Horticulture and Botany

Rosemary vs. March - Successfully caring for your overwintered Rosemary Plants!

By Lynne Griffin, Vice Chairman WRHS




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If you are overwintering a Rosemary plant, March represents a critical period.  This herb has increased needs for both any fresh warm air available (above 40 degrees) and plenty of water.  Check the soil daily for moisture and add water as needed (this is not too much to ask as it is only temporary until frost is no longer imminent and your herb can be planted out in a garden location).  If the soil does dry out and your Rosemary begins to wilt, add a generous amount of water and check on it the next morning.  If it does not respond to watering and perk up, harvest as much of the Rosemary plant as possible before it dies and plan on purchasing a new one in the spring.

Rosemary plants can be set outdoors on warm spring days (temp. above 40 degrees in a protected, shady, calm site). It will need to be brought back inside overnight and anytime the temperature begins to drop.

Also, Rosemary is particularly susceptible to Powdery Mildew during the month of March. Powdery Mildew can be identified by the appearance of a powdery looking growth accumulating on it’s needles. This is due to the herb’s increased need for water and see saw periods of dryness and watering.  Again, checking the soil moisture daily with your fingertip can avoid this problem, but not always. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. Included is a recipe for Powdery Mildew that I have used successfully on Rosemary with this problem.

Anti-Powdery Mildew Recipe for Rosemary

1 Gallon water

2 Tablespoons Baking Soda

2 Tablespoons Salad Oil

Mix together and shake well.

Put into a spray bottle.

Shake well before each use.

Spray on affected areas weekly.

Sometimes you can do everything right, follow all instructions, utilize every tip and the Rosemary plant will die anyway. However, don’t give up yet, as there is a back up plan available!  Simply buy a new Rosemary plant from your favorite nursery and try again next year.

Experience is a great teacher!                      

March 2021 Herb of the Month ~ Viola Tricolor


By Sherry Schmidt ~ Western Reserve Herb Society~ Herb Scents Editor




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 “Perhaps no flower (not excepting even the queenly rose) claims to be so universal a favorite, as the viola tricolor; none currently has been honored with so rich a variety of names, at once expressive of grace, delicacy and tenderness”.

Dix, Dorothea Lynde. The garland of flora. S. G. Goodrich and Co. and Carter and Hendee, 1829.

Viola tricolor is a tiny 3-colored member of the Violaceae family.  As a result of its popularity, both in society and in Romantic poetry, it has acquired many common names, including Wild Pansy, Johnny Jump-up, Heartsease, Heart's Ease, Heart's Delight, Tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Come-and-cuddle-me, Three faces in a hood, Love-in-idleness, or Pink of my john.

This little plant is an herbaceous annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial wildflower found in lichen-dominated or meadow-like rocky outcrops, dry and sloping meadows, banks, fields, gardens, wastelands, sand fields, as well as seaside beaches.  It was brought to North America from Europe.


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Viola tricolor blooms spring through summer.  After blooming, the fertile flowers are replaced by seed capsules producing up to 50 seeds in each capsule making it spread easily, though it is not particularly aggressive.  When mature, the capsule will divide into 3 parts and the seed will be ejected.  The plants are hermaphroditic and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

A typical flower has violet or purple upper petals, white lateral petals and a yellow lower petal.  Several purple veins originate from the flower’s throat.  Its leaves have a variety of shapes.  The lower blades are cordate-ovate, or heart- to egg-shaped.  The middle and upper leaves are lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate (resembling a lance), rounded at the end and having parallel sides. 

The beautiful flowers of Viola tricolor have a mild pea flavor, which combines equally well with sweet or savory foods, such as grilled meats and steamed vegetables.  When newly opened, Viola flowers may be used to decorate salads.  Candied violets are the flowers preserved by a coating of egg white and crystallized sugar. Alternatively, hot syrup is poured over the fresh flower and stirred until the sugar recrystallizes and has dried.  Candied violets are still made commercially in Toulouse, France, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse. They are used for decorating cakes or trifles, or included in aromatic desserts.  The French are also known for their violet syrup.  Viola essence flavors the liqueurs Crème Yvette, Crème de Violette, and Parfait d'Amour.

