From Shakespeare to Harry Potter, herbs have always had their place in mythology, literature and magic.
Now, two local gardening groups are hoping a community event will bring the whimsical side of plants a little closer to home.
"I think people are more deeply engaged in the gardening process," says Dave Hanson, vice-president of the Herb Society and co-owner of Sage Garden House. "There's a deeper connection to the whole holistic activity."
Organized by the Herb Society of Manitoba and Sage Garden House, Hanson says the first-ever Renaissance Herb Festival will introduce people to the herb's folklore and history.
With entertainers dressed in period costume, a market place with herbal-themed food and a baked good sale, Hanson says the one-day celebration on June 25 is connected to the rising interest in the use of herbs.
"Herbs are healthy," says Sandra Ross, past president of the Herb Society. "I love to cook in the flowers."
Ross says the Herb Society of Manitoba began in 1996 after gardening author Leslie Bremness asked the community at-large if anyone wanted to form a group during a radio interview.
As one of the founding members, Ross says the group that began with 20 members has now grown to an active membership of 150. She says the organization aims to promote the enjoyment of herbs in the community through both education and research.
Although Ross says the Herb Society has held annual festivals in the past, this is the first time the event will be connected with herb's historical past. At the beginning of the 14th century, European herbalists began to write a detailed history of herbs medicinal and healing properties that was widely distributed with the spread of books. The Renaissance period initiated a rise in science, art and literature, and people began examining the philosophy behind using herbs.
"It's being revisited like crazy," Hanson says. "The feeling that it's OK to be whimsical about gardening, instead of just practical."
Pat Cooper, a member of the Herb Society and a garden enthusiast, says herbs have helped her cope with her multiple sclerosis. Cooper says she first began learning about all the uses of herbs at the herb festival a few years ago, and now says that she uses her garden for healing and herbs for baking, tea and making soaps and lotion.
"I think the reason I'm as good (physically) as I am, is because I have all these beautiful things around me," she says.
Cooper admits that she didn't always know about herbs' healing properties, and jokes that the only thing she knew was that herbal tea came in packages. Cooper says gardening herbs has opened a new world for her, and confesses to spending hours digging around in her garden.
"It's made my life so interesting," she says.
The festival takes place on June 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Sage Garden Herbs, located just south of the perimeter on St. Mary's Road. For more information on the Herb Society, visit www.herbsocietymb.com or call 257-2715.