Boskey Dell Native Nursery Visit

I’ve wanted to visit Boskey Dell Native nursery ever since it was recommended to me on an herb walk a while back. Located in West Linn, Oregon; a cute little town just south of Portland. So, when my husband decided we needed a driving adventure to Oswego Lake(another little town south of Portland) I jumped at the opportunity knowing we would be close to Boskey Dell Natives.


After a lovely lunch and community garden stop in Lake Oswego (more about that later) we found it, a Native Nursery like no other.

There are some native herbs here in the Pacific North West that I would like to take back and grow on my farm in Middle TN. Like Oregon Grape; which you have to admit seems rather appropriate considering it is native to Oregon and the official state flower. We have Mahonia aplenty in Middle Tennessee but I wanted a woodland species not so readily available like Mahonia repens, a low growing spreader.

I also am intrigued with Ceanothus (California Lilac) another Pacific Coast native herb that I have always admired in England and Scotland (before I realized it where it was from). It is a spring bloomer that pollinators just love and the blue color is just so pretty. I hope with a well drained and protected sunny spot I can convince this blue stunner to be happy in my garden where humidity and clay reign…and where cold to hot (and visa versa) weather fluctuations is the norm. A girl can dream and perhaps with a little gardening know how, well time will tell.


We arrived at Boskey Dell Natives late afternoon and when I stepped out of the car and was greeted by a small flock of hens I knew it was going to be a fun experience. The nursery was made up of rooms filled with containers based on the plant cultural needs…sun, shade, protection from winds, etc.  IMG_4876

As I rounded the first corner, there was a vintage sink under an evergreen tree with Touch-me-not or Jewelweed growing in it. Perfect since, this wild herb thrives in a wet, shady habitat.



I watched customers push their carts loaded with plants and couldn’t help but hear them talking excitedly about what they needed for where in their gardens.


As I looked around and waited to ask someone where I might find the plants I had come for I noticed all the interesting vintage architectural pieces that had been added to the greenhouse ends that gave them a warm inviting feel. IMG_4871I like to be surprised by unusual old stuff that has been repurposed and at every   turn I was delighted.IMG_4878


After I had found the native plants I was looking for, had paid for them, and was headed to the car I met the owner, Lory Duralia. A woman after my own heart, after talking to her for just a short time I knew we were kindred spirits. Lory graciously took the time to take me on a tour to show me her latest projects and explain to me how she creates and works along side mother nature to build habitats to ensure a balance in her gardens, business and life. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her sense of style is inspirational. Her love of antiques is beyond obvious and how she incorporates them into every aspect of her life is beyond fun…a page out of Country Living on steroids.IMG_4868


She showed me her new building that she built as a memorial to her mother with an owl apartment above. Every old window, door, beam, and architectural piece has a story. And as for the owls, she didn’t exactly have any but her, “if you build it they will come” attitude worked as there are a pair of screech owls who have taken up residence, now granted they aren’t in the foretold apartment but they are close, roosting on the beams just under the apartment.

IMG_4860    IMG_4861

Another project was a remodel or build out of a carport/garage where she made a habitat or respite place for people…anyone who needs a place to come and get quiet with some comfortable chairs, woodstove and a window that overlooks a small creek meandering through peaceful green woods.

IMG_4857A place to duck out of the world for a spell to collect oneself, “It works for me”, she says with a smile.


Lory’s love of flora, fauna and folks, young and old are apparent everywhere you look. She is a giver and she will be the first to tell you it comes back over and over again as she shares her passion of nature with others.

Lory in her 'happy place'

Lory in her ‘happy place’


She takes her stewardship of her piece of this earth seriously and encourages everyone to build habitats to enjoy wherever you live. Thank you Lory and I look forward to a return visit to Boskey Dell Natives soon. 🙂



Discourage, Stun and Destroy Pests with Herbs

Looking for natural, organic ways to discourage, stun and destroy pests?  Here are some simple tips to use herbs to help in your quest.

Cindy and Tuwanda

Cindy and Tuwanda

Basil – Keeps flies away. Grow pots of plants around the patio, dry and powder leaves to use as a dust to discourage flies and horn worms on tomato plants. Spray tea on veggie plants to keep Colorado bean beetles away.

Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil

Bay – Drop a leaf in containers before storing dried veggies and fruit or flour, cornmeal to keep bugs out. Scatter bay leaves on cupboard and pantry shelves.Dry and powder leaves to use like an insecticide in the kitchen garden. Chases ladybugs away when leaves are placed at their point of entry into the house.

Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel

Catnip – Grow near entryways to discourage ants. Dry and powder catnip leaves then dust around door frames and windows for ants and sprinkle on veggies for flea beetles. Brew catnip leaves into a strong mosquito-cide, strain (unbleached coffee filters work great) and spray the tea on the yard and garden.

Cayenne peppers – Carefully grind peppers to a fine powder and sprinkle around windows and doors where you see ant trails and on garden plants early in the morning to keep rabbits away. Drop whole dried pepper in containers of beans and grains to keep weevils and other bugs out.

Garlic – Discourage deer from eating your garden for dinner; sprinkle dried, powdered garlic on plants and around perimeter of garden. Soak cloves in water overnight to make a tea to spray plants and garden to help with deer control and add other herbs to make home-made mixtures to stop bugs in their tracks.

Lemon balm – Rub a handful of lemon balm on your picnic table (and you) to send biting bugs packing. Dry and powder leaves to dust veggie plants to confuse would be pests.

Lemon Grass – Dry and burn this herb like incense to make mosquitoes turn tail and run!

Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass

Lavender – Moths, ticks and flies don’t like this herb. A spring in the bird bath may keep mosquito larvae out. Put dried flowers in the closet or drawers.

Mint – Scatter dried peppermint leaves in kitchen cupboards to make mice run back outside. Use the dried powdered leaves to dust veggies for flea beetles.

Pennyroyal – Make a strong tea to spray on yourself and your pets to keep fleas, ticks and other biting critters away. Roll leaves in a bandana and tie around your pet for a chemical free flea and tick collar.

Rosemary – A strong tea spritzed on your pets between bathes will help control fleas. Throw some spring on the grill to flavor food and smoke out mosquitoes.

Next time pests are ‘bugging’ you try herbs from the garden for a natural solution.


Okra – Super food and Medicine


Okra: here in the South, is a favorite fried, and available at many southern restaurants was not a ‘love at first sight’ kind of experience for me. As a student at the University of Tennessee, I was given a bunch of okra at the UT farm where I worked my first summer; I took it home and boiled it. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why anyone would eat such a slimy mess.

Later, perhaps when my taste buds matured and I learned various ways of cooking to avoid the slime from my native friends I came to appreciate this southern vegetable and now it is one of my favorites in the kitchen garden. I can’t imagine my garden without it.

Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, a member of the mallow family is a sun loving plant native to Africa that is beautiful in the kitchen garden, flowerbed or even in a container.

Varieties to Try:

‘Clemson spineless’ is an old favorite that always grows well. It usually grows 3-4 feet tall. I have found this can get 5 feet tall when happy.

‘Burgundy’ is a prolific heirloom producer with beautiful red pods and stems.

‘Little Lucy’ is a dwarf variety that is only two feet tall with red-veined leaves and yellow and purple flowers. Pods are about 4 inches long and dark red; perfect for small gardens, flowerbeds or in containers.

Easy to start from seed:

After all danger of last spring frost and when the soil is warm it is time to sow seeds. Soak the large seeds in water overnight or nick the seeds with a file before planting to make germination quicker. Sow seeds about ¾ inch deep in average pH (6.0-8.0) soil rich in organic matter and compost.

Spacing: Okra is a large branching plant growing 2-6 feet tall, I usually space plants about 12 – 15 inches apart in my raised beds but I would space them 18 – 23 inches by 3 feet in a row garden. After the plants are up and set leaves I usually thin or transplant to fill in any areas needed in the bed.

Mulch:  Mulch around plants as soon as they are 3 – 4 inches tall using newspaper, cardboard, straw, leaves or anything else that will keep moisture in and weeds out.

Water requirements: Okra needs regular watering to germinate seeds and to get established but after that it is drought tolerant during hot dry spells.