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Viola tricolor has medicinal benefits.  It contains saponins (a naturally-occurring chemical compound), salicylates (a natural anti-inflammatory) and flavonoids (with powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties).  Herbal uses include the treatment of eczema and autoimmune diseases and as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, expectorant, capillary tonic, laxative and diuretic.  Topical applications are for cradle cap, diaper rash, weeping sores, itchy skin, varicose ulcers and ringworm.

This viola has many additional uses.  It supports Fritillary butterfly larvae.  The flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, long-tongued bees (Anaphora sp.), syrphid flies (Rhingia sp.), and butterflies.  Its flowers can be used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes.  The leaves can be used in place of litmus paper to test acidity or alkalinity.  Viola tricolor is also the progenitor of the cultivated garden pansy.

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In the language of flowers, Viola is a symbol of innocence, modesty, and decency by the allusion of its little corolla, which seems to hesitate to leave its casket of leaves.

What to do with all of that delightful Mint!

 By Bobbi Henkel - WRHS Garden Chair

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Peppermint is one of the easiest to grow and most versatile of the common kitchen herbs.  It gives back to your effort with its lovely green appearance and pretty little tufts of terminal racemes of flower spikes.   But, the fragrance and the taste potential give its most sought after delights.

Ease of growing:   Mint grows in full or partial sun, and can easily be started in pots on your patio, or placed into soil directly in places where you wouldn’t care if it spreads like wildfire.

It attracts pollinators and grows in lousy clay soil like my Ohio backyard,  but even better in some cultivated lovely loamy humus.  Even Miracle Grow.  Don’t let it dry out.  It loves moisture and is a frost-hardy perennial in zones 3-12.   And, if you’re worried and want it to produce even longer, bring it into your garage or porch over the winter.  My pots stay outdoors in Northern Ohio Winters and are about 5 years old so far.

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Fresh cut for flower bouquets:  The leaves are a pretty deep green growing off square stems that hold their shape easily.   You can mix them into black eyed Susans  and you have a sensual treat because of the fragrance and the colors.   The blooms appear at the terminus of the stems in little tufts of white or light pink or lavender.

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To use Peppermint freshly picked:  Choose small tender bright green leaves and pick whole stems.  Wash it under cold water and pat it dry with a towel.

Add a sprig to garnish a glass of lemonade or iced tea

Add small leaves to fruit salads:  cantaloupe, watermelon, berries with a squirt of lemon over them all.  Chill and serve. Also? Why don't you mix up fresh Arnold Palmers:  1/2 lemonade with 1/2 cold tea and add 2 tablespoons of minced fresh peppermint.    Allow to stand for an hour then strain and serve over ice. This allows a subtle hint of mint.   Longer steeping yields stronger flavor.

Freeze finely chopped peppermint (2 tsps) into ice cube tray compartments.  Add water or lemonade to fill the cube compartments and freeze.  Use the cubes in beverages immediately or up to two months later if kept in plastic bags in the freezer.  You are ready for mojitos anytime  or you can add them to spice up steamed veggies:  baby carrots, new potatoes are the ones I do with a little butter and lemon or lime juice.

 Another of my favorite uses for chopped peppermint is to combine it with parsley, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make your own tabbouleh salads

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Dried:   wash your fresh peppermint under cold water and pat it dry.  Then allow it to dry for a few days in a warm dry not at all humid place.  You can hang several stems upside down in paper bags for a few days until the leaves are crispy.

Add it to summer beverages and allow to sit overnight.  Strain, and serve over ice.  Dried mint is stronger than fresh so this makes a minty lemonade for those of us who love that menthol flavor in tea or ginger ale or lemonade. 

Slip a few leaves into your facial mask for a subtle pleasant minty lift that distracts you from thoughts of pandemics.

Steep dried mint into boiling water and add honey for a soothing mint tea great for sore throats.

Make the dried leaves into a “Mint Potpourri” and house them in little fabric pockets to ward off spiders and add fragrance to closets or drawers.

