then leave it alone. And by golly it works! I followed her advice and have rosemaries in the garden that have been there almost 10 years, growing quite happily.

Madalene served as president for the Herb Society of America, ran a restaurant, was active in the International Herb Association, lectured or taught for just about every Herb Society, garden club and herb group across the nation. She was a mentor and teacher to several generations of enthusiastic new herb people. She and Gwen wrote Southern Herb Growing, an excellent book on herb growing many years ago.

Madalene Hill died on March 4, after a brief illness, at age 94, in Round Top, Texas. She will be greatly missed, but deeply admired and fondly remembered by all who knew her.


The View from My Computer Window

(Remember, you can click on any photo to make it larger to view).

It's like waiting for a red light to change when you're in a hurry. It's time for the snow to MELT. Ok, now it really will. Ok, really, now it's going to melt today. It has hung around for 4 days now. I know I have no reason to complain, Peggy Anne, at Bailey's Nursery in Minnesota, said they have 3 ft. of snow and she was walking across the lake, on snowshoes, no less, to have coffee with her sister on Sunday. Brrrrrrr. No thanks. A wimpy 1 inch of snow that hangs on for 4 days is waaaay to much winter as far as I'm concerned. The weatherman, lying guy he often is, promises us 70 degrees by Saturday. We'll see.

Above is the view I see from my upstairs window, looking down at the Herb Shop, bell tower and guest house, all in the garden. Ok, now the snow will melt, any minute now. Or else I'm going back to Florida again.

I clicked a photo of the jonquils as they were bowed down under the little bit of snow. And a pic of the poppies that are up and growing in the pathways of the garden. Somehow, no matter how careful I am when I harvest poppy seed, a few escape and come up in the pathways. And once they're there, I let them bloom because they really don't do well when they are transplanted.

I'm posting a couple of photos of allspice and bay rum plants. Anyone interested in ordering them from the nursery? If so, I'll post prices and information. They also have cinnamon plants and lemon bay rum for sale, very nice plants, great people do deal with. Here's how to grow allspice. And the same for bay rum.

That's Billy Hopkins from the nursery, holding the Allspice seedling which they can mail to you.

Then below, the green "twig" I'm holding is cinnamon. That's the part you cut and slice the bark from, then dry it. That's where cinnamon comes from, whether it's stick cinnamon (just the dried bark) or ground cinnamon, which is the dried bark, ground fine. Cinnamon plants grow fine as a houseplant, as does allspice and bay rum. All very fragrant and useful in medicine and culinary uses. Bay rum is easily made into a lotion for skin rashes (you may know the fragrance from after shave lotions; it's in there, not just because it smells fresh and spicy, but because it is very soothing to the skin, as well). Here's a link to making your own bay rum cologne.

Pirates loved cinnamon, or was it bay rum? Probably it was just rum flavored with cinnamon and bay. That's me, sticking my face through a pirate cutout, proving I was a tourist. He's kind of a chubby old pirate. But hey, all that rum I guess.

I just last week sent away a start of a mint I've been cultivating for almost 30 years, to VJ Billings at Mountain Valley Growers. We've tentatively named it, "Blue Eye Springs" since that's where I found it growing (near a spring outside Blue Eye, MO) all those years ago. It's a very productive spearmint that stays green most of the winter and is always the first mint up in the spring and the last one to quit in the fall. She said she will have it for sale in about a year.