From the President:
Thank you to Sherri for providing a fabulous herb garden tour virtually last Thursday! We had a good turnout. Sherri and other herb experts answered a lot of your questions about growing herbs. A special thank you goes out to all the volunteers who came out to spruce up the garden beforehand. It looked lovely and lush!
If you missed the program, you can watch it now (or rewatch it)! The recording link is now available below:
NOTES BY SHERRI McCALLA
Herb Garden Curator, Memphis Botanic Garden
See below for PDF version of Sherri’s notes
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDEN (SKEWED TOWARDS THE HERB GARDEN)
May 1819: John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson founded the City of Memphis.
1947: Park property was obtained outside the city limits: the old Goodwyn house and 186.5 acres. The house was razed, and the land developed into a golf course and a lake. This new park was named Audubon after the naturalist John James Audubon.
1953: 2,500 iris rhizomes from the garden of Mrs. Morgan Ketchum were given to the park and the Ketchum Memorial Iris Garden was created. A group of dedicated volunteers armed with a shovel and a sack of rhizomes planted the Iris Garden. This was the beginning of planned beds and displays for the Gardens of Audubon Park.
Later groups and plant societies followed, planting gardens that would feature the plants they loved and collected. This is the history of our garden. People coming together to share with one another and the public. Many other botanic gardens are the result of a rich person’s love of botany and philanthropism in an era where only the rich could afford to attend college. These people sometimes felt a desire to share and often left their estates (provided for by a trust fund to maintain the property in perpetuity) for the enjoyment of others. While the Memphis Botanic Garden property is owned by the City of Memphis, the Garden is managed, funded, and run by the Memphis Botanic Garden Foundation.
1964: The visitors’ center was donated by the family of Jacob Goldsmith and dedicated in his name.
1966: The Commercial Appeal stated that “The gardens of Audubon Park are getting a new name, The Memphis Botanic Garden,” on July 17,
1966: The new name was adopted in connection with efforts to coordinate and develop new and existing garden areas, and to tie a network of roads and trails with the new Goldsmith Garden Center.
1986: The Memphis Herb Society began the process for the first Herb Garden here in 1986 as the new society formed.
2006: Level 4 arboretum status was attained making the MBG one of four level four arboretums in Tennessee at that time.
The Memphis Botanic Garden’s Herb Garden is a product of many years’ development.
The original Herb Garden was removed in 2008 to make way for the new Children’s Garden. However, the conceptualization for the new garden begin even prior to that. Tom Pellet did the original drawing for this garden, and Larry Griffin added his input later in the developmental process. Hardscaping began in 2010, and final planting happened up to the day of the garden opening October 2011. This garden is not just your basic herb garden, it is an ethnobotanical garden (a garden based on useful, or once used plants). The plants are grouped by area of origination, as well as usage. This garden continues to evolve and change as new concepts are utilized, plants die or are replaced, and new plants are added.
THE KEY TO THIS GARDEN IS THE SOIL PREPARATION
The basic fertilizer mix that was used consisted of the following (used at the proper rate and tilled in to allow the roots instant access):
- 2 bags (28 lbs. ea.) rock phosphate (rock is slower release than super)
- 1 bag (40 lbs.) greensand (0-0-3) is mined from deposits of minerals that were originally part of the ocean floor. Contains about 3% total potash (potassium source), along with iron, magnesium, silica and as many as 30 other trace minerals. May also be used to loosen heavy, clay soils. Improves plant health. Ideal for use in organic gardening
- 1 bag (25 lbs.) M-roots (mycorrhizal inoculant)
- 1 bag (40 lbs.) Plant Tone
- 1 bag (40 lbs.) pelletized lime
The basic bed prep mix consisted of:
- 2 ½ parts native soil, screened
- 1 part sand (builder’s sand which is coarser than play sand and is usually red)
- ½ part cotton burr compost
- The inner ring formal beds and the knot garden: Base fertilizer + 1 bag lime/ basic bed mix
- Boxwood Hedge: Base fertilizer + 1 bag lime, sand
- Traditional Perennial Border (outer ring of the formal beds): Base fertilizer/base mix
- Grassy berm: Base fertilizer/1 bag lime/base mix
- Meadow: ½ rate base fertilizer/1 part sand/1 part compost (instead of ½ part)
- Shade area: Base fertilizer minus lime/ 2 parts leaf compost – 1 part cotton burr compost – sand
- Dry Medicinal bed got 2 parts sand, 1 part compost
- Moist Medicinal bed got more compost, less sand (2 parts compost, 1 part sand)
Every bed received rock phosphate, greensand, and M-roots.
