BLOOM THYME FRIDAY: It’s Not Too Early

It is definitely not too early to be thinking about what you will grow this spring and buying seeds. For me, now more than ever, keeping busy in the positive pursuit of spring is healing.

I keep remembering last year when it was so hard to get seeds and even plants due to the lockdown and also due to the number of people planting a garden – many for the very first time. Plants and seeds flew off the shelves and from the online stores.

Aren’t seeds just the most fascinating things. They do the miraculous. Most are very small yet they are packed with everything a plant needs! I doubt I will ever loose my fascination with the process. When you start plants from seeds, you have a front row seat to the miracle.

My front row seat last year …

I placed my first seed order in December to Renee’s Garden. I highly recommend Renee’s Garden as they have a great selection of seeds – many old fashion varieties and the seed packets are so pretty. Their website is full of how-to videos and fact sheets as well as recipes. My recent order was for sweet peas: Blue Celeste, Zinfandel, April in Paris and French Alouette Larkspur.

I had the best sweet peas ever last year. The seeds I planted were ones I bought in the UK … Sarah Ravens Midnight Blues. So pretty and they bloomed up until frost.

Larkspur is one of my very favorites However, it has not done well for me in recent years. Last year I did have one area where a few self seeded! That seems to be the key — if they self seed and make it through the winter they are strong and gorgeous. Yesterday when I was walking in the garden I noticed that last year’s larkspur has self seeded and the area is thick with baby larkspur. Let’s hope the winter is kind to them.

Our local Lowe’s already has their seeds in stock – the earliest I ever remember. I hope there is as much excitement about planting this year as there was last.

Another thing that does my heart good are these sweet boys. Here they are learning about seeds last year. As you can see, their momma is a very creative teacher. She has been inspiring me her entire life. (Click images to enlarge)

If you want to know more about seeds, I have a book to recommend. My friend, Julie Thompson-Adolf’s beautiful book….

STARTING & SAVING SEEDS … grow the perfect vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers for your garden.

This book makes you want to grow all your plants from seeds and with Julie’s help we just might be able to do so! Each page is filled with beautiful images and helpful information … practical information … real gardener information. I particularly like the Trouble Shooting section and info on saving seeds. I always save a few but it is an area I want to do more of.

Whether you are a newbie at growing from seed or have been doing it for years, I think you will find this book inspirational and helpful. More book info here.

 

THE YEAR OF …

The National Garden Bureau is celebrating 100 years. Congratulations!

Each year the NGB selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb crop, one edible and one shrub as our “Year of the” crops. Plants are chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.

2021 NGB YEAR OF PLANTS…

Year of the Hibiscus
Year of the Garden Bean
Year of the Hyacinth
Year of the Monarda (Very excited about these!)
Year of the Sunflower

This year I am declaring the Bloom Thyme Cottage Garden Year Of…

BASIL

Yes, this year I am taking a new look at all varieties of basil due to a random purchase of a “new to me” basil. I bought it because it was available when others were sold out last spring. I don’t even remember it’s name. Oddly I don’t have the tag and I keep almost every tag. I believe it was a Thai basil. Needless to say, I will enjoy several varieties.

We used more basil last summer than ever before. We fell in love with a tomato salad and the “unnamed” basil was perfect in the salad.

I am preparing my Burpee order and have several basils on the list.

Proven Winners has new basil out that I hope to find … Amazel Basil. It is said to be resistant to powdery mildew (which would be so nice) and it’s sterile – meaning that the plant will continue to produce shoots and leaves and is less likely to lose its flavor when the flowers come.  More about Amazel Basil here.

Do you have a basil that you particularly like?

Here is the yummy Tomato Salad Recipe

GARDEN JOURNALS

Several have asked me about garden journals. I have one that I can definitely recommend. I actually bought it last year but didn’t use it. The first quarter of 2020 I was super busy and traveling, then BOOM March came and lockdown came with it. I got busy in the garden but the journal somehow seemed too pretty to use with the current world vibe. BTW, I did keep an almost daily list of LIFE & GARDEN observations through all of 2020 and have started that again. Sort of a highlight and “lowlight” listing. When I look back, I can hardly believe some of the things I wrote. What a year.

A YEAR IN THE GARDEN … A GUIDED JOURNAL

This journal gives you practical spaces to create, plan and record but also encourages you to be a better observer of things around you and jot down your observations.

I am a self professed page layout snob. And I love the pages of the journal and the illustrations. It is soothing just to open. I love the prompts too. I am not waiting another year to use it. It is a go now. It’s on Amazon here.

