Shopping for herbs, by Dorry Norris

April 21, 2003|by Dorry Baird Norris

There may have been snow on the daffodils, but the robins have been busy nest building. They carefully strip bits of cedar from the garden chairs and pull up tiny branches of thyme and carry them off to their chosen home sites - a sure sign that it's time for to go shopping for perennials. I'll be looking for:

  • Natives like chocolate Joe Pye weed, sweet golden rod, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), New Jersey tea (Ceonanthus americanus), Virginia bluebells, Cumberland mountain rosemary, short-toothed mountain mint (Pychanthemum muticum) and Senna marilandica.

  • Imports like wild basil (Acinos arvensis), Alchemilla "Ausilee" - a special lady's mantle, cardamon, dyer's woodruff (Asperula tintoria), pink hyssop, orris root (Iris germanica "Florentina") and Myrtus communis boetica.

  • The butterfly garden is in need of the aster "Alma Potscke."

  • For the new Bible garden, I will need Origanum syriacum (thought to be the hyssop of the Bible) as well as box and Salvia judaica (which some say inspired the design for the menorah).

Here in Hagerstown we are extraordinarily lucky to have so may many nurseries nearby that carry good selections of herbs. When we lived in Tennessee, my herb shopping was limited to mail order and one nursery that was two hours and a half hours away.


The garden show at Hagerstown Community College gave us a glimpse of glories to come, but it was a bit early to buy many plants. The following nurseries are all within and hour or so of Hagerstown so you could cover many of them in one glorious day.

  • Trayer's at 11452 Welsh Run Road in Mercersberg, Pa., has, in the four years I've been in Hagerstown, really expanded their selection of perennial herbs. To get there, head out Salem Avenue, go halfway round the circle at Md. 63 to Cearfoss Pike. Cross into Pennsylvania, continue about 5 miles to the village of Welsh Run. Turn left on Pa. 995. Trayer's is down a half-mile on the left and is open Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • If you're looking for more than plants, then Surreybrooke ( on the Web) in Middletown, Md., has plants and trees as well as wonderful old buildings to explore. Nancy Waltz has created a real plant lover's haven. From Hagerstown, follow Md. 40 east towards Frederick. The nursery entrance is on Hollow Road which appears on the right.

If you want to go further afield, check out two of the regular vendors at the HCC garden show - Willow Pond Farm and Alloway Creek Gardens & Herb Farm.

  • Activities at Willow Pond Farm (e-mail them at, owned by Tom and Madelyn Wajda, are centered around their wonderful 1760s stone house. The farm is located at 145 Tract Road, Fairfield, Pa. Willow Pond will be the scene of the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival Friday, June 13, to Sunday, June 15.

    The Wajdas specialize in culinary herbs as well as scented geraniums and antique roses. They are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. From Interstate 81, take Pa. 16 east at Greencastle through Waynesboro and Blue Ridge Summit. As you reach the bottom of the hill east of Blue Ridge Summit, turn left onto Pa. 116. Follow Pa. 116 3.7 miles past the Carroll Valley golf course and Fairfield School. Turn right on McGinley Drive - the first right past the school. Willow Pond Farm is one-quarter mile on the right.

  • In the same general vicinity you'll find Alloway Creek Gardens ( on the Web) in Littlestown, Pa. Barbara Steele has a huge selection of herbs. I especially like her native shrubs at moderate prices. Alloway will hold their Annual Garden Craft Faire Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7. To get there, head north on U.S. 15 out of Frederick, turn east on Pa. 97, then right on Mud College Road. Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 to 5, Sunday 1 to 5.

If you have a favorite place to buy herbs that we have not mentioned please let us know. In the meantime, happy herb shopping.

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