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The Herb Garden at the SA Botanical Garden:
A Lasting Friendship
A vote of the general membership to take over the tending of the Herb Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden as a regular, monthly project by the San Antonio Herb Society was taken on April 8, 2004. It was a resounding “yes”. It’s now April 2008, and it’s been four years since I started to work a regular shift at this patch of land.
I look with satisfaction on “our” Herb Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. It’s a long and rather narrow piece of land, backed by a tumble of climbing roses on a trellis wall, fronted by a jungle of larkspur, lilies, cosmos, gladioli, and alyssum: the Cottage Garden. If you take a seat on the wooden bench under the tree there, fronting our Herb Garden, you can gloat, as I do, on the healthy, mounded herbs: the oregano reaching over the stone border, the salad burnet and basils and comfrey and lovage and lemon verbena and cilantro and parsley and rue and fennel and aloe vera and thymes, and the wooly mullein and blue spikes of salvia standing to attention at the back. Scented geraniums spill over the two wooden whiskey barrels, which stand at the back of the herb patch. Lavender and mint and rosemary dot the well-tended and mulched ground. And comfrey—I have a special relationship with comfrey: suffice it to say that comfrey and I have drawn a truce; I have agreed not to cut it back too much and it has agreed not to spread too much. We’ll see if it keeps its side of the bargain.
In 2007 we “moved” the Herb Garden: left our old location of two separate plots ranged around a large magnolia tree to come to the present, sunnier spot between the Rose Garden and the Cottage Garden. This involved work by a great team of SAHS volunteers.
Now, we are finally getting signs to tell visitors to the Herb Garden what the individual herbs are. And soon, after a four-year battle, we will have a sign informing people that the San Antonio Herb Society takes care of this patch of blessed earth.
We have battled comfrey invasions in the old herb beds under the magnolia tree, stolen “our” rue plants from the Cottage Garden where they were planted (erroneously) as “cottage flowers”, and filled untold compost containers with weeds and invasive artemesia. We have answered questions about herbs put by visitors to the Botanical Garden, sweated in the heat and run from the rain, and enjoyed every minute of it. We now belong to that select group of people who, armed with gardening aprons, bottles of water, sun hats and tools, can walk in the main entrance to the garden, right past Eric at the cash register and out into the main courtyard, followed by Eric’s cry of “Good morning, ladies!” We know that we belong; we can go there any time, walk right in and, after checking on our Herb Garden, take a leisurely stroll around the rest of the place. See what the others have done. Voluntary, passionate workers for the longest time, we are now official: sometime this summer we will get our San Antonio Botanical Garden Volunteer t-shirts. (Actually, we prefer to wear our SAHS t-shirts—advertising, you know—but we don’t sneeze at the offer of an extra one.)
The list of SAHS helpers from these past years is long, and many have put in innumerable hours. In 2004 it was Mary Lee Estess, Cynthia Hodas, Polly Ruppert, Dorothy Dobbs, Gloria Mata, Adrienne Hacker, Madeleine Taub, Jackie Compere, Sondra Laxson, Veronica Gard, Joe-Beth Kirkpatrick, Jean Dukes, Mike Belisle, K. Smith, Janet Miller, Darla Cox, Carol-lee Fisher, Diane Lewis, and Diana Fox.
In 2005 it was Judy Abbey, Helga Anderson, Adrienne Hacker, Janet Miller, Rose Mary Michel, Marguerite Hartill, Veronica Gard, BJ DePhillips, Sondra Laxson, Jamie Jarosek Gonzales, Darla Cox, Dorothy Dobbs, Rosemary Kotrich, Mary Lee Estess, Louis Najera, Jackie Compere, Diane Lewis, Cynthia Jordan, Gloria Mata, Erika Lizzaraga, Cynthia Hodas, Jean Dukes, and Margaret Field.
In 2006 it was Gilma Alverson, Jackie Compere, Veronica Gard, Diane Gornom, Adrienne Hacker, Vanessa Helwig, Rosemary Kotrich, Sondra Laxson, Diane Lewis, Mary Ellen McCormick, Beth and Russ Patterson, Martha Rodriguez, Joyce Roberts, Polly Ruppert, and Madeline Taub.
In 2007 it was Helga Anderson, Gilma Alverson, Syeira Budd, Margaret Carrasco, Jackie Compere, Don Crites, Darla Cox, BJ DePhillips, Lorna Dressler, Carol-lee Fisher, Diana Fox, Veronica Gard, Jamie Jarosek Gonzalez, Adrienne Hacker, Marguerite Hartill, Sally Ann Hnatiuk, Estelle Kelly, Joe-Beth Kirkpatrick, Diane Lewis, Evelyn Penrod, Beth and Russ Patterson, Sheila Mangra, Robin Maymar, Rick McGowan, Rose Mary Michel, Janet Miller, Lenore Miranda, Linda Nairn, Sheryl Ranieri, Martha Rodriguez, Rukhsana Siddiki, Madeline Taub, and Clayton Woods.
I may have not listed your name, and I apologize now, if I have done that. Call me (210-930-1026) and complain—and volunteer for next month!
So far, in 2008, Diana Fox, Carol Hamling, Sally Ann Hnatiuk, Diane Lewis, Evelyn Penrod, Rose Mary Michel, Lenore Miranda, and I, as always, have worked at tending the Herb Garden, planting new plants and weeding out unwanted “volunteers”.
This month we plan to plant additional basils, dill, chamomile, chervil, chives, and mints. The garden is well mulched, which greatly reduces the number of weeds, and it is watered regularly. And it remains a favorite with Botanical Garden visitors.
Thank you to all the volunteers who have helped over the years! And thank you to the SAHS for realizing that this was a project worth adopting. It’s a credit to all of us but, particularly, to the volunteers named above, who have given so many hours to keep it so beautiful.