Designing A Potager

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

I’ve always tried to encourage others to plant something… anything. The thrill that you get from placing the seed or the little seedling into the pleasant earth… then waiting and watching for the first signs of life to come springing up out of the soft ground… then suddenly one morning there it is… a tiny sprout or the first blossom on your tomato plant. As you patiently await the first signs of fruit… then the ripening… then the harvest.

As you stand there holding your pleasant reward, staring at it and re-thinking the whole process and the time and tender care that it took to get this into your hand.

Garlic I just harvested

Garlic I just harvested

…when you eat that first thing you’ve grown… you’ll close your eyes and savor the taste, taking in the flavor and enjoying it like no other thing you’ve ever eaten.

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…a new respect you’ll have for the seed and the dirt… a new passion will be stirred up in you.

I love gardening…

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Some may think that starting a garden is a difficult task, but not so. A garden is like anything else. You’ll need to do a bit of research and planning; you’ll need to think over what you’d like to grow and the amount of space that you have available. I have five acres, and if I could, other than the house and outbuildings, it would all be gardens… just an expanse of gardens.

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Unfortunately my dreams are bigger than my reach…

Potager’s or more commonly known today as Kitchen Gardens were historically a mainstay for many families. My heart and soul are simply thrilled with the resurgence of home gardening and canning over the last decade. I love to hear about all the urban gardens, the thrill in the voices of my market friends as they tell me what they’re harvesting out of their little home gardens… especially when it’s from the plants they purchased from me earlier in the year.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

The definition of this French word, potagère is simply vegetable garden and is properly pronounced: “por-ta-jj”, giving credit to the French who inspired this style of ornamental kitchen garden’s.

The potager is most similar to the traditional English cottage garden but is mainly based on vegetables and other edible plants and herbs, often incorporating some cut flower plants for the household.

Historically plants were chosen for their form, color and taste, with seasonality and continuity of fresh vegetables for the household in mind and were typically low maintenance and closely planted. This is very similar to raised bed gardening (another blog ;-))

herbs

herbs

What you include in your potager is all about you and your family. What you like and love, although I do suggest trying at least one new thing each year…I do!

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Veggies~ This is a matter of personal prefference. We like to include one zuchinni, four hills of potatoes, two pepper plants, several lettuces, spinach, kale and chard, two tomato plants- one Roma and one salad type, short rows of carrots, onions and garlic. I also like to include a cucumber that I typically grow up on a trellis.

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Herbs: We use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking. I wanted to incorporate an herb section in our potager. Herbs have a tendency to ‘get out of hand’, so all my herbs are in containers of sorts.
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Here is a photo of part of my herb section.
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My perennials include- sage, oregano, chives, sorrel, thyme, and biennial parsley. Calendula reseeds itself each year and I plant purple, lemon and Genovese type basil each year.

Flowers- try edibles: I grow nasturtiums and day lilies in my potager, along with marigolds along side the tomatoes. I also have several other perennials incorporated simply for beautification. The potager is beside the pergola which has several sweet autumn clematis and climbing roses along its side. I also have some hosta’s, a white bleeding heart, Astilbe and bee’s balm .
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I believe, as the gardeners of old that all three… vegetables, herbs and flowers all belong balanced together in a potager.

No matter what you decide to grow, make your garden’s a reflection of your soul… a passionate place that you can escape to from all the cares of life… a meditative place to commune with the almighty One…

Happy day,
Jean

Garden Open House: Plus my homemade ranch dressing and fresh garden tea recipes

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It’s been a secret dream of mine… to have a garden open house that is.

We moved into our farmhouse seven years ago. It was an abandoned foreclosed home with most of the windows busted out and an interior that said a lot about the previous owners- nothing good! We looked at the house for the first time in the middle of winter, little did I know there wouldn’t be a garden to find.

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As for trees and shrubs, there was one very large and beautiful maple tree and an apple tree in the back yard, a nice hedge of antique hyrangeas on the side of the house and a couple lilac bushes. Not bad for some, but not near what my heart desired.

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I’ve shared the creation of all the gardens here in my blogs except the patio. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the first two years labor. It was a big job and being busy with the other things in our life, it ended up taking three years… we finished just last month!

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Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now...

Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now…

Over the years my garden’s have evolved as have I… my likes and my tastes have grown and are depicted in my cottage style gardens. I love simply being in them… breathing the aromas that surround me… listening to the wind whisper through the leaves… watching the hummingbirds busily work. My gardens are simply my sanctuary.

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So, an open house… now that will be an undertaking I’m sure. I’ve read about and attended several… and secretly dreamed, “Some day… some day I can share my gardens…”

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So when will I say that the time has arrived? I don’t know… so I think I’ll just create a plan of action right here with all of you and maybe a Pinterest board of my dreams, LOL- you can follow me there too at For Dragonflies And Me @ Pinterest.