Fertilize: Once a month side-dress with compost or water with compost tea. Because I start with composted soil I don’t find the need to fertilize along the way.

Companion plants:

Basil or borage


Healthy okra that has been rotated and planted in good soil seldom has pest or disease problems. Should leaves begin to yellow and wilt, your okra plants may be infected with Fusarium wilt which is a soil borne disease. If you see this happening just pull up affected plants and destroy.

Time to harvest:

In about 50-60 days pods you can start picking pods, they are best young and small (about 3 inches long) but they can be bigger as long as they are still tender.

Pick often as they grow pods quickly, I use clippers but you can use a sharp knife too. Wear sleeves and gloves when picking as contact with plants and pods can make your skin itch…even if you plant a spineless variety.

Continue harvesting regularly and you will have fresh okra until frost. Okra can be cut down to about 6” midsummer, fertilize and it will produce a second crop. I have done this when I’ve been out of town and couldn’t harvest all the pods.

Enjoying the harvest:

My favorite way of eating okra is fresh off the plant while I’m still in the garden. Dip the pods in your favorite ranch dressing or hummus or slice them into salads or on sandwiches.

Okra is great in gumbo and stew because it is a natural thickener. Freeze whole pods for use later or slice and place in a dehydrator for a healthy crunchy snack. Of course there is nothing better than fried okra. No matter how you fix (except for boiling) or eat it, okra is one vegetable no garden should ever be without it(except for boiling) or eat it, okra is one vegetable no garden should ever be without(except for boiling) or eat it, okra is one vegetable no garden should ever be without.



Resources: ‘Little Lucy’ hybrid seeds available at
‘Burgundy’ and other heirlooms – and

Now for the rest of the story:

Here are a few things you may not know about Okra:

Okra contains: protein, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus, zinc, copper, potasiums, Vitamins A, B6, C and K, thiamine, manganese, folate, calcium and magnesium

  • Fruits or the pods can be dried and ground into powder and used to thicken soups, sauces, curries, gravies, etc.
  • Young leaves can be steamed like spinach for a summer time green
  • Flower buds and petals can be eaten or used to make tea
  • The seeds can be dried and used like beans, especially nice added to rice dishes or ground into flour for bread
  • Roasted seeds can be ground and used as a coffee substitute

Medicinally speaking:

  • Leaves, small fruit, and even roots can be used as a poultice to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation
  • A leaf tea has been used in Africa for heart pains and to help with childbirth delivery
  • Decoction of okra pods has been used to treat fever, headache, arthritis, and urinary problems.
  • Okra seeds may treat and prevent muscle spasm.
  • Turns out all that slime is good for you, eating okra may help normalize cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as help with asthma. The mucilage in okra binds with cholesterol and bile acids and exits the body through stools. Also acts as a lubricant and a laxative for the intestinal tract.
  • Full of dietary fiber and Vitamin A, eating okra helps to clean out gastrointestinal system so your colon can work properly and help mucous membrane health in the process.
  • Some folks report success in stabilizing blood sugar levels with drinking a cold infusion daily of 2 pods pierced with a fork and left to soak in cold water for few hours or overnight. Seems
  • Okra helps to smooth skin, prevents pimples, repairs damage and encourages collagen formation – Boil a few pods until tender, cool and mash and apply to face for five minutes, rinse. A slimey but softening facial!
  • Okra is high in Vitamin C so it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and helps to lower homocysteine levels, which may prevent heart disease.
  • May inhibit bacteria growth that might cause stomach ulcers and cancer

Make your own Mullein Ear Oil

mullein, verbascum thapus

mullein, verbascum thapsus

I took great care to bring one mullein plant with me when we moved to our homestead.  Even thought Mullein,Verbascum thapsus, is a wild

herb that grows here and there along country roads and hillsides, I wanted to make sure I had one conveniently located in my herb garden.