Additional lime was added to boxwood areas, the fragrance bed, and the dry medicinal bed.
Compost used was leaf and cotton burr (we are no longer using cotton burr compost due to the number of weeds in it).
Shrub borders were mulched with regular bark mulch (we use shredded hardwood).
Outer edge formal beds were mulched with cotton burr compost, although we will change that to gravel, soon, for continuity.
Woodland beds were mulched with leaf compost continuing the natural theme.
If you wish to volunteer in the Herb or Iris Gardens, you may call and leave a message on the Horticulture phone: (901) 636-4134. I normally work Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 3:30pm, but if I were to have enough interest and advance notice, I could be flexible. I generally have volunteers on Mondays and Fridays 8:30am-11:30am, but please call to be sure. If you wish to volunteer elsewhere at the Memphis Botanic Garden, please contact Brianna Helms at Brianna.Helms@Memphisbotanicgarden.com or call (901) 636-4102.
HERBAL WORK STUDIES
These are generally on the second Saturday of the month. Originally, it was work two hours, get a free hour class. Covid 19 has changed the rules. Now it will follow the rules on the June 13 Herbal Work Study below. We will change how we approach the classes as our response to the virus changes. You may check the Memphis Herb Society, or the Memphis Botanic Garden websites and Facebook pages for updated information.
- June 13: Herbal Work Study: Herbal Insect Repellents. 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Please note that the guidelines have changed for this event due to Covid-19: All three hours will be spent outside. The event will be canceled if it is raining. If you desire a mask, please bring your own. 6 feet spacing is encouraged. We will be weeding, grooming, thinning, planting, or whatever else needs doing in the Herb Garden. As we work, we will learn about herbs that can be used to help repel insects. I will have sunscreen, bug spray, and hand sanitizer available. Please bring your favorite hand tool for weeding and grooming (soil knives, Cape Cod weeders, old kitchen knives, trowels, pruners, etc.). Bring your own gloves and water. Please dress appropriately: sun hats and closed-toe shoes are suggested. Handouts will be available by email to participants. Please come on out to the Herb Garden as you arrive. If you have any questions not covered here, call Sherri McCalla @ 901-636-4134.
- 7/11 Preserving Your Herbal Harvest
- 8/8 Herbal Gifts
- 9/12 Balms
- 10/10 Bitters
Accurate Information Sources
Valid sites: (this includes, but does not list, Extension Service sites)
- University of Michigan-Dearborn Native American Ethnobotany – A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants: http://herb.umd.umich.edu
- Purdue University: http://www.hort.purdue.edu.
- USDA Plants Database: http://plants.usda.gov
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew http://www.kew.org/science-research-data/databases-publications/index.htm
- Missouri Botanic Gardens https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/
- www.theplantlist.org to verify the current accuracy of a botanical name
- Strictly Medicinal Seeds, www.strictlymedicinalseeds.com Williams, Oregon
- .edu sites are almost always accurate – just remember humans key the information in.
- Herb Society of America www.herbsociety.org
- Note – Wikipedia and Dave’s Garden are not always accurate sources of information. Anyone can put/change information on those sites. However, Wikipedia is generally good for getting the country of origin information on a plant.
SHERRI’S FAVORITE HERB REFERENCE BOOKS
The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Complete Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance, by Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas Debaggio (this one tells how to grow and harvest herbs for most flavor and quantity-is a little pricey, but worth every cent)
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (good, basic, info)
The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Harvesting 97 Flavorful Herbs by Susan Belsinger & Arthur O. Tucker, Timber Press 2016 (lovely information – especially for foodophiles!)
Download a printable PDF below!