Lets start with the INVITATION… garden themed of course. I plan on using vintage prints of botanicals with some pretty ribbons. You’ll need to decide who you are planning to invite: will it be just close friends and family? neighbors? What about your Facebook, Twitter, Blog followers and whatever other social media sites/groups you may be involved with? You can send out a formal invitation using snail mail and/or via email/FB/Twitter, etc.
Host A Cookie Exchange Luncheon, Making The Invitation and Some Yummy Cookie Recipes!

Have a Guest Book ready for the guests to sign. I plan on using a pretty garden style notebook/journal like this one.
[caption id="attachment_1649" align="alignnone" width="225"]Garden themed journal can be used as a guest book

A ‘Thank You Gift’ is a special touch that your guests will appreciate. I make blank stationary photo-greeting cards with many of my photographs to sell at market. These are a useful and beautiful gift that your guest will appreciate.
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When you’re guests arrive, have a cute chalk board set up on an easel to ‘Welcome’ and direct them.
[caption id="attachment_1647" align="alignnone" width="180"]Photo credit to Mary Jane's Farm Photo credit to Mary Jane’s Farm

Creating the MENU is next and the time of year should determine what will be on it. If you have your own garden, try to use things that you’ve grown. This is the menu and photo’s from one of my recent get-to-gethers.
~Watermelon bowl with mixed fruit served on a green Depression glass cake plate.
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~Artisan goat cheese served in antique tea cups with garden themed spreaders served on platter with several varieties of crackers on an elevated platter.
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~Fresh garden salad served on pretty platter with dressings served in mini cream pitchers and matching bowl served on a platter as well.
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~Fresh home made Garden Tea served in my bee hive drink jug
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I made tags stating the flavors of each dressing and goat cheese and attatched it to the handle of cups and pitchers.
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Put utensils separately in Terra cotta pots along with napkins in a slightly larger one. Place all these in a fabric lined long handled basket along with throw away trays.
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The Table should be as special as the menu…
~Use a quilt for the table cloth. If you plan on having several small tables, use a mix of cute sheets or table clothes overlaid with pretty linens. This is one of my favorite quilts to use. It can be used for spring, summer or fall!
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A pretty centerpiece is the final touch for the table…and don’t forget candles. Here I’ve placed two scented jar candles in Terra cotta pots to go along with the theme.
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~Bouquets should be made with whatever is blooming in your gardens…
Peonies in blue mason jars are beautiful and such an elegant contrast
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Hosta leaves are timeless and will last for weeks in the vase…mix different varieties of height and colors for interest.
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~Having a few welcoming area’s for guests to sit and visit is always a nice touch…
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Room for two in the grill station.
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Three old metal chairs around a cozy fire bowl in the patio
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Our patio table complete with a high chair 😉
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Neil built this swing frame beside our fire pit. It’s more child friendly than adult… Seating for six around the fire…very cozy in our over sized chairs. I typically use cute sheets or table clothes as seat covers.

Here are my home made Ranch Dressing and Garden Tea Recipes… enjoy friends

Ranch Dressing
2 cups Mayonnaise DO NOT exchange for Miracle Whip or Salad Dressing!!!!
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. dry parsley or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped finely
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

Combine mayo and milk; whisk together until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and refridgerate for at least an hour so flavors can blend.
*Note: It will thicken, but if you want it a bit thicker add 1 Tbsp. of mayo at a time until desired consistency; if too thick do the same, but with milk.

Fresh Garden Tea Concentrate
8 cups water
4 cups raw organic sugar
6 cups tea leaves
mint tea

Bring water and sugar to a hard boil for 5 minutes; add tea leaves and remove from heat. Cover and let steep 5 to 8 hours.

TO MAKE: combine 1 part tea concentrate to 2 parts cold water.
You can freeze the concentrate for up to a year, so if you have lots of tea growing, you can enjoy this all year long.

So, now we have a plan of action… just need to get all the projects done!
This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden... follow the link for an easy how-to!
Happy Day,
Jean

Creating Creative Containers

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Summer time is filled with fun days for our family and opportunities for new garden projects. We just finished our patio and now to move on. The project at hand is a new fish pond… I’m so excited. Neil has a few ideas about redoing the grill station of the patio and putting in a built in grill and counter. I think it’s a great idea and can’t wait to get at it.

For gardeners there is always that next project… that ‘gotta’ try idea… a new garden element to experiment with. Gardening is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Planters are one way for gardener’s to express their creativity. I know for me, I love to find a new bucket or crate to incorporate into my gardens. Sometimes my husband Neil gives me a look as if to say, “Another one? Where is that gonna go?” Well, I’ve never been at a lack for location 😉

It’s not too late in the season to start thinking about creating containers for your garden. As a matter of fact, there’s no wrong time. I personally switch my planters up seasonally… and now so can you. Many nurseries are clearing out their stock at big discounts. Now’s the time to get the bargains.