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Mint Jelly: This recipe from Simply Recipes is one of or favorites because it uses tart Granny Smith Apples as its base so it needs no added pectin! This delicious jelly will always add a little zip to your roast lamb, fish dishes, or chicken.

The  oils in mints are strongest when picked from mid summer leaves when the plants are receiving 14 hours of sunshine a day.   Pinch off blooms to retain tenderness in new leaves and bushier plants.   Older tougher leaves are stronger tasting and less pleasant, but still make great dried preparations for potpourri’s that are said to repel spiders.

Growing mints in your garden allows a fragrant green colony of plants that are pleasant to humans but not to deer, squirrels, mice, or ants.    If you don’t mind their love of life and desire to take over the adjacent spaces, they are terrific 2 to 3 foot high covers serving to hide in front of air conditioner boxes.   If you mind their spreading tendencies, sink pots into the soil that impede the roots from trespassing beyond the container limits.  I just create “peppermint pots” that offer free aromatherapy when I water them in the evening.

Sigh.   Bliss, bliss. 




We are still in the middle of our month of fundraising, and if you would care to support our “No Fair Herb Fair” with a tax exempt donation of any size it will always be greatly appreciated.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our.../
Thank you so much!



Herbs from a Witch's Garden by Andrea Jackson


Click this link to watch the Go to Meeting recording of our wonderful program ~Herbs from a Witches garden, by Andrea Jackson   

This was our very first program hosted on Go to Meeting, so there are a few glitches at first as we hit our stride with the learning curve...Just hang in there though...they go away like magic!


There is no donation required for this wonderful program, but if you would care to support our “No Fair Herb Fair” with a tax exempt donation of any size it will always be greatly appreciated.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our.../



Copyright: Andrea Jackson 2020.
May not be reproduced or photocopied without written consent from the author.



Sorrel, from the Garden to the Table

By Iwona Yike - WRHS Active Member


Rumex sanguineus

Sorrel is a leafy plant popular in European cuisine. The word sorrel comes from the Old French – surele – meaning – sour.

  Within the buckwheat (Polygonaceae) family, the genus Rumex includes over 200 species of edible and medicinal herbs, although some are considered weeds. They are native to Europe, parts of Asia and Africa but can now be found throughout the world including the US.  

   Among the most common species cultivated in the garden are Rumex acetosa (Large leaf sorrel) and Rumex sanguineus (Red veined sorrel), both available as young plants from specialty herb farms such as Mulberry Creek Farm in Huron, OH.  Seeds can be purchased online but some come from abroad and may not be USDA certified.

Sorrel is a hardy perennial, easy to grow. The plants are resistant to frost, pests and diseases. They thrive in full sun in slightly acidic clay soil but do very well in other types of moist soil, except for light, sandy soils. Leaves can be harvested from spring through fall.

 Nutritional benefits of this plant have been known for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks used it to promote digestive health. Its broad, bright green, pointed leaves have a tangy, sour taste due to the presence of oxalic acid. They are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, B2, B6, folic acid and beta-carotene as well as in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and silica. Sorrel is also a good source of fiber and tannins. 

Even though it contains so many desirable nutrients, sorrel should be consumed in moderation because oxalic acid binds calcium forming insoluble compounds that are found in kidney stones.  It may also decrease the absorption of calcium from other foods. People suffering from kidney diseases, different forms of arthritis and osteoporosis should avoid eating sorrel. It is worth noting that concerns about oxalic acid are not limited to the consumption of this vegetable.  Eating spinach, rhubarb, beets, Swiss chard, beans or even drinking a lot of black tea may cause similar problems. Adding certain dairy products such as milk, sour cream, goat cheese or eggs is recommended when preparing oxalate-rich foods in order to neutralize the acid and limit its adverse effects.

  Sorrel is often used in French and Egyptian dishes including soups, sandwiches and salads. Sauces made from the leaves can complement fish, meat and egg dishes. Cooking with sorrel is extremely popular in Central and Eastern Europe. The traditional Polish-style sorrel soup with its fresh, tangy taste and a beautiful green color can be called a quintessence of spring. It is also known as green borscht and almost every family has their own version of the recipe. 