Ironically, another plant came up after I claimed my new gardens and built beds in an old horse paddock. I was thrilled.  Mullein is a bi-annual

so the first year is a fuzzy rosette than the second year a towering gray-green leafed monster with fat flower spikes taller than me.  Such a drama Queen

in the garden, shouting ‘look at me’! [Read more…]

Make Jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace

I have always loved Queen Anne’s lace, wild carrot, Dacus carota. She was supporting cast in the first short story I wrote for a college creative writing class. My future husband used to go to a sweet little flower garden called Rowe’s garden in Charlevoix, MI to buy flowers with Sweet Pea and Queen Anne’s lace for me when we were dating. On the way to our church rehearsal he stopped to pick me a bouquet from a patch of these roadside lacey flowers to carry down the practice aisle (the beginning of many romantic adventures)

basket of foraged herbs

basket of foraged herbs

After Several days of rain, the sun peaked out this morning so I was off to the meadow (some would say pasture or field) to harvest the first blooms of this incredible herb. Some folks are worried that they might confuse this plant with a deadly one called Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). Both are in the same family and have white umbel type flowers and look similar in stature. However there are so many differences that once you know the facts, it is easy to confidently identify Wild Carrots.

***If you are ever in doubt about harvesting wild plants…don’t until you have positive plant identity.

Here are some ways to know the difference: [Read more…]

Stachys byzantine….lend me your ears!

DSC_0351Lamb’s ear or Bunny ears (as it is referred to in Europe) is a friendly herb that is often overlooked or demonized.  After we sold our last herb farm and moved to the burbs my new neighbor came over to inform me that I was planting a weed in my front bed.

I thanked her for her concern and kept planting.  Lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantine, makes a wonderful border for any bed, drought tolerant, deer resistant yes, but the color is what I love.  The soft gray-silver of Lamb’s ear lights up the garden at dawn and dusk accentuating nearby plants as well.

My grandchildren pick lamb’s ear leaves on the way up the walk to the front door.  The softness of this plant is irresistible to kids and adults alike.  We have a little ceremony of rubbing leaves on their faces then mine…I even find dried lamb’s ear leaves under their pillows when they leave.

If you are working in the garden and cut yourself, simply apply a Stachys byzantine leaf like you would a bandage.  It actually has antiseptic properties that will keep your wound safe until you can get indoors and clean it properly.

Lamb’s ear helps to hide the ‘legginess’ of such plants as climbing roses.  I’ve found that planted on hillsides or anywhere water tends to wash out soil helps with erosion.

Perhaps my favorite use for the large soft leaves was told to me from a student who said his grandmother always planted a good deal of lamb’s ear by the outhouse.  Splendid idea – so much better than corncobs or Sears and Roebuck Catalog pages, don’t you think?

 Stachys byzantine is easy to take care of and will re-seed happily.  If you don’t want extra plants just cut the flower spikes off before they fall back to the earth.

In the South (or anywhere you have humidity) Lamb’s ear has a hard time and tends to melt in the summer.  When this happens (after bloom time) help the plant and appearance by grabbing the stalks and pulling them out.  This will make room for air circulation.  Don’t worry if a lot of the plant comes up, it doesn’t take much to regenerate itself in a month or so and look full and beautiful once more.

Rosemary Tree Care Tips

Rosemary Christmas trees are everywhere this time of year.  Who can resist them?  They emit an irresistible holiday pine fragrance and are such a vibrant blue, gray-green.  Rosemary is the Christmas Herb used extensively in Europe since the 16th century.  A sprig of Rosemary is given to friends for remembrance and lovers for fidelity.  It is said to stimulate memories, preserve meat and cure a headache.  It has been told that a Rosemary shrub sheltered the Virgin Mary on her flight into Egypt, and when she spread her cloak over a rosemary, the white flowers turned blue…Enough said, go ahead, get one. With a few tips you may be able to enjoy your herbal experience the whole Christmas season and beyond:

–       First, give ole Rosemary a drink of water as soon as you get her home if her soil feels dry.

–       Place her in a cool but sunny window – with no heat ducts under it…65 degrees or cooler will make her oh so happy!

–       Moving air is always nice, so turn the ceiling fan (if you have one) on low.

–       Be sure to pet her as you walk by and inhale deeply to revive your holiday spirit and to remember the reason for the season.  Prune her from time to time to jazz up your holiday meals.  She won’t feel a thing and likes to stay in shape.