 

Friends, thanks for joining me today. It has been a difficult week for us all. I find garden friends and garden work whether inside or out helps me better cope with the world around me and I am grateful.

I hope your garden world is comforting to you as you begin planning for what will come this spring. And for those of you in warmer places  – enjoy every minute in your garden. A special thanks to those who are sharing beautiful, colorful pictures on social media. You give us hope and bring us joy as we make our way through the grayness of winter and these tumultuous times.

Until next time…  be well and be safe. xo

Come to me, all who are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

BLOOM THYME FRIDAY: Happy New Year!

2020 threw more curveballs than we could catch. We found our world on sand and we were shifting around trying to get our bearing! In the process, we missed so many things that we can’t get back.

Yes, 2020 changed us, but we learned and we grew and in many ways, we did get our “bearing”… we had new ideas, we found new ways. It’s what we do.

My prayer for 2021 is that God will take what we have experienced and learned and push us forward “to exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine.” It’s what He does.

THE 2020 GARDEN

Do you know what was the biggest surprise of my 2020 garden experience? I thought that with all the extra time in my garden …  the garden would be the best ever!

IT. WASN’T.

The worst late freeze in the history of Indiana happened on Mother’s Day weekend. And we had two of those freezes setting the tone for some big disappointments. I lost many of my established lilies and several of my peonies didn’t have a chance. To save as much as we could, we turned our garden into a  pot and tent village —- but in a garden this size, you just can’t cover everything.

Japanese Beetles came to visit in mid-June and I saw the last one on the first of September… a record for sure! Actually, we didn’t have as many as we do some years … but they just hung on! (More on the beetle attack and treatments here.)

More “varmints” than ever also came to visit. Raccoons, deer, huge groundhog, and squirrels (oh so so many squirrels digging things up and ruining every squash and pumpkin plant!)

In the good news/bad news department… we had two huge cats. These didn’t look like house cats or even barn cats. These were cats on their own if you know what I mean! While they tried to make homes in our raised beds and created havoc for the birds, we did notice that since their visits, we had NO moles or voles. Coincidence? Maybe. But, it was nice to be spared all the tunnels!

HIGHLIGHTS

Ghislaine de Feligonde (A Hybrid Multiflora rambler that dates back to 1916.)

I purchased mine from High Country Roses.

This was her third year and she covered the side of the potting shed beautifully. AND though she is primarily a one-time bloomer… She did repeat a few times with limited but very welcome blooms.

CLEMATIS

Blue Angel and Etoile Violette covered the arbors so beautifully and made the June garden extra special.

JASMINA AND PEGGY MARTIN

These two roses proved to be excellent companions!

EASY ELEGANCE ROSES

Except for a few blooms in the back, all of the roses in this picture are Easy Elegance roses. They are power bloomers!! Calypso, Music Box, Little Mischief

NEW CUTTING FLOWER BED

I turned my largest raised bed into a cutting garden and the previously mentioned large “wild” cats tried to make their home in this bed. The seeds and seedlings didn’t have a chance so I replanted with what I could find… (not easy to do when most everything was closed down during the early season). I went from Plan A to B and then no to C. But, the goal was achieved, I ended up with loads of flowers and it was fun.

JUNE…

AUGUST…

DAHLIAS

Since my daughter lives in England now, I became infatuated with Dahlias and planted several. I loved them. Most did very well… so well that they toppled as I did not provide enough structure for them. This one toppled elegantly over my potting table! I loved her there.

She grew in a pot beside the bench… but topped beautifully on the bench for the support I did not give her…

THYME OUT

One of the best additions to the garden was my new work area THYME OUT.

In 2019 we started transforming an area that had become overgrown with the horribly invasive Japanese honeysuckle into a large workspace for me. Originally, there was one potting bench there. But this spring Mr. G built me two work tables to add. I named it THYME OUT and used it all summer. I can’t wait to get back out there!

Occasionally at least one of the tables was tidy!
Great place to make a big mess!
And, a great place to store tools, pots and garden things!

A NEW YEAR…

Like many of you, for the last several years I have been intentional about choosing a word of the year. Last year it was actually 2 words: Every Day (Read more here.). Boy, I certainly did not know what “every day” would bring!

This year I am picking 3 words…

SLOW   STEADY   SAVOR

I’m not looking for fireworks. I am looking for something to build on that gets us to the ultimate destination. Praying the virus is conquered, our world begins to open, and people will be together.

I don’t want to miss a thing.

I can already predict my 2021 highlight… the day my family is together again. SAVOR I WILL!

Happy New Year my friends.

