Distressed Pumpkins

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Pumpkins are such a versatile fruit! They can be eaten, carved, decorated, or simply displayed. They conjure warm thoughts of harvest, autumn, and yummy pies, and are the quintessential icon of Halloween. This year we want to keep our pumpkins around beyond Halloween and into late fall, so we are decorating instead of carving them. We love the way distressed furniture invokes a farmhouse feel, so we’re transferring that look to our decorated pumpkins.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pumpkins with ridges
  • Spray paint primer
  • Gold, silver mirror-, or metallic paint
  • Gray or white, flat, latex paint
  • Water
  • Paint brush
  • Rag
  1. Thoroughly clean pumpkins and allow to dry.
  2. Spray pumpkins with primer in a well-ventilated area, coating entire surface. Be sure to protect surrounding area from over-spray. Allow primer to dry for recommended amount before proceeding to next step.img_1381
  3. Spray metallic paint according to label instructions and allow to dry at least 24 hours in a well-ventilated area.img_1385
  4. Using paint brush, apply one coat of gray or white, flat, latex paint to entire surface. Allow to dry for 30 minutes.painted pumpkin
  5. Using a damp cloth, wipe away portions of the paint to allow metallic paint to show through. Wipe away paint until desired effect is achieved. The more paint you wipe away, the more metallic paint will show.img_1399img_1404

We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

5 Tips for Long-Lasting Pumpkins

pumpkin carving

Autumn is here, and nothing says October like “pumpkin”—pumpkin lattes, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin ravioli, and roasted pumpkin seeds. In addition to delicious food dishes, there are so many creative ways to decorate pumpkins for fall, and I feel inspired!  (Speaking of pumpkin decorations—did you know that the Jack O’Lantern came from an Irish myth? In the myth, Jack put an ember in a hollowed-out turnip, and he became known as “Jack of the Lantern” which was shortened to Jack O’Lantern over time. The full story can be found inside our carving pumpkin seed packets along with other facts and organic gardening tips.) No matter what your creative inspiration, here are some tips to enjoy your creations longer.

  1. Choose your pumpkin carefully. A soft stem, nicks, or bruises are indications that they may have started rotting, so these pumpkins will not hold up as long.
  2. Decorate pumpkins. Painted, glittered, and stenciled pumpkins are beautiful and hold up much longer than carved pumpkins. Painting pumpkins is a creative, interactive, and fun project for your “little pumpkins”, too!
  3. Carve only a few days ahead: All carved pumpkins look their best in the first three days, so schedule your carving party accordingly. Keep carved pumpkins clean and sanitized to prevent mold from taking over. Soaking your carved pumpkin in a diluted bleach solution has proven to be the most effective method for keeping a carved pumpkin fresh and rot-free for a full week (possibly a little longer). Read our article for more tips on this method: Keeping Carved Pumpkins Fresh.
  4. Do nothing. Really! For carved pumpkins, several so-called remedies like glue and hairspray actually cause mold to build up more quickly than doing nothing. An all-natural pumpkin can last up to a week, too, although the carving may shrivel a little bit (a great asset for a spooky, witch face carving!).
  5. Be sure to bring pumpkins inside (carved or not) if the temperatures drop below freezing, as they could be damaged.

Inspire us! We would love to see your pumpkin photos! Enter them in our photo contest for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Botanical Interests online.

Herb Salt

herb salt cilantro

We’ve recently discovered herb salts as savory, mouth-watering additions to recipes, and also as an ingenious way to prolong the life of fresh herbs. Salt preserves the herbs, and the herbs infuse the salts, making a flavor combo you can’t resist. Try herb salts on meats, roasted vegetables, popcorn, garlic bread, and even in your cocktails! With the holidays around the corner, you’ll want this new ingredient in your culinary arsenal.

Ingredients
3 cups loosely packed, fresh herbs
½ cup coarse salt

Directions
1.      Wash and dry herbs thoroughly.
2.      Either pulse herbs and salt in a food processor (careful not to create a paste), or finely chop herbs and salt together with a knife.

Store your herb salt in a glass jar in the fridge. Shake periodically over 7 to 10 days while flavors blend. Herb salts will last about 6 months or longer in the refrigerator.

Blend ideas:

Italian blend: Basil, oregano, parsley, and salt
Summer blend: Dill, parsley, and salt
Thanksgiving blend: Sage, thyme, parsley, and salt
Salsa blend: Cilantro and salt
Bloody Mary blend: Celery leaves and salt

As you can see, the possibilities are endless!

Parsley Italian Dark Green Flat

Thyme English

Sage Garden Broadleaf OrganicDill Bouquet Organic

Pumpkin on a Stick Bouquet

Pumpkin on a stick

Few people will guess what type of plant it is, but everyone loves the cute, pumpkin-shaped fruits of ornamental eggplant. When added to a fall floral bouquet, Pumpkin on a Stick makes a striking statement that will surely be a conversation piece!

