We tend to think of herbs mostly from the culinary point of view as plants that lend flavor to food whereas vegetables provide substance, but in a broader sense, herbs are any plants with leaves, or seeds, or flowers that are used to not only flavor food, but are used medicinally, spiritually, and for perfume. It is with this broader sense in mind that the Herb Garden at Walker-Jones has now developed into a resource not just for culinary flavorings, but which now incorporates a number of species traditionally used by native Americans for medicine and sacred rituals, and plants that provide intriguing or inviting scents.
By far the most prominent plants featured in our herb garden belong to the Lamiaceae, the mint family, however we’re not just talking about mints like peppermint, but also rosemary, savory, marjoram and oregano, lemon balm, hyssop, lavender, thyme, and sage; as well as bee balm, catnip, self-heal, and deadnettles. Most of the over 3,000 species in this family have aromatic parts often used in medicine and cooking. They have leaves in opposite pairs which are usually toothed, they often have square stems, and their flowers are bilaterally symmetrical with five unified petals (forming a lower and an upper lip) and five unified sepals.
The design of the Herb Garden takes some inspiration from Japanese tradition: the gateways are always open, so as not to shut anybody out; because evil spirits are said to only travel in straight lines, the paths wind around, leaving evil spirits behind; and in the meander of the paths some stones are set unevenly, focusing a visitor’s thoughts on their walk, rather than problems the world outside.
This post was contributed by David Hilmy, Walker Jones EC Physical Education teacher and coordinator of student Green Team initiatives. Mr. Hilmy is responsible for the renovation of our perennial herb garden this season.