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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Located in the Bay Area, CA, we're a family-owned garden center offering unusual and hard-to-find plants & gifts. Established 1946.

Life is Beautiful Blog

Apple & Pear Picking

Lauren Brookhart

Most apples are ready to pick when they separate easily from the tree. Lift gently and rotate the apple upwards to avoid damaging the spur (in layman's terms, we call it the stem.)

If you're second guessing yourself, cut an apple open and inspect the seed color. When the seeds are dark brown, the apples are ready. Although as we all know, taste is the best indicator. Note that if you're judging ripeness by it's skin color, cool weather or low light (as in foggy weather) can affect coloring. If you're harvesting apple for root cellar storage, pick them when  firm. 

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To enjoy a range of varieties you don't normally see in store, and could possibly catch on our Bareroot Fruit Tree Availability List from Dave Wilson Nursery, visit us in the month of October and try our freshly harvest apples from Sebastopol-based Hale's Apple Farm! Stop in to try all our available varieties (there's quite a few!) and join us for Harvest Festival fun every weekend in October! 

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Now onto pear harvesting:

European pears (such as Anjou, Bosc, Comice, and Bartlett) ripen best off the tree. Beware, they can taste mealy if allowed to ripen on the tree. Wait until they are the correct size for the variety, then lift the fruit upward without twisting (a Bartlett may need a slight twist). If the fruit slips from the stem, it’s ready, if not, wait a few days and try again.

Fun fact: We were originally a pear orchard, hence our name "Orchard Nursery!" As an ode to our beginnings, we have an espalier pear tree planted in the front of our shop, to your right as you enter. Read more about our history (been here since 1946!) here!

Lookout for our Bareroot Fruit Tree Availability List in fall where you can special order varieties and receive a 20% off discount with orders placed before December 1st!

Summer Harvest: Cucumbers

Lauren Brookhart

Check your cucumbers daily and harvest early. And if you're harvesting for pickling, make that even earlier! Remember that timing and length will vary with variety but overall, cucumbers are fast growers. 

The fruit should be firm and smooth. Over-ripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy, even before they start to turn yellow. If you're noticing a yellowed bottom on your cucumber, it's a sign that it's over-ripe so remove immediately. When cutting off the vine, use a knife or clippers and cut above the stem. Pulling may damage the vine. 

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Harvested cucumbers keep for up to 10 days in the refrigerator but use them ASAP for best flavor. (Keep reading for the perfect 2-step recipe to incorporate your harvest in!) The more you harvest off the vine, the more fruit you'll get. So get harvesting! 

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BASIL AND GARLIC CUCUMBER SALAD

Source:  Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. This recipe was demonstrated for CUESA’s Market to Table program on July 19, 2014.


Serves 6 to 8


INGREDIENTS


6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 lemon cucumbers, quartered and sliced
1 serpent cucumber, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1/8teaspoon salt
1/8teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


PREPARATION

1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and yogurt with the
smashed garlic.
2. Add the cucumbers, basil, salt and pepper. Toss and serve. 

 

Summer Harvest: Corn

Lauren Brookhart

Normally sweet corn is ready for harvest about 17 –24 days after the first silk strands appear. This can occur more quickly in hot weather and more slowly in cool weather.

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Harvest corn when the husks are still green, silks are dry brown, and kernels are full sized and yellow or white in color to the very tip of the ear. Experienced gardeners can feel the outside of the husk and tell when the cob has filled out. Harvest corn at the “milk stage”, use your thumbnail to puncture a kernel. If the liquid is clear, the corn is immature, if it’s milky, it’s ready, and if there is no sap, you too late.

And here's the best tip in the game: Cover unharvested ears checked by this method with a paper bag to prevent insect or bird damage! 

 Picturesque corn stalks - save them for fall decorating! 

Picturesque corn stalks - save them for fall decorating! 

For corn that you'll be storing for a day or two, pick in the cool temperatures of early morning to prevent the ears from building up an excess of field heat, which causes a more rapid conversion of sugars to starch.  

The best time to pick is just before eating the corn; country cooks say to have the pot of water coming to a boil as you are picking the corn, husking it on the way from the garden to the house! This is an exaggeration, but with standard varieties, sugar conversion to starch is rather rapid.  

For any corn picked in the midday sun - plunge the ears in cold water or put them on ice for a short time to guard against the effects of field heat. Then, just store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat! 

Extra-sweet varieties will also benefit from this treatment, but they are not as finicky because they have a higher sugar content and they hold their sweetness longer.  The conversion of sugars to starch is also not as rapid in the newer super sweet types.

Now that you know how to harvest your garden-fresh corn, let's get cooking...

