Springing for herbs

Where would you trek to find Thai lemon grass for your herb garden? Time was, you couldn’t find even the most ordinary of herbs for gardening or container-planting — and were likely forced to settle for the dried stuff in little bottles, housed on grocery-store shelves.

But in the Asheville area, at least, live herbs have been available since 1977, when the Sandy Mush Herb Nursery opened in Buncombe County, says owner Kate Jayne. The nursery features mail-order service, plus gardens and greenhouses you can stroll through and pick your herbs — everything from the culinary (rosemary, thyme and such) to the exotic (lemon grass) to the decorative (scented geraniums, for instance) and even some medicinal herbs. But enthusiasts should call first for directions: “We’re way out at the end of the county,” warns Jayne.

The Sandy Mush Herb Nursery (683-2014) is open Thursday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call for directions, or check Sandy Mush’s virtual booth at the Blue Ridge Web Market on MAIN: www.brwm.org/main.html.

Another pleasant rural herb trek will take you toward Hot Springs, where Herb of Grace will hold its grand re-opening on April 17. “We’ve got acres of gardens for people to walk,” says owner Bobbi Cyphers. Their brand-new shop will also be up and running, hand-built with wood cut from their farm (and labor provided by every family member able to heft a hammer). Cyphers says Herb of Grace provides “interesting stuff you can’t get anywhere else” — like antique strains of roses and heathers, as well as some medicinal herbs. Grace also carries a multitude of cooking and decorative herbs (18 varieties of lavender and nearly 20 of rosemary, for example).

“And, of course, we’ll be serving tea on our veranda,” promises Cyphers, tossing in a teasing mention of homemade scones and imported Devonshire cream.

Herb of Grace is located about 24 miles up Leicester Highway (Hwy. 63), from its beginning at Patton Avenue (call 622-7319 for directions). Starting April 17, the shop will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays, noon-5 p.m.

Our area’s biggest herb extravaganza, however, takes place twice a year at the Farmer’s Market on Brevard Road in Asheville: The 10th Annual Spring Herb Festival will be held April 30 and May 1, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and May 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Co-sponsored by the North Carolina Herb Association and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the festival features scores of herb plants, dried flowers, baked goods, tinctures, lotions, salves, essential oils, medicinal herbs and herb-education programs. A landscaped herb garden will highlight this year’s event.

Admission to the Spring Herb Festival is free. For more info, call the Farmers Market at 253-1691, or Rick Morgan at 689-5974.

Herbs can also be found in abundance at a couple of other area garden events:

• The French Broad River Garden Club sale, to be held on April 24 at 1000 Hendersonville Road. Call 274-1626 for more info.

• A Day in the Gardens, to be held on May 1 at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville (151 W.T. Weaver Blvd., adjacent to the UNCA campus). Call 252-5190 for more info.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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