September 24, 2023

The Elizabethan Gardens

Did you know the honey bee is the state insect of North Carolina?

If you're ever in coastal North Carolina, I highly recommend visiting the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island. Even when not in full bloom the grounds are really unique, with pops of color and lots of interesting things to see.

The Gate House is where visitors enter the garden. Though at the tail end, the crepe myrtles bloom for 101 days out of the year. The dark pink and red seem to be the ones that bloom this late in the year.

Let it Bee tee, $32
The gift shop has a collection of "inspired by nature" pottery by a local artist, Amy Gentry. She must be a keeper because all her pieces were bee-themed. There are also things not-for-sale, like the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, oil on panel, circa 1592. Seems like a 431-year-old painting should be in a museum, but you'll find it along with other period antiquities in the gate house.
Small skep candles, $8

Tea lights, $5

Dedicated area for Plant Sales

Though they sell native and pollinator plants, I didn't find anything for my tiny home garden. Inside the greenhouses, I found some nice "Tineke" rubber trees and String of Bananas succulents. 

String of Bananas is a good-for-beginners and travelers houseplant.

Bumble bee inside a "Starry Night" swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), a cold-hardy perennial wetland plant.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Pentas, which guarantee visits by butterflies and hummingbirds, too.
a foolproof way of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies, too.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Penta Plants: How To Care For Pentas
a foolproof way of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies, too.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Penta Plants: How To Care For Pentas

Marble sculpture of Virginia Dare (carved in 1859) in an old-growth forest of oaks, underplanted with impatients.
In case you don't know who Virginia Dare is, born in 1857 she was the first child born in what would become the United States. The colony vanished mysteriously, and the statue is the artist's conception of what she might have looked like if she had grown up. She's wearing a fishing net, and the laces of an Indian princess around her neck and arms.
The Grandiflora is a result of crossing a Floribunda with a hybrid tea rose, and is often considered to be the most popular variety of rose. One of the first roses to be classified as a Grandiflora was the 'Queen Elizabeth' in 1954.

Construction of the Elizabethan Gardens began in 1953, on the date Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England. The Queen’s Rose Garden was dedicated in honor of HRH in 1976. In 1984, she recognized the historical significance of Roanoke Island on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of English explorers, and later gifted the Gardens a 'Queen Elizabeth' Grandiflora from the Royal Rose Gardens at Windsor Castle.

🤦🏼 What's wrong with this sign?
Fun Fact: The common eastern bumble bee is distinctive as the only bumble bee with a single yellow stripe at the top of its abdomen. The rest of the abdomen is completely black.
Statues center each of the four quadrants of parterres.
An ancient Italian fountain is the focal point of the Sunken Garden, which consists of 32 identical parterres. Clipped dwarf yaupon hollies surround an ever changing display of annual flowers, set low in the hedges to beg a closer look. There are cast and marble statues throughout the 10-acre garden.
An ancient oak, believed to have been living when the first Roanoke colonists arrived in 1585; butterfly house in the background.
April through September, the Gardens host butterfly releases, the $25 cost of which includes admission and a butterfly.
The wellhead has a water bubbler in it, but there are biting insects at the Gardens so it is good to bring insect repellent with you.

The Mount, centered with a carved Porphyry marble wellhead, serves as an axis from which four paths radiate out towards the Sunken Garden, Virginia Dare statue and main path of the Gardens.

Camellia oversees the plant sales.
Even with spending some time oceanside (hoping to spy a sea turtle like the one posted in a Google review), it took under two hours to explore the entire garden. I imagine it would take 3-4 if there were actually flowers to look at, and forget it if there were bees! Have you been? Where should we go next?

August 28, 2023

Beeswax Wraps & 3 DIY tips that work!

DIY beeswax wraps that work! A 5" wrap covers a Oui jar perfectly. A 7" wrap is more than ample for an 8-ounce ramekin.
Determined to make a substitute for plastic cling wrap and foil, today's post is to share some things I've learned from making beeswax wraps. In case you've got the crazy idea to make your own, too, I hope I can save you some trouble.

Tip #1: Wraps made with pure beeswax alone are brittle and don't cling at all. If you're a beekeeper with a Warré Hive, they are fantastic between the top bars and quilt!