Fresh Corn Soup with Poblano Chile

INGREDIENTS

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion minced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 cups corn kernels, about 6 ears
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 poblano chiles, roasted, skinned, and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
I left out the 1 ounce of queso fresco or feta cheese whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of milk.

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large pot.  Sweat the onions covered for about 5 minutes.  Add carrots, cover, and cook another five minutes.  Add garlic, dried herbs, cayenne, and cook covered another couple minutes.  Add corn, season with salt, cover then cook another five minutes.  Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat.  Puree in a blender then strain through a fine mesh sieve.  (Be sure to have a pot under the strainer to catch the soup ---- I have made this mistake before and don't want you to).  Return soup to the big pot and season to taste.

I roasted the poblanos directly over the flame of the gas stove until they were blackened, put them in a ziploc bag to steam for awhile, then could easily remove the skins.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Stir in the poblanos and cilantro and serve. 

This recipe is from the website of Kaiser Permanente, Food for Health, Recipes for Life.

From The Orchard: Stone Fruit

Lauren Brookhart

We're getting close to that time...the annual harvest! Read on for tips on timing and best practices when harvesting peaches, pluots, plums and nectarines! And hey, this might even help when picking out fresh stone fruit from the grocery!

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PEACHES AND NECTARINES

Peaches and nectarines are best when tree ripened, meaning when they're at that perfect point to pluck them off the tree and take that first juicy bite. 

Peaches ripen from the bottom up toward the stem and from the smooth side toward the split side, so giving them a feel on the upper "shoulder" closets to the split will tell you if a peach is ripe. If it gives a little, it's ready. If it's feeling a little firm - give it a day or two. There should be no green on the fruit and it should come off the branch with a slight twist.

Aim for harvesting while still a little firm because as we all know, soft peaches don't store well! But an overload of fresh fruit is always a great excuse to get cooking! Check out this recipe for Roasted Stone Fruit with Shortcake.  

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PLUMS AND PLUOTS

Plums usually ripen between July and October. Alike peaches and nectarines, they ripen best on the tree. Ripe plums should come off the tree easily with a lift and slight twist. If you are planning to dry the plums, you can let them fall from the tree naturally, but check often as ripe fruits attract pests. Here are some delicious recipes to enjoy your harvest.

Overwhelmed with your harvest? We have the perfect solution...

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STONE FRUIT SIMPLE SYRUP

Perfect for your sangria, sweet tea and other summer drinks - cheers! 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups water
8 pieces assorted stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums)

PREPARATION

Simple syrup is a sugar syrup made with a ratio of 1 to 1, sugar to water.  In this version, you use 1 cup of sugar and 1 ½ cups water and submerge 8 pieces of stone fruit, sliced to impart more flavor.  
Bring the sugar, water and fruit up to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid has reduced to the 1 to 1 ratio, and the fruit has given the syrup its flavor, aroma and color, roughly 1-2 hours on simmer. Strain out the fruit and store the stone fruit simple syrup in the fridge for up to 6 months.
The syrup can be used in tea, sangria, cocktails, over ice cream, to moisten layer cakes, or made into sauces.

Recipe and image via PCFMA.

Edible Marigolds

Lauren Brookhart

Native to North America, marigolds are grown all over the world. They've been used in religious ceremonies by the Aztecs, spread by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, made into dyes, garlands and garnishes in India and Pakistan and nicknamed "Mary's gold" in Europe in reference of the Virgin Mary. 

Easy to grow, it's no wonder why and how they spread around the world. Once established, marigolds will bloom summer through fall. Plant now and enjoy rich color, plus the flowers and buds are edible! 

Incorporating marigolds into your feasts can lend a range of flavors from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Our selection from Sebastopol-based Sweetwater Nursery come organically grown in a range of colors and sizes.

Read on to learn what varieties you'll find in the nursery. And hurry in, they're going fast! 

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'Lemon Gem' Marigold

Widely considered as one of the best tasting marigold varieties. 'Lemon Gem' is an old-fashioned Signet type. It's finely cut foliage forms 8-10" mounds covered with single yellow blooms all season. Does best in the sunshine.

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'Little Hero Flame' 

A lovely compact French marigold with a dwarf growth habit. Plant in sun and enjoy fragrant flowers and scented foliage. Heat and frost tolerant - what more could you want?!

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'Little Hero Mix'

A French marigold mix of fire yellow and orange. Enjoy bold colored flowers that are great for cutting with dark green fragrant leaves. Easy to grow, plant in sun to part sun.

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'Chica Gold' 

Boasts early blooming large, fully double crested flowers with superior uniformity. This dwarf variety does great in containers in sun. 

