The St. Louis Herb Society marks its 80th birthday in 2021 in a way its founders could have never imagined back in early 1941—with an online sale of more than 8,000 herbs and pollinator plants.
The St. Louis Herb Society Online-Only Herb Sale
March 26–April 2 | Online shopping for Garden members
April 9–16 | Online shopping open to general public while supplies last
April 30–May 1 | Contactless curbside pickup at the Garden
The St. Louis Herb Society was founded as a chapter of the Herb Society of America in 1941 by eleven charter members—seven women and four men, under the leadership of Dr. Edgar Anderson, a Garden botanist and founder of the Herb Society of America (the Herb Society became independent of the HSA in 1954). Since its founding, the Society has maintained its goal of fostering the use and knowledge of herbs through a variety of education programs, books on herb gardening and herb cooking, and its stewardship and care of the St. Louis Herb Society Herb Garden, located on the south side of Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw’s country home, Tower Grove House.
But the Society’s annual Herb Sale, which typically draws hundreds of shoppers to the Garden each spring and benefits various horticulture projects at the Garden, is perhaps its most popular offering. Mary Hammer, a former Herb Sale chairperson and an Herb Society member since 2006, has observed the popularity of growing herbs skyrocket in the last 15 years. “Gardening is more popular than ever,” she says. Thanks to the proliferation of cooking shows on television, she adds, “People are exposed to different cuisines and seeing herbs used in cooking. It also has to do with the interest in eating fresh food and using herbs for flavoring rather than salt.”
With the 2020 Herb Sale cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders in place in the City of St. Louis, the process of planning the 2021 sale was especially challenging. Gardening and cooking took off as pastimes during pandemic lockdowns, providing a ready market for many of the plants that herb growers had produced for the cancelled 2020 sale, but growers needed some assurances that the 2021 sale would go forward before committing their resources. The ongoing pandemic also raised obvious concerns. How many people would be comfortable coming to an in-person sale? What precautions would the group need to take?
Determined to avoid cancelling the sale a second year in a row, and based in part on the success of online plant sales at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House and Shaw Nature Reserve in 2020, Herb Sale chair Val Whitney and co-chair Ted Atwood began looking into the possibility of moving the Herb Sale online.
“It was a huge learning curve,” Val recalls, “but when I looked at the online tools they used, I began to think this was a real possibility.” Following some successful testing, she reported back to the board and the decision to host an online-only sale in 2021 was approved. “We took a leap of faith,” says Herb Society President JoAnn Vorih.
Available via the Society’s website, the online-only sale offers Missouri Botanical Garden members (and, later, the general public) the opportunity to shop herb plants carefully selected for their ability to thrive in St. Louis and hard-to-find herbs that appeal to lovers of a variety of cuisines. At least 16 different offerings of basil should satisfy every palate.
Garden members can shop from March 26 through April 2 and receive a 10 percent discount using their membership number and the discount code printed in various member communications. The general public can shop and pay online from April 9 through 16, while supplies last. Contactless, curbside pickup at the Garden will be available at various time slots on the afternoon of April 30 and the morning of May 1.
Garden members who can’t wait for an herb fix can bide their time with a virtual Member Speaker Series presentation by Anne Cori of Kitchen Conservatory on parsley, the Society’s 2021 Herb of the Year. Not a Garden member? Join today!