First, decide which fall color scheme you’d like to use, and choose foliage and flowers that complement each other. We’ve chosen a classic autumnal palette with hues of red, burgundy, yellow, orange, and brown.

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To create your fresh floral arragment you’ll need:

  1. Using pruning sheers, cut floral and foliage stems to desired length. We cut the stems for the center of the vase longer and the stems for the outer edge of the vase shorter.
  2. Remove all foliage that would sit below the water line in vase.
  3. Fill 1/3 of the vase with room-temperature, clean water.
  4. Distribute foliage and flowers evenly throughout the vase. Avoid large clumps of the same type.
  5. Replace water, and cut ½” from stems every other day.

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We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Heirloom Tomato Sauce

When your garden tomatoes get into high gear and start producing, start saucing! We used heirloom tomatoes in this recipe, creating more color and flavor diversity. We enjoy Black Krim, Brandywine, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Pineapple, and Oxheart, but any tomato will make delicious sauce.

Ingredients:

5 lbs. fresh heirloom tomatoes
2 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup sweet peppers, finely chopped (like Italian Marconi)
1/8 cup mild to medium hot peppers, finely chopped (like Hungarian Wax – optional)
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried oregano leaf
1 1/2 tbs. honey, agave, or sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice or red wine vinegar
black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.Using a paring knife, gently cut out the top of your tomatoes, where the stem was connected to the fruit.

heirloom tomato

2. Slit an “X” into the bottom of each tomato, and drop them into boiling water in batches. In about 60 to 90 seconds (larger tomatoes may take a bit longer), the skins will begin to wrinkle and split. Remove tomatoes and plunge into ice water, allowing them to soak for another 60 to 90 seconds. Remove from ice water and gently peel skins away from the tomato.

heirloom tomatoes

3. Using a blender or food processor, pulse the skinned tomatoes to the consistency that you prefer (chunky or smooth).

4. Pour the tomato sauce and the garlic and peppers in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, adding remaining ingredients as it heats.

heirloom tomato sauce

 

5. Reduce the sauce to almost half, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes.

6. Allow your sauce to cool, and continue to thicken before using or freezing. Tomato sauce can stay fresh up to a week in the refrigerator or up to several months if frozen.

Broom Corn Door Swag

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Broomfield, Colorado, the home of Botanical Interests, was named after the broom corn plant around 1900 when a lot of farmland was devoted to growing it. Brooms were traditionally made from the straw-like fibers after stripping off the seeds. ‘Broom Corn’ is not related to corn, but is actually a sorghum, a member of the grass family. Instead of growing tassels and ears, it is topped by richly colored shiny seeds.

This year, we grew a patch of broom corn in our trial garden. It performed beautifully and produced plentiful tassels. Instead of making a broom, we made a fall-inspired door swag that will greet guests with the hues of fall and the wonder of harvest.

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To create your broom corn door swag, you’ll need the following:

  • Several tassels of broom corn
  • Thick gauge wire
  • Wired ribbon (we used two colors)
  • Garden sheers
  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors
  • Door knocker or hook for hanging
  1. Using garden sheers, cut broom corn stalks from plants to desired length. We cut ours to about 18″ from the tips of the tassels to the end of the stalks.
  2. Using thick gauge wire, tie tassels of broom corn together leaving at least 6″ of wire. You will use the extra wire to attach the swag to a door knocker or hook.
  3. Dry the broom corn by hanging the bunches upside-down for at least two weeks.
  4. Gently lay broom corn stalks on a flat surface and tie a bow around the stalks. We used two ribbons for a two-layered bow. Using a wired ribbon helps the bow keep its shape.
  5. Using excess wire, attach your swag to a door knocker or hook.

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We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Extend your season with containers

container gardening - vegetables

Apples are ripening, mornings are cool, and weeds have slowed, which is natures’ way of telling me that frost is only a few weeks away. As fall approaches, vegetable gardeners are sowing their last cool season crops, ordering garlic for planting in the next month or so, and hoping for a long, moderate fall, so the harvest will continue.

If you don’t have a cold frame or row cover, sowing some cool season veggies in containers is just about the easiest way to extend your season. Manageable containers can be moved to a protected area if frost threatens. Cool season crops thrive in cooler weather and so are the ideal varieties to sow in containers. “Days to maturity” is helpful information, but when growing cool season crops in the fall when the days are shorter and cooler, growth slows, and maturity may take longer, so quick-maturing varieties are a good choice.

Today I sowed some easy-peasy Farmer’s Market Blend mesclun lettuce seed tape, and cute-as-button, round, small Tona di Parigi carrots in some long, window box-style containers. Usually, sowing carrots in containers isn’t recommended, but these small, ball-type heirloom carrots don’t need nearly as much root space as other carrots. They also look adorable at Thanksgiving dinner! My window box containers are light enough for me to move indoors and out for cooler weather if I need to, and also, big enough to keep in moisture. Both of the varieties I sowed can handle a light frost (down to 28°F), but if I am concerned, I can just push these containers up against the house and there is enough radiant heat to keep them warm. Hard freezes (below 28°F) will prompt me to bring them into a garage, porch, or shed for more protection. After being indoors overnight, the soil holds some warmth, and so most of the time, the following morning I can just push these back outside to get fresh air and sunshine before heading off to work. Frost tolerance varies among species, so we wrote a frost tolerance article to offer some guidelines.