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'Bonanaza Bee'

Here's a mouthful - Compact, bushy, upright, dwarf crested French marigold! This beauty grows 10-12" tall with large 2-3" blooms. Space each plant 6-10" apart in full sun. Don't worry - they can take the heat! 

Stay tuned - we will have more edible flowers on their way! 

Strawberry Harvest + A Recipe Too!

Lauren Brookhart

The strawberry is truly a special treat of the summer season. At harvest, most of the fruit should be heart shaped, but can vary in size. Color should be vivid red to dark crimson skin, speckled with those dry, diminutive seeds. The berry should have a flowery fragrance, be juicy and have a sweet taste.

Wild strawberries, also known as Fraise Des Bois, will be about the size of a large raspberry and heart shaped. Red or white, the fruits are extremely fragrant, tartness is overshadowed by sweetness. And the taste is incredible, very power packed.

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We love to our sun warmed strawberries right off the plant but once we get a good harvest, there's nothing better than incorporating them into a home-cooked meal! And who doesn't love the sound of...

STRAWBERRY FRENCH TOAST KEBOBS

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 thick slices of French or Italian bread, preferably slightly stale. Dry bread will soak up the egg mixture better than fresh bread!
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pint strawberries, halved

 Directions

Slice the bread into cubes. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, vanilla extract. Dip the cubed bread into the egg mixture, then place on a greased baking sheet. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle onto the cubes.

Broil for 2 minutes, flip, then broil another 2 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread during the last minute so it doesn’t burn. Remove the French toast from the oven and layer them on the skewers with the strawberries. Serve with maple syrup or strawberry jam as a dipping sauce.

This recipe is from the website Fruit & Veggies More Matters.

Blueberries 101

Lauren Brookhart

A plant native to North America, the Blueberry is almost the perfect fruit: beautiful, ornamental, easy to grow and contains a high concentration of antioxidants. 

Soil

The trick to growing blueberries is good soil. With a little bit of attention to proper soil conditions, blueberries will thrive in the landscape and especially in containers - where you can really control the soil conditions. Blueberries like well drained acidic soils. They prefer a low pH of 4.5 to 6.0 with 5.5 being optimal. They also like to grow in actively decomposing organic matter. To help ensure these optimal soil traits in your garden we recommend planting with Master Nursery Acid Planting Mix.

Exposure

In hotter climates, such as Lafayette and the rest of Contra Costa County, blueberries prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. While in cooler climates, such as Alameda County, blueberries prefer sun all day. 

 Delicious berries just about ready for picking! 

Delicious berries just about ready for picking! 

Chill Hours

Many varieties of fruiting plants need a specific length of time in dormancy - essentially, in temperatures below 45 degrees - in order to set fruit. Highbush varieties are categorized into 2 groups based on their chill requirements:

  • Northern Highbush, "High Chill" varieties require 800-1000 chill hours
  • Southern Highbush, "Low Chill" varieties require 150-800 chill hours

 

  • Contra Costa County averages 700-1000 chill hours
  • Alameda County averages 400-700 chill hours

 

This means that Northern Highbush varieties should only be grown in Contra Costa or similar counties. Southern Highbush, on the other hand, can be grown in Alameda or Contra Costa - it is perfectly fine for plants to receive more chill hours than needed to set fruit. 

Fertilizer

In spring, apply either E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food 5-5-3 or Master Nursery Camellia, Azalea, Gardenia & Rhododendron 4-8-5. Typically you will want to fertilize once at the beginning of spring and again later in the season. 

Pruning

Pruning is important for a blueberry's overall health, appearance and fruit production. When pruning, keep in mind the following:

  • Minimize or restrict fruiting in years 1-3 to encourage vegetative development. 
  • Maintain a balance between vegetative growth, root development and flowering/fruit set.
  • Develop the overall plant shape; encourage upright growth, strong canes and an open central canopy.
  • Thin out excess flowering and fruiting to improve fruit size and quality.

After your blueberry plant fruits in 1-3 years, it is still important to prune 1-2 times a year. This is will open the canopy of the plant to allow light and ventilation to reach the inside of the plant. This will encourage fruiting in the inner part of the plant and reduce occurrences of foliar diseases. 

It is also important to eliminate smaller, horizontal branches which produce few fruit and are more difficult to pick. 

Early, Mid and Late Fruiting

Different blueberry varieties ripen at different times throughout the fruiting season - for our area, anywhere between May and early July. You will typically find varieties labeled as early-season, mid-season or late-season. We always recommend that home gardeners choose varieties with different fruit times to ensure a longer harvest. Blueberries produce more fruit when planted near different varieties so why not take the opportunity to also extend the harvest?

