In 1989, I created The Herb Garden on an acre and a half of cow pasture outside of Melrose, Fl. I had an interest in Herbs since my teenage years in the ’60s, influenced by my mother’s cooking. At the time, fresh herbs were scarce in most retail nurseries but I did manage to buy around 6 herbs and planted my first Herb Garden at my Miramar home in 1970!
I maintained this herb garden, which consisted of Oregano, Chives, Parsley, Dill, Basil, and Mint, until moving onto 5 acres in North Central Florida, outside of High Springs.
17 years later, after serving in the Army, receiving a college degree in Farm Management/Horticulture, and a managerial position at Hammock Farm Nursery in Gainesville, I made the decision to start my own nursery, featuring herbs, and opened The Herb Garden. Herbs were just getting into the public mainstream at the time, albeit slowly. I got my foot in the door as an Herb grower early and established a large clientele throughout North Central Florida.
The Herb Garden started on a 1.25-acre cow pasture. When starting a nursery, I learned in school to purchase open land. It makes developing it much easier as far as digging irrigation and creating a workable layout. After working long hours for about 8 months, the doors opened to the public in March of 1989.
Presentations & Classes…
Over the course of 22 years, I was invited to give many talks and presentations to numerous Garden Clubs, Women’s Clubs, Nursery Organizations, and others. It was a delight to be able to introduce and educate folks on the many fascinating aspects of herbs, now becoming more popular. Presentations led to offering classes and I soon developed a curriculum of herb classes to offer to the public. These included Growing Herbs in Florida, Cooking with Herbs, Growing Herbs in Containers, and Making Herbal Preparations.
As presentations and classes increased and became popular, other media outlets soon were seeking coverage of the Herb Garden! A local gardening show ‘The Weekend Gardner‘, put on by the IFAS and WUFT public broadcasting, shot several series on location at The Herb Garden. Nickelodeon Studios contacted me to do an appearance on America’s Health Network, where I made several preparations, such as Skin Slave and Lip Balm. Here is a brief video from back in 1993…
One of the most rewarding presentations I have done was for elementary school children. In these presentations, I showed the link to the flavors in the foods they love, the medicines they use, and the actual plants from which the flavors are derived. It was amazing to do this!
I had wonderful contacts in the media, both in Gainesville, Palatka, and Jacksonville. The Gainesville Sun, Palatka Daily News, and WJXT TV. They willingly promoted the Herb Garden and many of the classes and festivals that I have offered over the 22 years with The Herb Garden. A big thanks go out to them, always!
Writers alike gave attention to The Herb Garden which I greatly appreciated. Appearing in several magazine articles and Newspaper articles was well received, Monica Brandies, a Florida gardening author gave The Herb Garden a great boost with her coverage of the nursery in her book ‘ Herbs and Spices for Florida Gardens ‘. Thank you always, Monica!
I have to admit, one of the greatest rewards I had growing herbs, was to participate in the numerous Spring and Fall Festivals in North Central Florida, and meet with so many new folks interested in herbs! I probably participated in over 15+ different festivals per year, over the 22 years of The Herb Garden! A lot of work but a lot of enjoyment as well. I met so many nice, like-minded folks at these festivals!
I also hosted The Annual Herb Garden Festival, right here at the nursery for several years before retiring. The cream of the crop festival, outside of my own, was The Kanapaha Spring Garden Festival in Gainesville Florida. The Herb Garden won 1st Place in the very first SGF!
It was a great 22 years of my life. I am officially known as ‘Herb Man’ and folks to this day stop and let me know how they enjoyed visiting The Herb Garden! I retired from The Herb Garden in 2010 and during these years I sold Herbs to Blue Water Bay restaurant in Melrose, Florida. In 2003 I established a permanent Herb Garden for the restaurant, which still is in use today.
The most interesting visit to my herb nursery was in 1999. Then The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind came out for a field trip and lunch. The kids spent a few hours going over the entire greenhouse, touching and smelling the different textures and fragrances. The looks of amazement were totally cool! After lunch, I let them go back into the greenhouse and pick out their favorite herbs! A very rewarding day, in a very rewarding 22-year business endeavor! The Herb Garden will remain in my heart forever!