Traditions, Stories and Rabbit Holes

Christmas – a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There are few holidays more historical or steeped in more tradition than Christmas. … Nativity, Decorations, Santa, Advent, Caroling, Poinsettias, Gifts and so many more. I love tradition – I can almost break out in song at the mention of the word. Remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof!!!

When our children were small our life was filled to the brim with Christmas traditions – We wanted them to know who and why we celebrated. We wanted them to have a stong foundation. We wanted them to have all the wonderful memories that Christmas traditions can bring. Oh the joy Mr. G and I experienced in the wonder on their sweet faces.

We now have the pleasure of so much wonder and excitement coming from these little candy canes! We will sure miss them this year! 😢

This was from last year. They have grown so much since then!

This season I have been reading Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. It is a fascinating book that taps into my love of tradition and history!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE TRADITIONS…

Christmas Cards: I love receiving them and sending them. A time to share warm wishes and get an update from friends scattered about. Now more than ever. I hear that writing notes/letters, in general, has increased during the pandemic. I am so glad for that. I have sent more notes too but not enough – I plan to send more! In a world of “virtual” I have deeply enjoyed the written notes that I have received this year from others.

Christmas Cookies: Oh the joys of Christmas baking and sharing! My favorite cookie to bake is Grandma B’s Fruitcake Cookies. (recipe here) Even if you think you hate fruitcake, I suspect you will love these cookies too.

My favorite cookie to receive is my sister-in-law’s Pizzelles. A special memory from 2020 happened before the pandemic when our Ohio family came for a Christmas visit in February (so many schedules to work around). We had a traditional Christmas feast and Aunt Cindy treated us by making her family’s traditional cookie – Pizzelles! And, mentored her nephews through this fine art too! Aunt Cindy is from a big, beautiful Italian family where a multitude of wonderful recipes and traditions come from!

I don’t even want to admit how many of those I ate.

Christmas Music: We are definitely on the side of early Christmas music. Hearing Bing sing White Christmas is appropriate and encouraged after Halloween as needed. This season we decided to take advantage of Spotify and created wonderful playlists of all our favorites!

About Poinsettias:

Traditional or not, I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with Poinsettias. (My apologies to Mr. Poinsett) They just don’t fit with my Christmas “vibe,” especially this year. I like a soft, quiet, peaceful, twinkle light filled Christmas with fresh evergreens and pinecones. Then out of the blue comes the Poinsettia in every store! Screaming loudly and proudly that IT IS CHRISTMAS TIME! (In her best “Elf” impression) You gotta appreciate her enthusiasm! So most years I succumb to the loud lure of her call to have a real Christmas experience you must have a poinsettia. Then she comes home with me and sadly she just doesn’t fit in — demanding so much attention with those big beautiful bracts! Anyone else???

About Gifts:

Gift-giving can be a sweet part of Christmas. The wisemen certainly set the stage for gift giving. It can also be so “commercial” and can put undo strain on people. We each have to find our way with our own how and why of giving gifts.

While I do very much believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive … I just have to tell you about a special gift I received!

Look at this! While it was not a Christmas gift, recently a special friend sent me a book that I will treasure. It is a classic… “How to Grow Roses by J. Horace McFarland and Robert Pyle. Two men that are giants in the world of roses! Thank you Carrie!

This book sent me down a rabbit hole of wanting to know more and more about these two great men.

Want to go down the rabbit hole with me?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

J. HORACE McFARLAND…

J. Horace McFarland was the son of nurseryman and publisher George McFarland, who settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after coming home from the Civil War. Young Horace worked in his father’s nursery, but also gained experience setting type in his father’s publishing business, printing seed lists and later nursery catalogs. At age 30, in 1889, Horace McFarland purchased the vacant Mount Pleasant School where he opened his own publishing company, the J. Horace McFarland Company. He studied the newly invented color-photoengraving process, and subsequently gained contracts with major establishments to publish handsome nursery catalogs, numerous magazines, and significantly, L. Hyde Bailey’s monumental four-volume horticultural work, the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture.

J. Horace McFarland was named the Father of the American Rose Society.

One Hundred years after J. Horace McFarland became affiliated with the American Rose Society, the organization’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to bestow the title of “Father of the American Rose Society” at a convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Though he was not instrumental in the founding of the American Rose Society (the ARS had been in existence for about 20+ years before nurseryman-publisher J. Horace McFarland joined the organization), he was instrumental in turning the commercial growers’ organization into one that welcomed — and served — ordinary home gardeners and lovers of roses. McFarland was and is the most significant contributor to the organization. To this day, he remains the most remarkable and most loved rosarian the American Rose Society has known.