Plant Characteristics

It can be tough trying to pick out "the best" blueberry variety. Just remember they all make beautiful shrubs and produce delicious berries; you really can't go wrong! Here's a few of our favorite varieties that might work well in your garden...

BLUECROP

A "berry-of-all-trades", known for its adaptability, long bearing season, high fruit yield and disease resistance. So consistent that it is the leading commercial variety in North America. If you want a proven strong performer look no further than Bluecrop. 

  • Nothern Highbush / 800 chill hours
  • mid season harvest
  • large berries
  • classic & sweet flavor
  • 4-6 feet, compact and mounding shape
  • red fall color
  • heavy fruit yield
 Pink Icing

Pink Icing

PINK ICING

This variety is great for both patio pots or in the landscape. Pink Icing flaunts colorful foliage with shades of pink, blue and green in spring, leaves then turn an iridescent turquoise come winter.

  • Southern Highbush / 500 chill hours
  • mid-season harvest
  • 3-4' tall, mounded shape
  • pink, blue green spring color then turquoise in winter
  • great for containers and landscape

NORTHLAND

Bred and developed over 50 years ago at Michigan State University to be the most cold-hardy blueberry variety. Northland is easy to grow and adaptable to many different soil types. The berries are excellent for jams and baking because of their high sugar content and are known for their amazing flavor with characteristics that are more akin to the wild lowbush species than the other highbushes. 

  • Northern Highbush / 800 chill hours
  • early-mid season harvest
  • medium-sized berries
  • fresh & sweet flavor
  • 4-7 feet, upright shape
  • yellow and orange fall color
  • perfect for baking
 Patriot

Patriot

PATRIOT

A great cold-hardy variety that bears consistent crops even in wetter soils. Has one of the most low and spreading forms of any Northern Highbush. Patriot has excellent ornamental qualities with its showy white blooms in spring, dark-green summer foliage and fiery orange-red fall colors, making it great in the landscape and in containers. 

  • Northern Highbush / 950 chill hours
  • early season harvest
  • large berries
  • delicate & sweet flavor
  • 3-5 feet, open and spreading shape
  • red, orange and yellow fall color
  • great for containers

 

Our berries are fruiting now, come in and make your selection today! 

 

Peppers: Hot & Sweet

Lauren Brookhart

This year we have a wide selection of various hot and sweet peppers at the nursery, and this weekend we're celebrating our biggest pepper stock of the season! Hurry in and pick some up today, but first, keep reading and learn what peppers you don't want to miss according to Randall, our Bedding Manager! 

Sweet Peppers

 'Cubanelle' Sweet Pepper

'Cubanelle' Sweet Pepper

In the United States, the term "sweet pepper" encompasses a wide variety of mild peppers that, like the chilie, belong to the Capsicum family. Both sweet and hot peppers are native to tropical areas of the Western Hemisphere. Sweet peppers can range in color from green, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown to black. Their usually juicy flesh can be thick or thin and flavors can range from bland to sweet to bittersweet.

A sweet pepper's Scoville scale is 0 and therefore doesn't bring any spice or heat to your palate, just wonderful texture and flavor! (What's the Scoville scale? Read on to learn!)

The best known sweet peppers are the bell peppers, so-named for their rather bell-like shape. They have a mild, sweet flavor and crisp, exceedingly juicy flesh. When young, the majority of bell peppers are a rich green, but there are also yellow, orange, purple, red, and brown bell peppers. The red bells are simply vine-ripened green bell peppers that, because they've ripened longer, are very sweet. In cooking, they find their way into a variety of dishes and can be sauteed, baked, grilled, braised and steamed. Sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain fair amounts of calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Hot Chiles

  'Santa Fe Grande' Pepper

'Santa Fe Grande' Pepper

One of the wonders that Christopher Columbus brought back from the New World was a member of the Capsicum genus, the chile. Now this pungent pod plays an important role in the cuisines of many countries including Africa, China (Szechuan region), India, Mexico, South America, Spain, and Thailand. There are more than 200 varieties of chiles, over 100 of which are indigenous to Mexico. They vary in length from a huge 12 inches to a 1/4" pewee. Some are long, narrow and no thicker than a pencil while others are plump and globular.

Their heat quotient varies from mildly warm to mouth-blistering hot. As a general rule, the larger the chile the milder it is. Small chiles are much hotter because, proportionally, they contain more seeds and veins than larger specimens. Those seeds and membranes can contain up to 80 percent of a chili's capsaicin, the potent compound that gives chiles their fiery nature. Since neither cooking nor freezing diminishes capsaicin's intensity, removing a chile's seeds and veins is the only way to reduce its heat. After working with chiles, it's extremely important to wash your hands thoroughly, failure to do so can result in painful burning of the eyes or skin (wearing rubber gloves will remedy this problem). Chiles are a rich source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium and vitamin E.

