The Herb Garden is divided into four quadrants, each for a specific purpose (culinary, tea/medicinal, fragrance, dye/craft), all bordered by a traditional Boxwood hedge. Just outside the boxwood hedge, we have an herbalist’s collection of shrubs including Bayberry Myrica pensylvanica, Alpine Current Ribes alpinum ‘Green Mound’ and Black Lace Elderberry Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’.
The culinary section of our herb garden includes a wide variety of both common and less common herbs to delight the taste palette. Because culinary herbs need to be harvested in their prime, which is before going into bloom, and do not last long without drying, dried herbs from the store became what people are most familiar with. As cooking once again becomes an art, people are realizing the value of fresh herbs. While grocery stores now carry a wide variety of herbs in their produce departments, fresh picked herbs are still superior.
Traditionally the herb garden doubled as a medicine cabinet. While some herbs were strictly medicinal, some, such as mint, were flavorful, too. Many herbs that were once commonly used for their healing properties are no longer considered safe for consumption. Amongst the medicinal herbs growing in our herb garden are Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis, Bee Balm Monarda didyma and Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea.
Today many products are sold to add fragrance to your home. Many of these scents are derived from scented herbs and serve a purpose, such as to calm and relax. At one time, fragrant herbs were dried and used to create sachets and dream pillows. One of the best known fragrant herbs, which is also grown in our herb garden, is Lavender. Other fragrant herbs grown in our herb garden are Calamint Calamintha spp., Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum and several different Scented Geraniums Pelargonium sp.
At one time, if one wanted their cloth to have color, the color had to come from plant dye, and the process was labor intensive. For years herbs have also been grown for craft projects and dried flower arrangements. Blue False Indigo Baptisia australis, Dyer’s Woad Isatis tinctoria and German Statice Goniolimon tartaricum are only a few of the herbs grown in the dye and craft quadrant of our herb garden.
Featured in the Herb Garden is a thyme bench, donated in 2006 by the Peoria Herb Guild. The bench was built by local stone mason, Danny Williams, using recycled materials from former Peoria buildings. Another feature of the Herb Garden is the Kinsey Sundial. In 1905, Lydia Kinsey donated the sundial in honor of her husband, Samuel Kinsey, who was president of the Park Board at that time. The Kinsey Sundial, originally located near the Palm House, was placed in storage after the Palm House was razed in 1951. In 1974, the sundial was placed on permanent display in the Herb Garden at Luthy Botanical Garden where it still stands today.