Down to Earth: A Garden for People Who Love Herbs

Get to know some of the best—and most memorable—herbal experts in the business.

| October/November 2008

It’s too bad there’s not an Herbalists’ Hall of Fame. There’s a Hall of Fame for baseball players and one for football stars—and Hollywood has its own Walk of Fame. These memorials are understandable because the people they honor doubtlessly have contributed great joy to millions of fans.

But what about herbalists? Why isn’t there a hall of fame for the people who have written the books, concocted the recipes and formulas, and brought joy to the herbal masses? 

To rectify this oversight, I have made my garden my personal Herbalists’ Hall of Fame. Instead of bronze plaques in a darkened, hushed museum, the very plants I grow represent the notables and greats of the herb world.

On the occasional moonlight walk through the garden, I can see Betty Wold—one of the wackiest, most creative and most curious plant ladies I have known—among my pastel buds. Betty convinced me of the importance of having white, pink and yellow flowering plants in my garden. Before Betty came along, I took no delight in the pastel shades of larkspur or hollyhock, and experienced no joy from white poppies and white baptisia. When I asked her why she thought pastels were important, she said, “Because whites, light yellows and pinks are the only colors that show up in the moonlight, and midnight picnics wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without them.”

A few steps along my culinary path brings me to my little rosemary collection and Madalene Hill. A plant of ‘Hill Hardy’ rosemary, discovered and named by her, stands in tribute to this great herbalist’s lifetime of wisdom. When she visited my garden several years ago, I told her how I envied her Texas climate and her ability to grow rosemary. “I just can’t grow it here,” I said.

Madalene responded with twinkling eyes, “You can grow rosemary here. You just don’t know what you’re doing wrong.” Then she told me how to keep my rosemary alive and well in my schizophrenic Ozarks Zone 6 climate.

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