The Scoville Scale

The Scoville scale measures the "hotness" of a chile pepper or anything derived from chiles, including hot sauce. The scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active ingredient that produces that heat we feel when biting into a chile. The Carolina Reaper comes in at a whooping 1.4 to 2.2 million points while a common Jalapeno measures 2,500 to 8,000 points. How much heat can you handle?

Growing

Pepper love full sun and a regular watering. When the first blossoms open give the plants a light application of E.B. Stone Organics Tomato & Vegetable Food 4-5-3 to help them maintain healthy growth and an abundant harvest!

A Few of Our Favorites

When you stop in, don't miss a few of Randall, our Bedding Manager's favorite varieties...

'Cubanelle' Sweet Pepper - A new type for us, this is known as a "frying type" with 4-5" long, red peppers also great roasted, baked, stuffed and fresh.

'Grandpa's Favorite Jalapeno' Hot Pepper - 2" dark red peppers that are excellent fresh in salsa and salads, dried or pickled.

'Santa Fe Grande' Pepper - A long, thin-walled pepper with a spicy-hot flavor used dried in sauces and soups. 

In Memory of Dottie

Lauren Brookhart

 Dot at her 85th birthday party on November 3, 2006, pictured here with her granddaughter. 

Dot at her 85th birthday party on November 3, 2006, pictured here with her granddaughter. 

Our dear friend Dottie Ramos passed away on Thursday, April 19th surrounded by her loving family. She was a giant part of our Orchard family for so many years. Friend to all and Master Hugger, no one was a stranger to Dot, just a friend she had yet to know. No one had as many adventures as Dottie or stories to tell. She spread her magic at the Lazy K for many years.

We were all blessed to call her our friend, she will be greatly missed! 

 The Lazy K gals, including Dottie, back in 2006! 

The Lazy K gals, including Dottie, back in 2006! 

 Dancing the night away with our very own Marty Martinez.

Dancing the night away with our very own Marty Martinez.

 Excuse the photo quality, this was back in the 90's! Spot our Dot top row, second from left. 

Excuse the photo quality, this was back in the 90's! Spot our Dot top row, second from left. 

Here is a poem written by longtime Lazy K friend and customer, Jane Pettit, for Dottie's 85th birthday. 

 

Whoa Dottie! 

By Jane Pettit

Whoa Dottie - What a girl!
She’s a Lazy Kazy pearl!
A perfect lady everyday-
Well-dressed and coiffed-I. Magnin’s way

She knows your name and keeps a book-
Can tell you just the place to look...
For special presents on your list,
The ones you may have surely missed.

Whoa Dottie-What a girl!
She’s a Lazy Kazy pearl!

Of course, we’ll gift wrap she will say-
We’d LIKE to-just go on and pay up front...
And while we’re busy back here wrappin
You’ll buy more things- it OFTEN happens!

The Queen of jewels-She sells a bunch...
Or a hostess gift to take to lunch..
A wedding present for the bride,
She’ll be the perfect retail guide.

Whoa Dottie - What a girl!
She’s a Lazy Kazy pearl!

Need a hand towel? Need some soap?
In any crisis, Dot can cope-
She’s a winner through and through
When just the very best will do!

Have an issue, a RETURN!!
Don’t ask Dottie, you will learn,
But she will fix it- if she MUST..
Our customers in her do trust!

The ‘little shoppers’ always know,
That if they’re good and help Mom go,
Around the store-they’ll get a treat..
A chocolate dividend to eat!

Whoa Dottie - What a girl!
She’s a Lazy Kazy pearl!

Dot loves baseball, football, too,
Almost any sport will do,
But tennis IS the very best,
Unless she wins, there is no rest!

TLC is always flowing-
Her happy fan club just keeps growing,
With such a knack for names and faces,
Dottie’s surely going places!

Here’s to family, fun and friends,
A super year that never ends,
You’re 85-it’s just a number,
’Cause you just keep getting younger!

Whoa Dottie - What a girl!
She’s a Lazy Kazy pearl!

The Herb List

Lauren Brookhart

Each Spring, we bring in an abundance of herb varieties for your to choose from. Whether you're looking for Sweet Basil to make a classic pesto sauce (one of the best Basils to use!) or something a little more unusual, we've got it!

Check out more information on each herbs including growing habits and pairings below and visit us for garden-fresh herbs today!