Growing herbs has many rewards. But joining the Thymly Herb Group — a local organization that meets in Ballston Spa — has even more.
Members go on field trips, share recipes that use herbs, visit each other’s gardens and, each month from fall to spring, either bring in a guest speaker or invite a member to talk about a particular herb.
I often hear from readers that they have grown an herb garden but don’t know what to do with the bounty. Here’s an opportunity to join 35 other enthusiasts and learn.
Orrelle Cruver has been a member for more than 20 years. She said you don’t need to know about herbs to join. “We welcome everyone,” the past president of the group said.
Thymly Herb Group
WHAT: A gardening club that focuses on herb.
WHERE: 4-H building at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Training center, 556 Middle Line Road, Milton.
WHEN: Starting Sept. 21, meetings are held the third Monday of the month at 10 a.m.
HOW MUCH: annual dues are $10.
I visited Cruver’s garden recently and was delighted with how she used the foundation of an old silo as a flower bed to hold part of her herb garden. The result was as colorful as any blooming border and very useful.
There were bright yellow-orange calendula, which can be used to make skin creams; borage, which has a purple flower that looks lovely frozen inside an ice cube; and an abundance of artemesias, which Cruver has used to make dried wreaths. In addition, culinary herbs such as oregano, coriander, thyme, parsley, Egyptian onion, rosemary, sage, basil and tarragon grow in her garden. Other herbs present include: lavender, lady’s bedstraw, lemon balm, orris root, anise hyssop, echinacea, mallow, yarrow and lots of feverfew.
“This is costmary,” Cruver said, adding that is also known as bible leaf because people used it as a bookmark in their bibles. If they found the preacher’s sermon to be a little lengthy and their attention waning, they would pinch the leaf under their nose and the fragrance would keep them awake, the gardener said.
This garden is relatively new, but the plants are not. Cruver and her husband built a new home on part of their farm property. Once they moved into the new house, Orrelle hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of those herbs and perennials she couldn’t leave behind.
She moved hundreds of plants. “I lost weight that summer,” she said with a chuckle.
Most herbs enjoy full sun. But there are herbs suitable for the shade, such as sweet woodruff — one of the ingredients for May wine — and pulmonaria, whose spotted leaves resemble lungs and thus it’s common name lungwort. There was a belief, spread by Jakob Bohme around 1600, called the Doctrine of Signatures, that if the plant bore resemblance to a body part, it might have medicinal benefit for that part. As a result there are plants called bloodroot for their red root and liverwort, which has leaves that look like a liver.
There’s a lot to know about herbs. And it’s fun to know the stories behind the plants. Learning how to use them also adds to the gardening experience.
Past programs at the Thymly Herb Group meetings have included the making of bouquet garni for soups and stews. At each meeting, an herb is discussed and refreshment served. Members also hold a plant sale among themselves where for 50 cents to a dollar, you can buy “some very good herbs,” Cruver said.
On Sept. 21, the group will be resume meeting — they don’t hold meetings in the summer. Meetings are held the third Monday of the month at 10 a.m. in the 4-H building at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Training center, 556 Middle Line Road in the town of Milton.
The group maintains an herb garden there and is in the process of creating a period garden for the Brookside museum in Ballston Spa. “The 4-H garden is a teaching garden,” Cruver said.
“It is a good group for the experienced or the novice. I wish I had joined it sooner,” Cruver added.
If you are interested in learning more about the Thymly Herb Group, “come to a meeting,” current president Mary Englehart suggested. If you enjoy the meeting, annual dues are $10.