Rosemary Gladstar: Wild Gardening and Other Passions

Rosemary Gladstar's passion for nature and native plant conservation is an inspiration in gardening.

| May/June 2001

  • Photography by Saxon Holt
  • Photography by Saxon Holt
  • Photography by Saxon Holt

Editor’s note: The future of medicinal herbalism is inextricably linked with the people who have studied it, practiced it, defended it, and nurtured its growth. These personalities have added immeasurably to the richness of the field, attracting new practitioners and proponents, improving the science and refining the art of herbal practice. From time to time in Herbs for Health, we’ll bring you their stories. We hope you find them as inspiring as we do. 

Rosemary Gladstar of East Barre, Vermont, has been a role model and an inspiration for a generation of herbalists, as well as a driving force in herbal education. Many believe that she has done more to promote the spread of herbalism than anyone else in North America. She founded the California School of Herbal Studies in 1976; she is responsible for many herb symposiums held each year around the world; she is the founder and formulator of several herbal product companies; and she is a prolific and well-respected author. Rosemary is also the visionary behind United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving endangered medicinal plants.

When you first meet Rosemary Gladstar, it is almost impossible not to notice the wild nature spirit that is her center. She has a knowing sparkle in her eye and boundless enthusiasm. Few people can match her energy stride for stride or equal her passion for life.

In the northern forest, Rosemary has carved out an herbalist’s garden that is both civilized and wild. In fact, the casual observer might have difficulty discerning where the cultivated garden ends and the forest begins. Rosemary treasures the frontier between the cultivated garden and the untamed land surrounding it. This area where wild and domestic plants coexist displays a rich abundance and exceptional variety. Rosemary loves to witness the merging of nature and civilization and observe how they affect each other.

As an herbalist and a gardener, Rosemary is always aware of the tenuous thread by which a number of our native medicinal plants cling to their existence. She is greatly concerned with preserving our botanical heritage, and her garden includes as many endangered plants as space and climate will allow. In addition, Rosemary is one of the founders of UpS, an organization dedicated to the preservation of botanical diversity and the protection of endangered plant treasures.

Twelve years ago, Rosemary, a California native, found herself living on 500 acres in the beautiful forests of northern Vermont, horrified at the prospect of gardening in a place where the growing season doesn’t start until Memorial Day and usually ends around Labor Day. This land had not had a cultivated garden on it for as long as anyone could remember, and it was in a wild state. Growing here were some of Rosemary’s favorite botanical friends, including blue cohosh, clintonia, dog’s ear violet, and wild leek. Rosemary asked herself, “How could I do any better?” So for the first three growing seasons, Rosemary’s garden was sown and tended entirely by Mother Nature.

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