Plants Practical and Fanciful
First constructed in the 1970s, this garden contains many unusual herbs as well as many that are well known. Favorites from grandmother’s day, such as horehound, licorice, lavender, mignonette, and heliotrope, evoke happy memories for many visitors. The garden is arranged according to the uses made of the herbs: medicines; teas; wines and liqueurs; cooking, salads, and confections; cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps; potpourris and sachets; insect repellents; and dyes.
Plantings in the culinary bed include several kinds of basil, tarragon, and thyme as well as marjoram, lemongrass, lovage, allspice, and oregano.
Plants in the tussie-mussie bed include borage. Tussie-mussies are small handheld bouquets of scented flowers and herbs that have special meaning for the recipients. Interpretive signs explain the meanings of the different flowers. Borage, for example, means “bluntness,” while the meaning of sweet alyssum is “worth beyond beauty.”
The Southern California climate allows The Huntington to grow many herbs and even some spices not found in traditional herb gardens. These include, but are not limited to, plants that produce coffee, tea, mate, hops, and jojoba. Many larger and shade loving herbs are planted outside the beds, along the perimeter of the garden. Some plants are not included due to size, adaptability, or threat to the environment (invasiveness, toxicity, etc.).
Laurus nobilis, the Sweet Bay, used since classic Greek times in cooking and to honor poets. Aloe vera, Medicinal Aloe, the sap of the fleshy leaves is used in cosmetics. Aloysia triphylla, Lemon Verbena, the leaves are dried and used as a soothing tea.
Gossypium barbadense, Sea Island cotton, in the hibiscus family is not used for commercial cotton production, but is a highly ornamental shrub for the landscape.
There are two kinds of signs in the herb garden. One lists the botanical and common name of the plant. Other signs have quotations from The Huntington’s fine collection of early herbals with the author’s name and the date of publication.