Here are some fun idea’s to get you motivated on these hot summer days. Please be sure to stop by For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651 . I regularly post pictures of my gardens, other ideas, more recipes and great links to other wonderful and informative sites. Be sure to give a LIKE AND SHARE! Thanks in advance.

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Here are two of my old antique planters! These are a real find. The black one was actually found at a junk yard!

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My antique double wash tubs are filled with pink petunias over in our patio.

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This is a metal planter that I picked up at a craft store. This year I filled it will potting soil, screwed it to the tree in our patio’s hosta bed and planted it! Just adds a bit of interest and draws your eyes up.

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Little metal buckets are screwed to the top of our patios buffet. There are holes punched into the bottom of the buckets to allow for drainage.

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A while back I posted the how to’s on planting this antique egg basket. I decided to put it on one of my garden chairs at our back door. Such a happy ‘hello’ to my friends and family!

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One of my favorite planters… an antique wooden tool box. I have a few of these, this one sets in the herb section of my Potager… parsley grows in her every year!

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Wrought iron planters on our patio’s privacy wall. I took old burlap bags to line them and then planted them up. The burlap helps take away the ‘formalness’ of the planters.

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I picked up this wire rooster planter several years ago at a craft store. I lined it with moss and planted a geranium in her. It rests upon the table in our breakfast patio.

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This planter got a fresh coat of paint this spring to match the other aqua accents I painted. It greets all who enter in through the front arbor and is something to enjoy when taking a break in the patio.

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Another one of my antique wooden tool boxes. This one sets on one of the tables on our front porch. I potted up petunias and geraniums in small terra cotta pots and rested them inside.

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Another wooden treasure on my front porch. I am always on the look out for old wooden crates to use as planters.

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Wash tubs are a great planter! Just be sure to puncture holes on the bottom to allow for proper drainage.

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Buckets planted with hosta’s in my back entry. I will replant these hosta’s into the garden this fall and replace them with mums!

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I am forever on the look our for antique planters. I scored two of these several years ago at an auction- seven bucks each- and them being green was just the cherry on top! I line them with moss or burlap and then purchase large hanging baskets and transplant them into these planters.

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More buckets… these have been on the side of my potting shed for several years. Each year I plant geraniums in them. Buckets are so much fun!

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Enamel ware buckets make great planters… again, you do need to puncture holes for drainage. If this is too hard for you, just put your plants in another plastic pot that you can set in the bucket; remove when you need to water, and then put it back in!

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Well, this doesn’t even touch all the different planter ideas that are out there. The one I want to try is using an old dresser. I’ve seen this a lot lately… just gotta find the right piece, because I already know where it’s gonna go!

Have fun and use your imagination.
Happy gardening,
Jean

Planting up an Antique Egg Basket

The rain has come and the humidity has lifted leaving a coolness in the air that is quite refreshing. I was just looking out the kitchen window and saw a bright yellow goldfinch resting in my weeping cherry tree… I think he’s glad for the break in the heat as well. I hear the sweet call of the red winged black bird as he rests on the post along farmer Jerry’s field across the road. The robins are energetically scurrying after all the worms coming up from the rain sodden ground for a breath of air… GOBBLE! They gotta eat too 😉 The Harris sparrows are busy in the clematis feeding their young… in and out, in and out they fly…life in my gardens!

I thought with all the recent garden junque posts, I would give a how-to on planting up some of them. Lets look at planting an antique metal egg basket today!

Supplies:
metal egg basket
burlap bag or remnant from fabric store
scissors
potting soil
large potted plant- petunia’s are my choice

Instructions:
Step 1: Cut the burlap bag along the side and bottom seams, cutting it in half. You will end up with two pieces the same size. Choose one side for the baskets liner and save the other for another project.

STEP 1:

STEP 1:

Step 2: Center the piece of burlap in the basket allowing it to hang over the edges. Work the burlap the fit snugly down.

STEP 2

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Step 3: Fold the edges over into the basket to make a neat edge. If there is writing or graphics on the outside of the bag, allow that to show through the basket wire.

STEP 3

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Step 4: Carefully fill the basket with potting mix leaving enough room for the potted plant to rest in the soil.

STEP 4

STEP 4

Step 5: Remove the plant from the pot and carefully place it in the basket. Fill in around the plant, leaving about two inches, to make the basket full; press down firmly around the plant to get rid of any air pockets. I use Miracle Grow Moisture Control.