Traditional Polish sorrel soup with eggs


  • 6 cups of vegetable stock (chicken stock is optional, home made are the best)
  • 3-4 cups tightly packed young sorrel leaves, washed, dried and coarsely chopped*
  • 1/3 cups chopped onion
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • salt and pepper

* the exact amount may vary depending on the sourness of the leaves and personal preferences; reserve some of the fresh leaves for garnish


  • slowly melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat
  • add onions and cook for for about 5 min or until softened
  • add sorrel and a pinch of salt (preserves color)
  • stir for about 5 minutes over low heat, then increase the heat to medium and stir for another 3-5 minutes
  • bring the vegetable stock to boil and add to spinach, mix well, simmer for 10 minutes
  • combine sour cream with flour in a small bowl and slowly add about 1 cup of hot soup to that bowl, stirring constantly to prevent sour cream from curdling
  • transfer sour cream mix to the saucepan with soup, stir well
  • allow to cool a little and transfer to a blender, blend for 15 sec or until the soup appears smooth
  • season with salt and pepper to taste
  • serve warm, pouring the soup into bowls over halved or quartered boiled eggs
  • garnish with some fresh sorrel leaves


Our organization, at its heart, is all about sharing our passion for herbs. We have worked tirelessly for 75 plus years to promote and inspire the use of herbs in our gardens and our lives.
Your support is vital in continuing this important mission. Your gifts support education through our public gardens, our education outreach programs, and our scholarships.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our.../

The new book "Wild Remedies" is easy to use and enjoy!

Todays post was written by our guest author and good friend Paris Wolfe!

Former Blogmaster for The Herb Society of America, Paris Wolfe planted her first herb garden in 1990. She’s been growing, cooking and crafting with herbs ever since.


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I can’t decide whether “Wild Remedies” by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han, released in March 2020, is a foraging book or a healing foods book.  The authors go both ways with health benefits of “weeds” like dandelion, chickweed, violet as well as fruits like apples, blackberries, elderberries. It doesn’t really matter because the book, with its lush photographs, appeals to the garden goddess in me.

This isn’t an encyclopedic tome. And that’s a good thing. The authors limit the book to 25 plants -- most foraged – for a more comprehensive examination. Keeping it under control makes information accessible to the casual reader. Most, if not all, of this list can be wildcrafted in Northeast Ohio.

An experienced herbie and forager, I was impatient as the authors covered ecology basics and foraging “rules of the road” in the book’s first few chapters. These chapters include journal prompts and exercises that felt elementary to me. Or maybe I was just impatient to get to the action.


As the authors explored individual botanicals, I was smitten. These were plants I knew –and I was learning new ways to use them. Each chapter includes growth habits and summary information. Medicinal properties are discussed followed by information on ecology, harvesting and use. Chapters close with easy-enough recipes. Please consult your physician before using any herbal remedies for medicinal purposes.

I received my copy in April and started with what was in season … dandelions and violets.  The first thing I made was the Dandelion Maple Syrup Cake. The cream cheese-based frosting, walnuts and raisins made it seem a bit like carrot cake. Even the skeptical eaters at the table enjoyed it.

For my next production I made violet oxymel – a mixture of violet-infused white wine vinegar and honey. That was the essential ingredient in a Simple Violet Cocktail. The first cocktail was gin-based. I’m going to repeat the recipe with vodka. I might like that better.

I cannot wait to try recipes with plantain, wild mustard, nettles, purslane, burdock and so much more. I just need a prolific, untreated “weed” patch to supply the ingredients for healing teas, tasty side dishes, delicious desserts and enticing bath products.

Here is the recipe for the wonderful Dandelion Cake!




1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup raisins, chopped (optional)

1⁄4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)



8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup butter, softened

1⁄4 cup maple syrup

1⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)



For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 2-inch glass pie plate.
  2. Mix the butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the dandelion flowers and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. If using, mix in the raisins and/or walnuts.
  5. Press the batter into the greased pie plate. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.


For the frosting: Use a handheld mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired.


Assemble the cake:  When cooled, invert the cake onto a sheet pan or large, flat plate. Frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the dandelion flowers on top.