Tip #2: A little oil provides flexibility. The wraps bend without cracking but don't cling, so you need to make large wraps to cover medium things and medium wraps to cover small things. Think of a wax/oil version as a foil substitute. It's bendy and holds its shape but it doesn't cling to your dishes. Stay away from cooking oils with short shelf lives. I like meadowfoam, which is a North American native wildflower. It has a longer shelf life than jojoba oil, and I can use a tad less oil.

Tip #3: Resin is what puts the cling in DIY cling wrap. If you're wondering about using propolis, the resin-like substance made by bees, at the amount needed to create cling it imparts a strong odor and bitter taste to wrapped items. Invest in pine resin in powder form; chunk form takes too long to melt and degrades your wax/oil. A 1-pound bag of pine resin will make about 12 dozen wraps. (If you find a smaller bag for less than $15, please let me know!)

If you're ready to embark on making your own, my formulation makes an extra sticky blend for beeswax wraps that actually work! I'm providing volume measurements for convenience but, especially if small-batch crafting, I highly recommend a quality digital scale like a MyWeigh, which is accurate to a tenth of a gram.

DIY Beeswax Wraps Recipe

Makes ~(5) 12"x12" wraps.

60 g. beeswax (about 1/2 c. pastilles)
20 g. pine resin (about 2 1/2 Tbsp.)
12 g. jojoba (1 Tbsp) oil

Melt everything together using a water bath, stirring until completely blended. I use a milk frothing pitcher set in a small sauce pot over medium heat, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to make sure the resin is completely dissolved. The resin sinks to the bottom, so you'll know it's fully dissolved when you don't feel your stirring tool dragging anymore. Double-check that there aren't globs stuck to your stirrer, though.

Resin needs a good amount of heat to melt. Maintain a simmer.
Instead of brushing the liquid mixture onto fabric, I pour it thinly into molds. Once set, I pop out a few wafers and iron them into fabric that's in-between pieces of parchment paper. You want to barely saturate the fabric, but if you put on too much just use the iron to push the excess out past the fabric edges (but still inside the parchment sheets). Using the next piece of fabric to absorb it, it's almost zero waste and cleanup is a breeze. This is especially why I love the wafer/iron method.

A "cake mold" like this one is about $9 on Amazon. Clean each well with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol for a polished finished piece.

Beeswax Wraps Wafers

Quick to melt, three wafers will treat a large piece of tight-weave fabric. My first beeswax wraps were made out of an old but high-quality cotton percale pillowcase, upcycling at its best. 

An old pillowcase works really well, but quilting squares or fat quarters are cuter.
I prefer to treat the fabric and cut it to size afterward, which minimizes fraying. Use pinking shears if you have them.
It's easy to pinch pieces off the wafers, to ensure even coverage. You move the pools of wax with your iron so you don't have to be perfect or precise. (Be sure to place a piece of parchment paper underneath and on top.)

Because my friends say things like, "You should sell these on Etsy,"

If you'd rather not spend $15 for resin and make 144 wraps, then these ready-to-use waxing wafers are for you! If you have year-old wraps that have lost their stickiness and need a refresh, these waxing wafers are for you! Or if you have beeswax wraps that weren't sticky enough in the first place, these waxing wafers are for you!

My Beeswax Wraps Waxing Wafers are four for $3 (plus cost to mail). Four wafers will make up to nine (9) wraps with plenty leftover for touch-ups. Depending on how you cut it, from one quilting square you can make:

  • three 7x7" (small) and two 10x13" (medium) wraps
  • 3 small, (1) 7x13" (rectangular medium), and (1) 13x13" (large) wrap
  • 3 small and 1 extra-large 13x20" wrap (perfect for covering a lasagna pan with handles)

Remember, you're not limited to squares or rectangles. I find rounds to be the most versatile. The cast-offs make terrific fire starters, and I mean terrific. 🔥 Or don't cut the quilting square at all, and sew it into a plastic-free baggie. The possibilities are endless. 

DIY Beeswax Wraps Waxing Wafers

BONUS TIP for making it to the end of this post: Making DIY, and indeed using, beeswax wraps is messy business. Rubbing alcohol will clean up drips and smudges, and hand sanitizer is your skin's best friend.