What is an herb?
The world of herbs extends far beyond parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Herbs are some of the most versatile plants on the planet. Of course most of us know they can be used for seasoning food, but did you also know they are used in medicines, fragrances, dyes, and much more? The foliage and flowers also make many herbs a beautiful addition to a home garden or landscape (lavender comes to mind here). Luckily, a new book will help you learn more about these amazing plants, and you don’t have to go to Scarborough Fair to find it.
About the Book
Herbs A to Z is a new publication from the Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Written by the St. Louis Herb Society, this colorful work aims to connect young readers (and even not-so-young readers) to these wonderful plants—from Artemisia to Za’atar and everywhere in between.
While typical herbs such as the aforementioned parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are represented in the book, so are less common herbs such as Joe Pye weed, Nepeta, and Queen of the Meadow. Each herb highlighted in the book, along with its pollinator, is exquisitely hand-illustrated and includes a description of its historic origin or use.
“Every member of The St. Louis Herb Society was invited to provide input for the book from its earliest stages,” says Pat Schutte, President of the St. Louis Herb Society. “Librarians and developmental specialists were also consulted. The final manuscript was written by a team of four Society members: a journalist, two reading and writing teachers, and a master plant specialist and historian. Herbs A to Z has been a very inclusive effort, one that we have all found to be quite delightful and rewarding.”
Herbs A to Z is available in the Garden Gate Shop and online from MBG Press.
Creating the Illustrations
The book’s beautiful illustrations were hand-drawn and colored by Morgan Hutcherson, Graphic Designer for the Missouri Botanical Garden. She sketched the artwork in pencil before inking the outline in pen. The illustrations were then painted with watercolors, scanned into the computer, and finished with digital touch-ups.
“Luckily, it was only a short walk to the Herb Garden, where I could photograph a large number of the plants myself,” says Hutcherson. “My favorite plants to illustrate were the colorful mint, nepeta, and indigo and my least favorites were the complex curly-leaf parsley and dill. I learned a lot in creating this book and I hope that the readers will learn just as much while enjoying the book.”
Herbs Need Pollinators Too
Just like most plants, herbs have a special relationship with pollinators. Herbs A to Z highlights this connection throughout the book by matching pollinators such as bees, beetles, and birds, to the correct herb. For instance, parsley is a common host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillar. The pairings were chosen in consultation with Chris Hartley, Science Education Coordinator at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House.
“The pollinators were also a lot of fun to create, seeing as they bring a lot of playful character to the book.”
Morgan Hutcherson, Graphic Designer
Learn More About Herbs
The Missouri Botanical Garden is a great place to learn more about herbs. Many of these events and opportunities are conducted in partnership with the St. Louis Herb Society, a relationship that dates back to 1941.
“For 76 years, The St. Louis Herb Society and the Missouri Botanical Garden have enjoyed a wonderful partnership. It has been energizing to our members to be able to contribute to and benefit from our relationship with this world class institution.”
Pat Schutte, President of the St. Louis Herb Society
Today, Herb Society members and Garden horticulturists work closely on a number of events, projects, and educational classes, to share a wealth of information about the wonderful world of herbs. Many of the plants featured in Herbs A to Z are available to see, smell, and even take home to your own garden.
Visit the St. Louis Herb Society Herb Garden behind Tower Grove House to experience hundreds of plants used in cooking, medicine, fragrance, and utilitarian purposes.
In the summer months, Herb and Heirloom Tuesdays offer visitors a chance to pot an herb and take it home.
Herb Days features more than 11,000 potted fresh herbs for sale each year in the spring.
The William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening also offers several great resources for growing herbs in your home garden.