Read more here.

ROBERT PILE…

Robert Pyle was an internationally known nurseryman as well as a noted authority on roses. Throughout his life, he served in many capacities of several horticulture organizations including the American Rose Society, the National Association of Plant Patent Owners, the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums, the American Horticultural Society.

FROM STAR ROSES & PLANTS WEBSITE...

Over 75 years ago, Robert Pyle laid the foundation that still exists at Star® Roses and Plants today: A beautiful garden begins with exceptional plants. By establishing friendships with nurseries and hybridizers all over the world, Pyle expanded our horticultural palette. These friendships have allowed us to work with some of the world’s most innovative nurseries to introduce plants that have passed the ultimate test — the rigorous and diverse American climate. For some amazing pictures and more history, read on here.

THE PEACE ROSE

Most likely the most famous rose of all time, the Peace Rose, was introduced by Robert Pyle in 1943.

THE ROSE OF THE CENTURY

The video below tells the beautiful historical story of the Peace Rose. As you watch, you will see how many of the great rose giants intersect during one of the most tumultuous times in our history to bring us this beautiful symbol.

Hope you enjoyed your trip down the rabbit hole! Welcome to my world! 🤦‍♀️

BACK TO CHRISTMAS

Our Christmas decor is slowly coming together. We are savoring every minute. As is the order of the day for us – it is peaceful and adorned with twinkle lights.

We have had wonderful weather – just perfect for gathering evergreens and plant material from the garden for swags, wreaths, and other decor for inside and out.

For the first time, I am using battery-powered candles in some areas. I do appreciate them however, they will never completely replace the enchantment that a real flickering candle gives. BUT what a bonus the timer is! 🕯

My Annual Boxwood Tree…

CHRISTMAS DINNER

Our original plan was to be in England for Christmas. While our hearts break for the cancellation, we have decided to embrace our reality and we will celebrate in traditional English style. And use modern technology for our visit with our loves!

ON THE MENU…

  • Standing Rib Roast
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Creamed Peas
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Wassail
  • Mincemeat Pies – ALL THE WAY FROM ENGLAND!!! 🇬🇧 Thanks to our sweet daughter!

When I think of my own “Plan B” celebration, I think of Mary and I am sure that her son’s birth in a drafty cave with animals for company and a feeding trough for a baby bed was not her Plan A. Whether we are on Plan A, B or C, God uses it all for his glory. And, we are so grateful!

And she (Mary) brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7)

Merry Christmas my friends. Wishing you joy!

A Cup of Christmas Tea

This is an article I originally posted in 2012 but the recipe is still delish & the book is fantastic. . . . . . . . . . . 

For as long as I can remember, every year we had Christmas Tea. I’m not sure where my mom found the recipe originally but it was a popular addition to “community” and “church” cookbooks in the 80s. Two other names given this tea is Spice Tea or more often … Russian Tea – for reasons I do not know. But I do know It is warm and citrusy and so so so very good!

From Southern Living…

One of the earliest references for “Russian Tea” was in The New York Times in December 1882 in “an article containing advice from a doctor on how to stay hydrated while riding a tricycle recreationally.” The original recipes referred to a simple iced tea served with lemon and sometimes sugar. A 1907 edition of the San Antonio Gazette included a recipe that featured the now trademark combination of lemon, orange, sugar, and tea. Since no one can compete with a classic glass of sweet tea, though, in the South, Russian Tea became synonymous with a hot drink flavored with oranges or lemons and spiced with vanilla, rum, cinnamon, and sometimes preserved cherries.

 

OUR TRADITION

Making Christmas Tea is a tradition our family continues. Each year we make tons of tea to share. Last night was my 2nd round of tea making.

All packed up and ready to go…

Christmas Tea

THE BOOK

In the 80s Tom Hegg, an American author, teacher, and theatrical professional wrote a book called, A Cup of Christmas Tea.

This book tells the story of a young man’s “obligation” turned into a great blessing. It is a favorite tradition of our family to slow down for an evening, read the book, and enjoy a cup of tea together.

It is a short and sweet book and if you’d like to hear it beautifully read to you, check out the video below…

THE RECIPE

2 cups Tang or orange instant drink mix
1 1/2 cups sugar (white)
1/2 cup instant tea powder
1 cup instant lemonade mix
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well and store in an airtight container.

Use 1 -3 T of mix in a mug. Stir in boiling water. Adjust to taste.

Christmas is just around the corner. Enjoy all the season has to offer. Sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of Christmas tea. And, do what we do each year, read A Cup of Christmas Tea.