Interestingly enough, this earthy book has much interactive, digital support. Right away I joined its Facebook page and book club. On the Facebook page, members share their recipe successes, photos and questions You can get more information on these by visiting Wild Remedies Book. Or following the following links …








Photos were given to us with permission from the lovely authors who are shown in the 2nd photograph....

Join us for a virtual tour of our Western Reserve Herb Society Gardens!



We were so fortunate last year to have had beautiful videos made of our gorgeous herb gardens that we lovingly tend down at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens. We are closed right now due to Covid -19, but this gives us the perfect opportunity to show these off! I'll be putting a new one up every couple of days! 

Be safe and be well! Spring in it's full glory is coming soon!

Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society

Garden Overview - Western Reserve Herb Society from Blue Heron Productions on Vimeo.


The Feeling of Gardens to Come....

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Chairman of Education Western Reserve Herb Society

This was written by my husband Jim one day after he came to pick me up from working in our beautiful Western Reserve Herb gardens. 

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Strolling through a large garden I found myself captivated by the smile on the Gardener's face, so I stopped for a moment to watch her at work. She looked up at me, stood up-right and in a wonderfully gentle voice she asked "can there be a more lovely day?" Finding myself in the midst of this most colorful garden with a bright blue sky and pleasant warm sunshine I not only agreed, I knew it was true.

"It is indeed just so lovely" I replied.  

I paused for a moment, but eager to keep the conversation going I asked her the first question that came to mind, "What do you do with your time when you are not in this beautiful garden?"

She looked at me and asked, "when am I not in my garden?" as a large grin spread across her cheeks revealing the most wonderful and generous wrinkles of joy.  

"Yes", I said, now feeling even more inspired.  "How about before you fall asleep or when you wake up?" I asked, sincerely wondering how she lived life outside this beautiful place that she obviously took such great pleasure in.

"That just might be the times when I do my best gardening work" she said, relaxing herself for a moment as she engaged me in conversation.  

As she continued I noticed a natural patience in her demeanor, which was easily portrayed by her soft and smooth voice. "Every night just before I fall asleep I am enveloped in the feeling of gardens to come, the one's that express such beauty and joy as I have yet to produce.  I know they are coming, because as I "see" these wonderful visions I can feel them as if they are real, I can smell them and touch them so vividly. They are to me in that moment as real as where you and I are standing right now. “

My mind was mesmerized by this picture she had so gracefully painted for me. My feelings rested contently in this garden vision, full of such beauty that was beyond the glorious place where we were both standing.

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"Of course, she laughed, my mornings are something else altogether".

 "I awake in the morning and in that moment I am present to a feeling of appreciation for all the joy and wonder that awaits me!"

She paused for a moment, smiling as she looked to the sky…

then looked at me and continued...

"The morning is when my feelings take root, backed by the images that spring forth in my mind, to bear fruit throughout the day, much like the seeds I tend here in this very garden."

"We often refer to it as gratitude, or appreciation, but for me it is like gardening, for when I open my eyes in the morning that is where my craft begins. I know in my heart that to be a good gardener it is so important to tend the soil, and to ensure the seeds have the right amount of sunlight, and always provide the right amount of water based on the unique characteristics of your plants."

She paused again, without a motion, as if to just take in the beauty that comes from an unseen place that at that very moment surrounded us.

"I feel that gardening has given me a gift for creating beauty both here" she said gesturing to the landscape around us, "and here" she said as she softly reached up resting her hand in the center of her chest. "It’s as if the sunshine, water and soil are just symbols for the thoughts, feelings and actions that, when properly tended to, ensures the same richness of experience in life as a well-tended garden, bringing to our senses the most wonderful sites, tastes and smells! "

She leaned upon her spade and smiled.

After a moments pause, she looked at me directly, eyes filled with a soft twinkle, choosing her final words with care. “For me it is such a blessing to know that one's life can be so whole and complete, no matter your career or passion.  I guess you could say that I am, simply put, a peaceful happy gardener –  both within and without, wherever I go, now in this conversation, while I eat and yes, even when I sleep. It brings me such joy that I cannot help but to wish this blessing for everyone I know.”

~James Gehring

The Herb of The Year! Why do we study it?