–       Water only when the soil is dry (approx. every 5-7 days) almost to the point of wilting – she could succumb if she is over-watered or under-watered, most folks drown this poor gal…after all she hails from the Mediterranean hillside and is   use to excellent drainage…never allow her roots to sit in a pool of water.  Should you notice leaf-tips or whole leaves turning brown and falling off, she is suffocating from too much water. Did I mention Rosemary likes to be watered only on sunny days in the wintertime if possible? She does and she has her reasons.

–       If your house is unusually dry, due to lack of humidity, give Rosemary a quick mist once in a while, don’t overdue or she could contract fungal problems – no one likes those!

–        If you are thinking Rosemary is finicky or hard to please like some women in your life, get over it.  She is a bit demanding but her piney attributes and metaphoric symbolism make her a valuable addition to your household.

–       Should you accidentally murder your Rosemary Christmas tree, cheer up, her needle-less form is so attractive you can pack her away and use her for a Christmas tree base to decorate for years to come.

If you live in a mild climate, Rosemary is happy outside except for the occasional cool night (32 degrees or less)- just bring her in and put her back outside when weather warms.  She will be a welcome sight and scent to holiday visitors.

Apples or Oranges?


Every fall I’m on the hunt for Osage Oranges.  You may know them as hedge apples or green brains or mock oranges….  They do look like green brains when you see them on the ground or smushed on the road after a car has run them over and on a warm day of sun they do smell like orange peel. The tree was named after the Osage Native American tribe from the Great Plains.

If Osage orange tree isn’t ringing any bells, then maybe Bodark or Hedge Apple sounds familiar. I’ve heard them called Bowdock.  Maclura pomifer, is the official name but no matter what you call it, this tree is one more of God’s amazing herbs.

I call it an herb because it is a plant with benefits (my definition).  You know it well if you have ever run across it and plunged one of its many thorns into your hand.  The thorns are so strong they can pierce a tire.  Not a friendly landscape tree but those thorns have been made useful in the past as living fences (hedges) to keep cattle, hogs and horses in and as abatis (barricades) in front of fortifications during the civil war to keep the opposing side out or at least tangled up.

The wood from this tree is very dense and strong and it was used to make bows and later tent stakes during the civil war.  Cut and dried for firewood, Osage orange wood has the most BTUs of any firewood.  When our friend Jamie brings firewood he usually mixes some Osage Orange in and always reminds me to use only one piece of bowdock at a time in our woodstove.

Maclura pomifer trees take a few years to mature and only female flowering trees have fruit.  Old timers tell me they put hedge apples around and the foundation of their houses to discourage cock roaches, spiders, crickets and the like.  There has been studies done that suggest this method has merit.

Are Osagae oranges edible?  The seeds are indeed edible but you need to remove the slimy husk covering the seeds after you spend a good deal of time getting it out of the ball itself.  There are upwards of 200 seeds a little smaller then sunflower seeds in each orange.  The sticky sap like goo that oozes out of aging or frozen and rotting fruit can cause skin to break out on some folks.  I have never experienced this but it is good to know.

I love to decorate with the green brain like wrinkled fruit of the Osage orange tree.  The color and texture is so incredible making it a natural for fall decorations.  Combined with pumpkins, gourds, winter squash, pine cones, nuts, berries and leafy herbs they are sensational and always get noticed.  These beauties can stand-alone too and are elegant just sitting atop a terra cotta pot.

Carve a spot out to insert a tea candle and use them for a centerpiece at your next dinner party.

After the fall season has passed I toss the hedge apples around the house for their insect fighting properties but it isn’t long before the squirrels find them and rip them to shreds.  I always tuck them into the fall pile of pumpkins, gourds and winter squash near the front door and am always amazed that I will find them at the end of the drive where some poor squirrel has worked for hours getting it that far before I gather it up and return it to the front porch – after all I had to hunt for mine out in the wild, they can too!





Pesto Party with the Nashville Herb Society

Partied with the ladies from the Nashville Herb Society, culinary division last night.  Our topic was pesto and as someone on Facebook pointed out already it is a yummy subject.

My friend Jodie assisted by rinsing and spinning herbs and washing the food processor in between pesto demonstrations, selling books and anything else that needed doing…huge help!

