Avena Botanicals Medicinal Herb Garden

Rockport, ME
Garden Stewards: Deb Soule, Denise DeSpirito, Kate Miller, Anna Goff

Avena Botanicals three-acre medicinal herb garden is situated on 32 acres of field and forest that borders 6000 acres of undeveloped woods and wetlands. We are on a south-facing slope, 400 feet above sea level, only 4 miles from the ocean. Being in a rural area, we are blessed with a diverse bird population, and on occasion we see deer, moose and signs of coyote and fox.

Adjacent to the garden is an old 1800’s farmhouse in which Avena Botanicals herbal apothecary creates various medicinal remedies. Nearly 70% of the herbs used in our products are grown in our organic and biodynamic gardens or wild-harvested in nearby fields or islands. All of our work, from the planting of seeds, to the tending and harvesting of our herbs, to the making of our remedies is done by hand. We strive to live and do business in a way that honors and respects the natural world, traditional plant knowledge and our community at large. We offer a variety of herbal classes, plant walks and workshops year round through our Herbal Classroom.

Over 150 types of medicinal herbs and flowers grow in our certified organic and biodynamic gardens. Every plant, shrub and tree in the garden is grown for medicine, food or to feed the pollinators. Clearly marked labels and a colorful garden map assist visitors and students to recognize the plants. Along with our garden map is a 25 page Plant Guide to Avena Botanicals Medicinal Herb Garden available at the entrance to the garden. The plant guide alphabetically lists 135 of the garden plants by Latin and family name, place of origin, parts used and something about their medicinal uses. Stone and wooden benches, 2 arbors, meandering stone paths, 3 tiny hand-made ponds and our new woodland garden offer visitors and the pollinators a peaceful place to find refuge and healing.

Being near the coast and on a ledge, our soil is shallow and a bit acidic (not ideal for native woodland herbs). Homemade compost, cover crops, leaf mulch and biodynamic preparations have benefited our soil fertility and plants enormously. In the main garden – Arnica Chamissonis, Black Cohosh, Butterfly Weed and different Echinacea species have been growing successfully for years along with other more common native plants: Bee Balm, Black-Eyed Susan, Blue Vervain, Boneset, Cramp Bark, Elder, Evening Primrose, Hawthorn, Joe-Pye Weed, Milk Weed, Solomon’s Seal, Staghorn Sumac, White Ash, Wild Geranium, Willow and Witch Hazel. Julia Yelton, a permaculturist, helped us build 4 terraced beds on a northwestern, partially shaded slope where we have created a beautiful woodland garden that contains Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Bloodroot, Goldenseal, Spikenard, Trillium and Violets. A lovely old New England stone wall, still in good condition, is the backdrop for this garden.

I feel deeply grateful to be a gardener and steward of this land and honored to be part of the UPS Botanical Sanctuary Network. My interest in plant pollinators continues to expand and I am researching the pollinators specific to the native woodland plants we are growing. We are also planning an experimental garden bed of false unicorn plants and are eager to hear and learn from other gardeners who are cultivating false unicorn or from people who have plant pollinator information to share. You can contact me, Deb Soule, at debsoule@gmail.com. Avena Botanicals gardens and herb shop are open year round, Monday – Friday from 12-5. You can also visit www.avenabotanicals.com to learn more about us and our projects. We always enjoy meeting other plant lovers.