Herb society still growing

Southland Herb Society founding and life member Adair Polson-Genge (left) and Geoff Genge at Marshwood Gardens with guest speaker, writer and editor Jane Wrigglesworth, of Auckland.

THE Southland Herb Society celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday with writer and editor Jane Wrigglesworth as its guest speaker.

Begun in March 1981, with a meeting of 25 people, the aim of the society was to share knowledge and learn about herbs, how to grow and use them, and to promote the planting of herbs, club member Christine Whitaker said.

Ms Wrigglesworth, of Auckland, visited the 4.5ha Marshwood Gardens at West Plains the day before, admiring the extensive collection of South Island salvias which Adair Polson-Genge and Geoff Genge had grown.

A certified sleep coach, Ms Wrigglesworth is also competing a Bachelor of Natural Medicine at the South Pacific College of Natural Medicine.

“Herbs are my thing… I just want to know more about herbs, their qualities and how to apply it healthwise.”

She has also written a herb column for the NZ Gardener for the past 12-13 years, as well as for NZ House & Garden and various newspapers.

A founding member and former president of the club, Mrs Genge said her passion for herbs began when she and her husband, Geoff, moved into a “little house on West Plains Rd”.

“It was a little area of garden. I was interested in herbs for cooking such as sage, rosemary and thyme.”

By 1981, they had moved to what would become Marshwood Gardens, named after the valley in Dorset where Mr Genge’s family came from, where again she planted a herb garden.

However, the garden has grown, as gardens do, and the couple now focused mainly on South Island salvias more than 100 varieties, which could be ordered online.

Mrs Genge became the second president of the club and went on to be the first president of the New Zealand Federation.

It was 1986.

“It was a big movement then with people from throughout New Zealand involved,” she said.

“Southland has always played a big part in the federation.”

Of all the herb societies throughout the country, Southland had been the most stable, she said.

In its heyday, there were 300 members, which had now dissipated because a lot of other gardening groups had been established, Mrs Genge said.

The Southland branch now has a membership of about 40.

Some enjoy growing herbs, some crafting and creating, others for aromatics, pot pourri, tussie mussie or medicinal purposes.

Mrs Whitaker said members were a “friendly, open group”, keen to share their knowledge and experiences.

The Southland Herb Society meets on the last Thursday of the month at the Royal Foundation of the Blind centre, Queens Dr, at 7pm. There was always a herb of the night, a book review, a topic of interest, a display and supper. Garden tours, workshops and events were also held occasionally.