A small band of dedicated volunteers toiled under last Friday's hot sun, re-planting perennials in the herb garden at the they had previously moved in order to renovate the garden.
The work wasn't easy. They carried heavy pots. Dug in the dry dirt. Knelt on new gravel. And sweated—both literally and figuratively—the details.
Roxanne Varian said it was a labor of love.
"We love gardening, we love coming here," said Varian, the chairwoman of the New York Unit of the Herb Society of America, whose members maintain the garden. "We love to educate, and chat with people who come here to visit."
The four volunteers included Varian, a Mahopac resident, Denise Lee of Mt. Kisco, who chairs the garden, Susan Thorson of Chappaqua, and Katherine Sackman of Katonah, who from and is working as a summer intern for the Herb Society.
They are part of a group of 50 active members and volunteers who maintain the garden and participate in activities like field trips to New York's Central Park.
As Lee directed where lemon balm, lavender and thyme plants should be placed, she described the project, which was needed to fix some of the garden's biggest problems: weeds and drainage.
The old gravel was removed and donated to the adjacent to the herb garden. Landscape fabric was installed as a weed deterrent and the edging was reset. The parking lot was pushed back from the garden, decreasing pressure on its northern stone wall, and drainage improvements were put into place.
The garden's paths lead still lead to four main areas containing plants grouped according to purpose: medicinal, culinary, fragrant, and pest repellent. It was created in 1991 on the site of an historic cutting garden and greenhouse by Page Dickey, a designer, writer, and member of the New York Unit of the Herb Society of America, according to the Friends of John Jay Homestead.
"Once we get the perennials back in place, then we can start putting in the annuals," Varian said. "Then we start preparing for annual herb fair."
Last year Patch , a culminating activity for the society where the garden's bounty is offered up to visitors. Last year, local celebrity and home and garden guru Martha Stewart visited the fair and blogged about it afterwards. She posted a photo gallery of many of the plants, flowers, baked goods and gardening products for sale there, including the "beautiful tiny tomatoes and herb baskets," the "amazing variety" at "very reasonable prices.
This year the society marks its 75th anniversary and will also hold a garden party in November to celebrate the occasion.
Many of the volunteers devote a significant amount of hours each week to work at the garden, said Lee—who herself could not measure the number of hours she spends there—but instead said she enjoyed working there with "a fantastic group of ladies."
For more information on the Herb Society, click here. You can visit the garden during homestead hours, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
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