Thank you to our wonderful hosts Mary and Edith for arranging a commercial kitchen big enough so that everyone could be in close range to observe every step, smell the amazing aromas and ask questions while I whirred away.

We talked pesto beginnings in Genoa, Italy where pesto started.  Traditionally made from fresh sweet basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and sheep’s cheese during the garden season.

‘Pesto’ comes from the pestle, a hand held tool with a rounded end that is used to pound or mash herbs in a stone (marble or other materials) bowl or mortar (vessel).


These days to save time we use a food processor

or blender with a ‘pulse’ setting to whip up pesto presto because after all we are all in a hurry to get it done.

Just for fun I set up a large mortar with a pestle so that folks could try making pesto the old school way.  We started with some course sea salt to give a

base for grinding (this would be the time to add a few peppercorns as well).  Added small chunks of garlic, walnuts, basil leaves and had everyone take turns grinding and mashing. Adding more of each ingredient as we went along.  Olive oil is added along the way a little at a time. Towards the end throw in some shredded Parmesan cheese, mix it all up and viola, pesto the way the Italians make it… a fun project for kids who want to help in the kitchen.

I love to keep a big mortar and pestle sitting out in my kitchen with something in it to grind.  People walk into my kitchen and are naturally drawn to it for some reason and before long they pick up the pestle and mash away.  Oats, wheat berries, seeds; cinnamon sticks and the like are usual suspects for some pestle work.  It is great therapy and you get flour or powdered spices – give it a try.

People are usually surprised that pesto can be made using other ingredients.  Believe it or not pesto can be made from a just about anything edible growing in the garden.  The variations to pesto are only limited by your imagination!

Here are some that we made last night:  Remember to wash and dry all leaves (salad spinner) that are going into pesto.  Think ahead and wash herbs and such the easy way while they are still on the plant by spraying with hose attachment set on shower.  Spray undersides of leaves as well first thing in morning and when the sun dries them off cut what you need.  Now you have freshly washed and dried leaves to make pesto with.

In the food processer always start with the hard things like garlic and nuts – pulse a couple of times then add herbs or veggie, pulse again then add olive oil (I like extra virgin) while pulsing until it is the consistency you want.  Open the lid from time to time to scrap any large chunks on the side back down so it can get processed.  Add cheese, salt and pepper if you like and pulse for the last time.  Done.

Store pesto in a small glass container or jar with a tight fitting lid to keep air out.  You can add a thin layer of oil on top if you want before storing in the refrigerator.  It will keep for about 3 weeks in fridge or freeze it in ice cube trays and pop into freezer bag.  Plop cubes into soups and sauces or on pasta when needed.


Savory Sage Pesto

2 cloves garlic with skin removed

1/3 -1/2 cup walnuts

½ cup sage leaves

1 cup parsley

1/3 to ½ cup Olive Oil

1/3 to ½ cup asiago, romano or parmesan cheese


Swiss Chard and Cilantro

2 cloves garlic, skin peeled

1/3-1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts

1 – 2 cup swiss chard leaves torn with center stem removed if tough

½ cup cilantro or a little more if you like cilantro

1 Jalapeno, seeded and chunked

½ lime squeezed (juice)

1/3- ½ olive oil

1/3 cup parmesan or asiago or romano cheese


Chocolate Mint – Dessert Pesto

Great with fresh strawberries or thin it down with fruit juice and pour over fruit salad.

2 cup chocolate mint leaves

2 Tablespoon sugar or honey or 2 fresh stevia leaves

1/3 cup almonds

1/3 – ½ cup olive oil or try using fruit juice

1/3 cup parmesan cheese




Thank you Ladies for a wonderful evening….party on making pesto from your garden!!!




























Helebore (Lenten Rose)

Lenten rose or Hellebore is a perennial herb that loves shade, will take sun, tolerates drought conditions, deer proof, and has varieties that bloom as early as Christmas!

The bell shaped bloom varies in color from cream to chartreuse to shades of pink to deep purple-black and combinations in between.  Hellebores are evergreen throughout the year and on average can be trimmed after the first of the New Year to make room for new leaves and emerging blooms.