STEP 5

STEP 5

Now that you have an adorable planted egg basket, decide on the location and set her out for all your friends to oohhh & awwwhhh about.

STEP 6

STEP 6


My egg basket is nestled into my new hosta bed in my patio… ooohhh & awwwhhh!

Have a wonderful day and be sure to come visit me at Dragonflies wonderful Facebook page… follow me there at
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

Happy Day,
Jean

Child Friendly Gardens

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I love including my children in the gardens with me…

Follow the link below to my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life for fun ideas!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/06/26/child-friendly-gardens-bring-your-children-into-the-garden-to-make-lasting-memories/

Happy Day,
Jean

Harvesting Herbs: Tips to get the most yield from your herbs, yummy herb butter recipes

My soul belongs in the garden… it seems the only place that I can truly find the peace that I’m longing for is there in the rich, soothing soil. All my cares seem to fade away as I stroll through and become absorbed with the beauty that surrounds me.

The colors. The patterns. The shapes. The intricacies. No human could recreate these miracles that His mighty hand has designed. Perfection.

My beloved Potager

My beloved Potager

The sound of bees buzzing in the Potager… a low hummmmmmm. They’re busily doing their work, faithfully pollinating the blossoms that will all too soon be peppers, tomatoes, eggplants that we’ll finally feast on after a long winter… we’ll again eat of the bounty our gardens provide from our tender nurturing.

"White Rose Bud", by Jean Smith

“White Rose Bud”, by Jean Smith

The aromas… those of musk and sweetness mingled together in a moment inhaled that only a rose can exude. The herbs. My legs gently brush their delicate leaves. The intense licorice of basil… Lemon grass’ eloquent citrus scent… Chives don’t want to be forgotten; her oniony promise while we wait for the real thing. Parsley, marjoram, ohhh and thyme… I love to stop and strip a few of her leaves off, roll them between my fingers feeling the precious oils soften my fingertips… then bringing the bruised herb up to my noes… inhale. Richness. The wise men of old knew the value of these garden treasures.

Fresh herbs growing

Fresh herbs growing

Perfectness… It’s a feast for the senses. My garden, my faithful friend..

My Tree Frog, by Jean Smith

I was relaxing in the patio today reading a new garden memoir and there and behold a tiny tree frog nestled on the patio chair across from me. Some of you may be thinking, “ewhhhh”, but not me… I named him Norman and greeted my fellow garden friend and went on reading. Before long he hopped down over beside my leg… well, I had to get my camera- it’s not usually too far from my grasp, but I for some reason left it in the house. So I dashed in and grabbed it. Norman was waiting. I picked him up… to his dismay, yet he patiently let me take his photo.

The birds are so chattery right now…and I am loving this moment… Peace. In my gardens.

I’m passionate about herbs as most of my dragonfly readers know. Recently I posted info on preserving them… well today lets discuss harvesting your herbs.

Here’s a few tips to help you in your harvesting!

*The leaves of herbs are most flavorful when harvested before the plant begins to flower. If you aren’t able to get to your herbs and you notice they are beginning to form flower buds, simply cut the buds back. This will provide you with a bit more time to get them harvested.

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*You can pick individual leaves or whole stems or branches. Small leafed herbs are easier to pick by the stem or branch such as thyme, marjoram, tarragon, fennel, rosemary and oregano. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and sage are larger leafed, but can be done in stems as well. I personally harvest all by cutting branches.

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

*Chives should be cut as close to the ground as possible.

*Pick most herbs, with the exception of basil, in the morning after the morning dew has dried. Basil, seems to keep longer and fresher when picked in the late afternoon.

*Harvest annual herbs right until they are killed by frost or bolt (flower and set seed). To prevent bolting, keep them trimmed back.

*Stop heavy harvesting of perennial herbs about six weeks before your fall frost date. This will allow the plants a chance to harden up before the cold weather sets in. Mulching them will help protect more tender perennials in cold climate areas.

Herb butters add a lovely finishing touch to cooked veggies, fish or chicken and are so easy to make!  All you need to do is beat your favorite fresh or dried herbs into some softened butter, cover with some plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve it up!
Here are some yummy Herb Butter Recipes to try this year!

Lemon & Fennel Butter ~ the flavor of fennel goes very well with fish or grilled corn on the cob!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds
zest of half lemon, grated
1/8 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly blended; pat into a roll about the size of a tangerine, cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When ready to serve, cut into chunks~ very cute!

Cilantro & Scallion Butter
~ Use this on some new potatoes and enjoy the sweet savor of scallions blended with the pungency of cilantro!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 scallion (green onion) finely chopped.
Follow prep method above.

Chive Pepper Butter ~ So yummy on grilled chicken or roasted cod fillets!
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, lighted crushed
Follow prep method above.

Happy Day,
Jean