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Herb Garden at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Submitted by on February 12, 2011 – 2:41 pmNo Comment

Those of us Road Trips Gardeners who specialize in herbs should add the Boerner Botanical Gardens, 9400 Boerner Drive, Hales Corners, Wisconsin, to our summer travel plans.

Tucked away in a corner of the formal botanical gardens inside Whitnall Park, and surrounded by a tall hedge, the Herb Garden has an air of seclusion akin to that of an old monastery garden.

Herbs (which, may be pronounce with or without the “h”) are plants whose stems, roots, leaves, flowers or fruits (seeds or seed pods) have medicinal, culinary, dye and scent uses. This very utilitarian type of plant had no official home in the original design of the gardens; they were added in 1955.

The motivating force behind the Herb Garden was the Wisconsin State Pharmaceutical Society, which was interested in medicinal herbs. This organization was also responsible for the first donation of herb seed. The seed was propagated at the Horticulture Division’s Greenhouse Center, which also provides the annuals, biennials and winter-tender plants for the gardens.

Today there are twelve herb beds containing over 300 varieties of herbs and approximately 7000 plants. Plants are labeled with the common name, botanical name and often with the foreign name (e.g., German, Polish or Italian) along with a listing of uses.

There is even a bed for herbs native to America. Early Native Americans learned which herbs could be safely used for medicines, dyes, and religious ceremonies through trial and error.

Because many of the herbs in the garden are annuals or tender perennials, new plants must be started each year. Walk through this garden in June and see geometric plantings of basil, thyme, Santolina, and parsley. The early plantings may highlight sharp “knot” designs, or triangles or squares. Return later in the season to find that the full potential of the plants has been realized — the designs will be rich and full and the aromas within the garden almost overpowering.

Throughout the year, the Herb Garden is watched over by a statue of Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners. Saint Fiacre, an Irish monk, is depicted with a spade in one hand and a flowering branch in the other.

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