The Fragrance of Herbs

Fragrance is one of the characteristics of herbs that appeals to me greatly. The scent of a rosemary bush when you brush by it, the aromas of gardenias and roses, mints and pelargonia, lavender, lemon verbena, and the lovely fragrance of this year’s long gone Meyer lemon blossoms are just a few of the wondrous olfactory delights of these herbal plants.

In December, the scents of fir, spruce, juniper and other evergreens herald the joyous season. Spices, too, increase odiferous delight. Cinnamon, clove, star anise, and ginger, embodied in baked goods, mulled ciders, or simmer pots create a warmth of feeling on the chilly winter days and nights.

Fragrances may evoke memories of those we have known and loved, cultivating delight.

I have been blessed through the years to meet some amazing herb enthusiasts. Each has taught me, nurtured me, encouraged me, and inspired me. Some are no longer in our midst, but remain safely in my heart. And so, as I conjure seasonal herb and spice aromas, I think of them.

In 1979, I met the only remaining living founder of The Herb Society of America, Ann Burrage. She was petite and feisty and introduced me to Coffee Nips from Holland. I have a treasured picture of her from a few years later with my dad, Rollie Remmel, an herbal treasure in his own right.

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Three herbal stars were Nancy Howard, Caroline Cadwalader, and Joanna Reed. Each of them became dear to me. And while I do not have a fragrant plant to remind me of Caroline, I think of her often. As for Nancy and Joanna, Nancy’s cardamom plant has survived decades. Its leaves emit a nice scent when rubbed. Joanna’s apothecary rose resides along my fence, offering up the wonderful scent of roses in early summer.

Fuzzy Lord and Madeleine Hill provided plants, knowledge, books and friendship and dwell in my thoughts on a regular basis. Fuzzy taught me about jojoba and folklore – another passion of mine. Madeleine became a mentor and friend.

As for the first herbal enthusiast I met, who is happily still with us, I think of my mom, Ruth Remmel, who now has lost her sense of smell. She can remember scent, though, and delights in those memories.

As you surround yourself with the aromas of the holidays, who or what do they bring to mind? I hope the memories evoked are as special as mine…

submitted by Mary Remmel Wohlleb, former HSA President
Arkansas Unit, Southeast District

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2 thoughts on “The Fragrance of Herbs

  1. Thank you, Mary, for your herbal recollections. I’m fascinated by all the herbal greats who have devoted so much effort and love to HSA through the years. I’ve gotten to meet my share of wonderful herbalists who are always friendly and ready to share their knowledge with all of us, great or small. May they all linger in our memories forever.

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