Patsy Bell is a garden writer and Master Gardener Emeritus. She inherited her love of gardening from her grandmother and mother. Her favorite flower is whatever is blooming now. Her favorite season is whatever is next.

Recent Blog Posts

Sep 12
Kitchen Herb Bouquets  

Mar 19
The Legend of the Dogwood Tree  

Jan 29
Grow a Mary Garden   (2 comments)

Sep 17
Fried Green Tomatoes - Last Crop of the Season  




Kitchen Herb Bouquets
by Patsy Bell Hobson - posted 09/12/14

It's time to gather up herbs for the winter.  Always keep herb cuttings in a vase or jar on the kitchen table. I'm much more likely to use a chifronade of basil on the Insalada Caprese or a sprig of dill on the roasted lemon pepper salmon, if it is within reach.

The basil's days are numbered. With the least hint of frost, basil will curl up and die. So, gather up vases or jars full of herb cuttings. I only have tree kinds of basil growing in the vegetable garden this year.

What to do with

  • Lots of Basil - Make pesto (recipe)
  • Plenty of Basil - Make herb vinegar
  • Basil cuttings or springs - Make your favorite basil scented dishes. Pizza Mahgarita, Bruchetta, sliced tomatoes and basil.

Cut a few fresh herb sprigs everyday to have the freshest herbs before the first frost.


2/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts*, toasted
6cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Blanch to preserve the color and flavor of basil. Fill a large mixing bowl with ice water. Blanch basil leaves by plunging in salted, boiling water. Immediately dip leaves into ice water. Pat leaves dry on paper or cotton towels.

In a blender or food processer, combine toasted nuts, basil leaves and garlic until well-mixed. As machine is running, drizzel oil into the processor. Continue to blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in grated cheese if using right away.


To freeze, fill an ice-cube tray for individual portions. Or scoop out into tablspoon portions on a plate and freeze. When frozen, store posrtions in a ziplock freezer bag.

When ready to use, defrost for 30 minutes at room temperature then mix in cheese.


* Try locally grown nuts instead of pine nuts. For example, where I live, pecans are readily available. I use toasted pecans instead of pinenuts.


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The Legend of the Dogwood Tree
by Patsy Bell Hobson - posted 03/19/14

At one time the dogwood tree, know for it's hard wood, grew tall and straight. The tree was chosen as the wood used to build the cross used to crucify Jesus. This horrible act shamed the dogwood tree.

Sensing the tree's sadness and shame, the Lord told the tree it would never be used for such a purpose again. Today, the dogwood small tree grows small, thin and has crooked branches.

The flower of the dogwood tree represents the cross of Jesus' crucifixion. Two petals are longer and two petals are shorter, much like the wooden cross.

At the edge of each petal is a small round hole, representing the holes made by the nails of the cross. Dark with the blood, the center of the flower represents the crown of thorns.

The Legend of the Dogwood may simply be a legend and no more. It could be a beautiful illustration for a bible school lesson. Or, perhaps, it is just an Easter time remembrance.

If you have big old shade trees, you may still be able to grow a dogwood. As a native tree, we most often spot it in the springtime growing as an under story or second tier tree. It thrives at the edges of the woods and in the dappled sunlight beneath the taller trees. The shelter of your house can serve the same purpose for the little dogwood.

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Grow a Mary Garden
by Patsy Bell Hobson - posted 01/29/13

A “Mary Garden” is a garden honoring the Virgin Mary. Mary Gardens, devoted and designed to honor Mary, are created by their design or the choice of flowers. Many plants and flowers have names relating to Mary. For example, Mary's slippers, Mary's Tears and Mari-golds.

Gardeners who grow Mary Gardens know the beautiful legend of sage. The legend of sage says that when Mary and her child were fleeing from Herod, no other plant would give her shelter but Sage. Virgin Mary told the Sage plant, “From now to eternity you will be the favorite flower of mankind. I give you the power to heal man of all illness and save him from death as you have done for me.”

As you plan your spring herb garden, consider this hardy perennial sage (Salvia officinalis). I grow it as a culinary herb, using it’s grey-green foliage fresh or dried. The blue-purple flower spikes attract pollinating bees to the garden.

In the Renaissance, some people claimed that sage cured epilepsy, insomnia, measles, seasickness and worms. Today, it is valued as a medicinal, culinary, and ornamental herb. A friend swears by sage tea as a sore throat remedy. An old French term for rosemary is incensier - incense.

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