WRHS Events

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.



Only Connect!


By Kathleen Hale - Unit Chair,  Western Reserve Herb Society


Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”

― E.M. Forster, Howards End



It will surprise absolutely no one, that I am starting a new gardening passion in the New Year.  I’m growing mushrooms!  Well, I have a batch of Blue Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus var, columbinus) mushrooms starting down in my basement laboratory.  The Case Western Reserve University Farm, also known as Squire Valleevue Farm, offers classes in growing mushrooms.  Having taken precisely only one of those classes, and visited the Cave of Wonders that is the Farm’s Mushroom Cellar, I now consider myself an expert.

Well, maybe not an expert. But it does have me thinking a lot about mushrooms.  Spreading the mushroom spawn evenly through a bunch of newly pasteurized, wet, shredded straw, ready to stuff the mess into a clear plastic film cylinder, I remembered the packet of “Mike” or mycorrhizae, purchased from some overpriced plant catalog, that I carried around in my jacket pocket last spring, having been assured that roses and other plants absolutely love to be planted with a fungal assist around their roots.  Who knows? 

The thing is, the fungus world is complicated and fascinating.  As any gardener paying attention can tell you, plants communicate with each other. And fungi facilitate that communication. A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and a plant. The fungus inhabits the plant’s root system.  This colonization benefits the plant’s nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry. We don’t yet have a clue about all the services provided by mycorrhizae. This is new and exciting stuff. But one fascinating area of study is how the mycorrhizae act as “bankers”, saving up nitrogen to distribute to the plant roots in times of nitrogen shortage. Mycorrhizal networks don’t just help out individual plants.  They appear to facilitate communication and cooperation between plants.

Nerdy enough for you yet?  Well, I do have a point, and it has to do with good gardeners in a New Year.  We need to connect with each other.  More important, we need to connect in ways that are “mutualistic”, a word used to describe the relationship between plants and mycorrhizae. This sometimes can be difficult.  We are perhaps more complicated than those fungal tendrils, and less likely to explore new territory. We can be resistant to putting ourselves out there. Gardening can seem to be a solitary activity, until you realize the teeming world of organisms working around us.  

Our human gardening companions are worth exploring.

In the New Year, I challenge you to put yourself out there.  Only connect.

Happy 50th Anniversary to our Legendary Garden and it's Legendary Gardeners!

Written by Bobbi Henkel - WRHS garden Co- Chair




Sometimes, it is easy to think the world is a hot mess waiting to implode from within.  Global warming.  Mass shootings.  Political conflicts.  Religious strife.  It’s easy to wonder if it could possibly get worse.     

    In 1969, the world was a bit of a mess too.   War in Vietnam.   Race riots.   Cuyahoga River burning.  Plenty of hippies experimenting with psychotropic drugs and making their parents despair that they would never succeed at anything. We were in high school  or so then, huh?

    Yet In the midst of that time,  NASA succeeded in landing a man on the moon that gave hope of what could be done if humans worked together.   An environmental awakening was arguably started as a result of Life magazine’s cover picture of the Cuyahoga burning that spurred people to take action.  Woodstock brought young adults together (admittedly smoking plenty of dope but) celebrating “peace and love” in a way that became a “marketing theme” for a generation.  Coca Cola wanted to teach the world to sing.   The Hungry Caterpillar book was written for kids inspiring them that they might turn into “butterflies” when they grew up.  Mr. Roger’s neighborhood was born: nurturing children watching television to a kinder gentler possible way of interacting.  

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     And, fifty years ago in Cleveland, a bunch of ladies in the Western Reserve Herb Society raised the money to make a beautiful place of respite and learning populated by herbs.   They planted it and nurtured it for the next generations.  Members  Faith Swanson and Virginia Rady wrote the Garden Design Book which has become a reference text combining horticultural information with landscaping design artistry.  It includes the design of this Herb Garden as originally formulated, and of plans submitted for the National Herb Garden , and, it holds many other beautiful garden designs that have been used by untold gardeners as inspirations for landscapes across the planet.  Member Jane Piwonka wrote The Beginners Herb Garden and helped extend the knowledge of the usefulness of herbs.  Hers was a practical “how to” approach that helped give novice gardeners courage to start their own enjoyment of an herb garden.  Seeds of learning.  Contributions to the field tangible to everyone, not just experts.


    In September, 9/5, we celebrated the actual anniversary of the garden.   But, this year, we are also celebrating the kind of people who chose to work in this garden and continue to do so.  We “grow some real nice plants” that add a place of peace and beauty to this little spot in the city.   But, this group has taught: about how to grow things, and how to cook things, and how to make things with herbs with influences beyond the walls of the garden.  WRHS nurtured other students and causes with our philanthropic efforts.  We’ve taken care of each other: we also “grow some real nice people.”  This garden is what unites us.  It has provided little “seed efforts” that have grown in realms quite a bit broader than parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  

      These legendary gardeners didn’t sit around mourning the state of the world’s problems then or now.   They made a tangible difference, where they were, to make something better.  George Eliot wrote, “We make a living by what we get;  we make a life by what we give.  What we have done for ourselves dies with us;  what we have done for others in the world is immortal.” 

    I bet she was an herb gardener.  Happy Anniversary to all you legendary gardeners.

This #GivingTuesday, will you please consider a small gift of support for The Western Reserve Herb Society?



The purposes of the Western Reserve Herb Society (WRHS) are to further the knowledge and use of herbs and to contribute the results of the experience and research of its members to the records of horticulture and science and to disseminate this information through various channels.

The WRHS Herb Garden is located on the grounds of the Cleveland Botanical Garden in University Circle, Cleveland, Ohio. It is one of the largest herb gardens in the country and is widely recognized for its design and quality. It is sometimes the site of research or trials conducted by members or horticulture students.

Devoted members of WRHS lovingly fund and maintain the Herb Garden through the year. The annual Herb Fair, held on the second Saturday of October, is the main source of funding for the Herb Garden.


Each year WRHS offers scholarships to college students majoring in horticulture or allied fields. The Herb Garden and the scholarships are among the projects that benefit from funds raised at the annual fall Herb Fair and WRHS symposia.

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.


We hope that you will consider supporting us and our programs with a donation of any size on this #GivingTuesday.

Please know that any love you share with us is so very appreciated!

This #GivingTuesday, you can help us spread the word by sharing why you support WRHS in the comment section below!

Here is the secure link: https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our-organization/

Your donation to WRHS on this Giving Tuesday helps our programs thrive and we thank you so much!





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!