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Waccamaw Library: Herbs to check out in a pinch

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The learning experience begins at the Waccamaw Library before people even get inside the building.

An herb garden near the library’s entrance has added a touch to the landscaping that people have enjoyed. “Every time we come up here, we hear, ‘Oh, it’s great. We love it,’” said Karen Burch, horticulture chairwoman for the Lowcountry Herb Society, sponsor of the garden. “There was a woman going through the garden with her two children. That’s exactly what we wanted.”

There will be a dedication for the garden next Thursday at 10:30 a.m. with local chefs invited to pick a sprig of a favorite herb. School children and herb society and garden club members will also take part. The “ribbon” for the ceremony will be made of bay leaves from the garden and cut with shears, Burch said.

County library director Dwight McInvaill said the garden adds to the landscape. “It’s an excellent place for young people to explore the world of horticulture,” he said, “and provides a spot for others to sit and have informal meetings. It’s so attractive. It’s a pleasure for everyone as they walk into the library and valuable in so many different ways.”

Maddox Robinson, 11, is the youngest member of the Lowcountry Herb Society, and he will lead a tour of the children’s learning section for about 30 members of the Waccamaw Intermediate School garden club under the direction of teacher Peggy Sumlin. The children’s section includes a “pizza garden” with stepping stones and plants like thyme, parsley and oregano that can survive little footsteps.

Maddox, son of Seanna and Eric Robinson of Surfside Beach, is home schooled and has discovered he has a green thumb. He and his dad planted their first garden this summer with vegetables and herbs. He makes herbal tea and flavors chicken with sprigs from the garden. His favorite recipe is for lavender cookies. “Very tasty,” Maddox said.

Burch said local chefs attending the dedication will be invited to help themselves to an herb or two. Eventually, she said, the garden will be robust enough for anyone to come and pick a bay leaf or a sprig of parsley, basil, thyme or rosemary from the culinary section. The herb society will hold a class on how to pick herbs without harming the plants before allowing people to help themselves.

The herb garden is a welcoming place for all library patrons. There’s a raised bed for the handicapped to reach plants. McInvaill said it’s not unusual to see people sitting in the shade in the meditation garden. Lowcountry Herb Society member Kay Pulliam said herbs are used for aroma therapy and help people relax. Lavender is a natural sleep aid that can be put into a sachet and kept under a pillow.

The garden was designed to please the eye as well as the nose, Burch said. Mexican marigold and pineapple sage bring bright yellow and red to the garden. There are more flowers like the reds of hot lips and watermelon sage, and yellows of the cone flower and black-eyed Susan. While the flowers aren’t herbs, Burch said, they are still edible. Rose petals can be brewed as a tea and sweetened with the herb stevia.

In the butterfly-bee garden, there are blooms to provide nectar. An orange-flowering milkweed plant is there to draw Monarch butterflies.

“A lot of thought and planning went into this garden,” Burch said. “We tried to think about the environment and be organic. There are no pesticides used.”

Not every plant has thrived in the garden where one end is in sun and the other in shade. Sunflowers didn’t make it, neither did nasturtiums planted to grow up the ribs of a teepee built by Andrea and Larry McCoy. Meanwhile, plants in the butterfly-bee garden are getting tall enough to hide the obelisk built by Janelle and Larry Sabourin. During a recent fall planting, fennel had to be moved in front of the tall pineapple sage to be seen.

“We’re still learning,” Pulliam said. “It’s so much fun to come up here and see it do so well.”

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