FLAVOR FOR SALE: Herb society offers fragrant bounty

More than seven years after Anne Barnes’ garden was inundated by 3.5 feet of brackish water that stayed two weeks, killing almost all the plants, it is now a showplace for anyone who loves flowers, butterflies and herbs.

Barnes decided not to garden until the house “was in reasonable repair, (allowing) time to reconsider the garden.’’ She knew she didn’t want what she called the former “general disorder’’ that had resulted haphazardly as her children grew and she was able to claim former play space a little at a time.

The new garden boasts old roses, salvia, a wide variety of herbs, a small citrus orchard and a native wildlife garden.

It will be the venue for Saturday’s Spring Plant Sale by the Herb Society of America, New Orleans Unit.

The address is 2202 Gen. Pershing St., but visitors should enter the garden from the side gate on Loyola Avenue, just off Napoleon Avenue. Sale hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Besides herbs, butterfly plants and other annuals and perennials will be for sale, including many varieties not readily available locally. The organization will also sell its publication, “Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs.’’

Society members will be on hand to consult on choices and care.

The Herb Society of America was founded in 1933 by six women in Boston to grow and study herbs, and learn about their uses over history for cooking, medicine, fragrance, dyes and ornamental gardens.

The New Orleans Unit has 42 members, “mostly women, but we do have men too,’’ according to Anne Abbott, its founder who also was president of the national organization 2006-2008.

“We meet once a month, either at the New Orleans Botanic Garden, or at Longue Vue. Sometimes we have field trips.’’

The local unit’s assigned duty is the study of salvia, the largest genus in the mint family.

Its various species are used in cooking, as ornamentals, in herbal medicine and for their fragrant foliage.

The top 10 herbs as voted by the national society are sweet basil, thyme, bay, sage, Greek oregano, chives, dill, parsley, rosemary and lavender.

All will be for sale on Saturday. And if you think lavender is used only to scent sachets and hand lotion, you may be surprised to learn that it’s one of the essential “herbs de Provence’’ used in a number of sweet dishes.

As do most herb enthusiasts, Barnes loves to cook, adding snippets of her harvest to many dishes.

Currently she has “a bay tree, three kinds of rosemary, several kinds of basil, four oreganos, two kinds of marjoram, winter savory, three thymes, several species from Central America, several from Asia, leaf celery, as well as rue and fennel for butterflies. And if fresh herbs are not available, I do used dried ones.’’

Proceeds from the sale will benefit Longue Vue, the Botanical Garden in City Park and the Herb Society of America.

Unsold plants find a good home, said Audrey Driscoll, current chairwoman of the New Orleans Unit.

“After any plant sale, remaining plants have been donated to various recipients, including the animal garden at the Audubon Zoo, the Johnson Elementary School and Vintage Gardens,” Driscoll said.