Here are some tips on choosing or mixing container soil and choosing a container.

I am an optimist at heart, and at this time of year especially, it shows, or should I say it sows! I sow seeds like frost may never come, because though it may be late, I may continue to bring fresh veggies to our table into late fall. Even if the seeds don’t germinate in fall, I often see them as the first, delicious green things up in spring, so my efforts still pay off.

Happy sowing and harvesting, everyone! Share your late season sowing tips with us!

Carrot Tonda di Parigi   Lettuce Mesclun Farmer's Market Blend

 

Sun Prints

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Turn your blooms and foliage into permanent works of art by making sun prints!

Sun prints capture the imprinted shadow of foliage and blooms on a piece of paper that can be framed and displayed long after the garden has entered the compost bin.

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To create your sun prints, you’ll need the following:

  • Light-sensitive paper (we used Sunprint paper)
  • Acrylic or glass sized to fit paper
  • A full basin of water
  • Paper or cloth towel
  • Foliage and blooms (We used zinnia blooms and cosmo foliage.)
  1. In a low-light area away from the sun, arrange foliage and blooms on the light-sensitive paper.

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2. Place the acrylic or glass on top of the blooms and foliage to flatten them and hold them in place to be printed. Apply enough pressure to flatten but not damage the foliage and blooms.

3. Take the paper, plants, and acrylic/glass outside and place in direct sunlight for 2 to 5 minutes. If it’s cloudy, the process can take between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the clouds.

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4. Rinse just the paper in the basin of water. You will see the silhouette show up in 1 to 5 minutes.

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5. Lay sun print flat on a paper or cloth towel to dry.

Frame your sunprint and display! We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Botanical “Outback” (out back in the trial garden)

BI Trial GardenWe love what we do. We love to “play” in the dirt, and watch things grow, reveling in the fact that a cucumber was produced by a tiny seed we tucked into the ground; marveling at the beauty of a blossom from a seed that we casually scattered about in the joy of spring.

To ensure that the seeds we offer are keeping up to our standards, and producing the best specimens, we have trial gardens. One trial garden is right in back of our warehouse in Broomfield, Colorado, where we can keep a close eye on the progress of our gardening endeavors. Many of our employees have been known to sneak out there for a quick, refreshing encounter with nature.

The broomcorn is “high as an elephant’s eye”, as Brandon from our marketing department is demonstrating.
HollyhockWatchman
The Watchman hollyhock with its stunning color is a sight to behold.
SunflrTeddyBear
We wonder how many people don’t know that sunflowers can be this cute. This is “Teddy Bear”, a dwarf, fully double charmer.
Alyssum
Sweet Allure Pastel Blend alyssum is happy as can be in this hot spot. There must be hundreds of blooms.
Zinnia Thumbelina
This is an eye-popping patch of Thumbelina zinnias. They are so prolific, you can’t even tell that we’ve been cutting them for bouquets.
gourd
The birdhouse gourds have spilled over the garden wall and are returning the parking lot to paradise!
PoppiesMission bells
Mission Bells California poppies are especially delightful with their silky petals waving in the breezes.
HyacinthBean
Hyacinth bean pods are really this brilliant! They are excellent as an enhancement to cut flower bouquets, especially white and blue flowers.
Nicotiana Peace Pipe
Indian Peace Pipe nicotiana is an unusual, eye-catching plant with its huge leaves and most interesting flower stalks.
Flower Mat
We are so pleased with the Sunshine Flower Mix flower mat, which we grew in our container trial garden. So many beautiful blossoms; so little effort!
Bulb Companions
Bulb Companions Flower Mix—gorgeous blooms, excellent for covering up browning bulb leaves.

 

Green Bean Fries

gREEN BEAN FRIESOne of the best vegetables fresh from the garden is green beans. They are also surprisingly versatile in the kitchen. This recipe delivers on crunch and keeps the beans crisp, too!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1–2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola or olive oil (may use more depending on number of batches)

DIRECTIONSgreen bean fries

  1. Pour flour into a plate, 2 eggs in another plate or bowl (lightly scramble), and breadcrumbs in another plate or bowl.
  2. Toss beans in flour, shake off excess.
  3. Dip into egg mixture to fully coat beans.
  4. Toss beans into breadcrumbs, completely covering.
  5. Over medium heat, cover bottom of frying pan with oil.
  6. Add breaded green beans and fry until lightly browned. Turn over after 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Salt to taste.
  7. Repeat step 6, wiping pan and using new oil for every batch.

Serve with our garlic aioli!

0004p_Bean-Bush-Blue-Lake-274   BEAN BUSH FERRARI