 By Kathleen Gips ~ Ex- Officio Western Reserve Herb Society

Rubus or Brambles- The Herb of the Year 2020

The Herb of the Year ~ What is it all about? ~ Why do we study it?

In 1995 the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day every year. Soon after, they selected an herb for each year. The criteria were that an herb must fall into at least two of these three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

At the time I was an active member in this marvelous organization dedicated to the retail and business world of herbs. Our members were charged with educating the public about herbs during Herb Education Week. So the public would become more aware of herbs and their varied uses, we were to explore, in depth, the herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops. What an excellent way for the educators to be educated. Focus on a specific herb and learn everything about it. How exciting! I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect.

A Season of Peace & Joy (14)

I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year. Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I initially thought these were not herbs worthy of my passion. As I studied each of these herbs, I learned how wrong this first opinion was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs. In 2018 when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year  , I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!”

Worse yet, I am not even a beer lover. My first introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows". 

 I dutifully ordered hops for him, since they were an ingredient in his sweet dreams pillows that would be made in our workshop. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww! But then Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops. So that is why my Dad fell asleep while drinking a beer and watching a football game. It was the hops!

My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langdon from Mulberry Creek Herbs delivered to me to sell. Since my customers knew little about growing hops at the time, I was left with hops plants at the end of the selling season. So I planted them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season. What a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers! It was a traffic stopper and attracted a lot of interest. Everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops in their own garden. Imagine my surprise when it became my favorite landscape herb in the garden.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils of hops and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint! What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant. How useful it is in the garden landscape, the flavoring of beer and its calming medicinal properties. And there you have it!

A Season of Peace & Joy (15)

This is why the Herb of the Year is so important for those of us whose passion lies in the world of herbs. Our lives are enriched by studying the history, horticulture and uses of even the herbs that are not so well known to us!  We get to know these herbs by using them, observing them and even journaling about them and then suddenly a year has gone by and there is yet another new herb to get to know!

This year, our Herb of the Year is the absolutely delightful and sometimes completely frustrating Rubus, more affectionately known as Brambles, Raspberries, Blackberries or Brambleberries! This plant is definitely more familiar to me than Hops was, but nonetheless there is still so much more for me to learn!

The Herb of the Year fits very well into the mission of our Western Reserve Herb Society. Together we gather information about herbs and share that knowledge with the public.  So this year, we will all learn to be experts about  Brambles and we will  talk about them with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Join your fellow members as we stroll through  the Bramble patch in 2020, learning and teaching together.

The Rambling Beauty of Brambles!


By Beth Schreibman Gehring - Chairman of Education - Western Reserve Herb Society


This year, the Rubus genus is not only HSA’s January’s herb of the month, but it is the International Herb Associations herb of the year for 2020! The Rubus is a very large and diverse species and is part of the Rose family. Blackberries, raspberries, loganberries and boysenberries are all part of this delicious and festive group! The most common name for this boisterous genus is Brambles or Brambleberries, a name that always makes me smile having grown up with Jill Barklams delightful Brambly Hedge series! Somehow, the most fun always seem to happen under a canopy of rosehips and brambleberries!

I once read a wonderful story about Bramble bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff  YOU read mother!) and the premise was that the all members of the genus Rubus have a collective consciousness that extends through an underground network all around the world. If I’m going to be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. At the time that I read that book, I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio where blackberries and black raspberries were flourishing around every corner. They drove my husband crazy because if you’ve ever had a bramble bush as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year before they’d flower, Jim would go into the thorny vines with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them.

 Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone as the blooms are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees. He’s quite allergic to those bees, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping in a wet area, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected all around the world just like my little book said.

Make your dreams so clear  that your fears become irrelevant. (17)

By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable.  They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica swore by the ones that grew down by our pond.  They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find!

 When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles.  They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability.  We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more.  I’d send them home covered in purple juice but thankfully their mothers forgave me! Alex is 32 now,  but he loves to reminisce about his childhood growing up on the farm and all of his favorite stories usually have something to do with those blackberries which I understand because they were so completely sweet and delicious!

 Tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar and surprisingly so does bourbon.  Black Raspberries and Meyer lemon juice mixed with  sugar, filtered water and cracked ice make a delicious and refreshing lemonade that is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too! Fresh blackberries with arugula, fresh spearmint, ripe pear,  basil and burrata cheese is another favorite combination of mine. Served with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar  and olive oil, there really is no lovelier summer salad. Then there is fresh raspberry jam, a condiment in a class by itself. Whether you serve it with buttered toast, a savory white cheddar  or baked with a chicken breast or pork tenderloin, it’s always one of the most useful jams I make every summer.

Make your dreams so clear  that your fears become irrelevant. (18)

My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of  going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took out the bottle of  homemade black raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet and poured  a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic ever since. Raspberry leaves and their fruit contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron.  A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and raspberry leaves really helped to ease my morning sickness. 

It’s been 17 years now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer.  We have created a lovely home in Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. I’ve planted an orchard now with lots of native fruits and herb beds, but until 4 years ago, it didn’t have any brambles! I have to admit that I finally planted some without asking my husbands permission.  Poor Jim! Well.. poor Jim until the first crop of enormous , juicy berries came in. After the first handful he was delighted, and although they still get wildly out of control and have ended up far from the places I have planted them, he is enjoying them very much. They were a great present for Alex that first summer when he came home from New York to find them fruiting wildly. It’s not often that you get to relive the past, but he went running out to the back yard when he saw them and stuffed himself until he couldn’t eat any more.  I hadn’t told him I’d planted them, I was keeping them a surprise. At this point, they’ve taken over my yard and my neighbors, but her children love them and I get to watch the cycle all over again. The brambly hedge is one of those wonderful plants that is capable of providing such amazing amounts of great joy.

Just keep your pruning shears sharpened.  

A Prayer of Thanksgiving inspired by St. Hildegard of Bingen

By Shanon Sterringer  - Western Reserve Herb Society Member

This was written by Shanon for our Thanksgiving Unit Meeting. It is so beautiful and it felt completely appropriate to share it here with all of you.

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to all!




How wonderful it is to be able to gather together for a few hours today in thanksgiving for all that we have experienced this past year through the Western Reserve Herb Society.

We offer gratitude for the peace and tranquility of our beautiful herb gardens; for the grace of our friendships – new and old; for the richness of so many educational programs and workshops; for the nourishing and beautiful meals we have shared; and for the success of another growing and harvesting season. We give thanks also for all who invested their time, talent, and resources in support of the WRHS annual herb fair. In the words of St. Hildegard of Bingen, viriditas –greenness – abounds!

It has truly been an extraordinary year!

As the fall season begins to wind down, the herbs have been cut back, the leaves have fallen from the tress, the mulch is spread, and the grass is now glistening with a light coating of snow. The darkness of winter again peaks around the corner inviting us to rest from our labors. As we prepare for this well-earned break, let us take a moment to pray that this winter season might be a time of gestation and renewal, not only for the women and men of our herb society, but for all creation.

We pray for an increase in awareness and gratitude for the great gifts God blesses us with through the earth. Mother earth is needlessly suffering. Through our intentions and our efforts, may she be restored to her full glory. And so, we pray...

(adapted from a prayer written by Michelle Balek, OSF)

Good and Gracious God, Source of all Life, all creation is charged with your Divine Energy. Ignite your
Spark within us, that we may know ourselves as truly human and holy, irrevocably part of the Web of Life.
All creation
Each star and every flower
Each drop of water and every person
Each and every atom, down to its very electrons, explodes with the revelation of your Sacred Mystery
Our minds alone cannot fathom such splendor.
Our hearts can only respond in awe, praise, and gratitude.
May we always walk gently upon this earth in right relationship.
Nurtured by your love
Taking only what we need
Giving back to the earth in gratitude
Sharing what we have
Honoring all with reverence
Reconciling and healing
Mindful of those who will come after
Recognizing our proper place as part of, not apart from, your creation.
Grant us the strength and courage, we pray, for such radical transformation into your kin-dom. Then we to,
with the very stones will should, Hosanna!

This is a painting of one of St. Hildegard’s Visions... this of the seasons!