Diggin' it: A trip through ‘thyme’

Garden writer Grace Peterson took a road trip with her daughters and visited The Thyme Garden near Alsea.

A year ago, I wrote a column about the joys of road trips to various out-of-the-way country nurseries. At the end of the article, I asked you all if I had missed any. Not long after, I received an email from Janet Hagen, co-owner of The Thyme Garden, just outside of Alsea.

She suggested I take a road trip to see her and her husband Rolfe’s establishment, perhaps on Mother’s Day weekend, when they’d be hosting an “Art in the Garden” event.

Or maybe I could reserve a weekday luncheon and guided tour with friends. Sadly, I couldn’t make those excellent suggestions happen.

But finally, at the end of July, on a perfectly sunny Saturday morning, I grabbed two of my three daughters — both avid gardeners — piled us into the car and headed toward Alsea.

The drive along the Alsea Highway was pleasant as we traveled from farmland to forest. Not long after descending the 1,250-foot elevation of the south flank of Mary’s Peak, we saw a row of flags stationed along the roadway, flapping in the breeze as if to say, “Hey, you’re here.”

And sure enough, seconds later there was “The Thyme Garden” sign. After turning onto the gravel drive, we drove across a bridge with a babbling creek below and banner overhead — attached to two of the many tall trees — that greeted us with “Welcome to the Garden.”

Ours was the only car in the small gravel lot on this Saturday morning, which kind of surprised me. I had half expected there to be wedding hustle-bustle since the grounds include a large wooded area complete with rustic arbor for the vows, an indoor area for event preparations, several outdoor seating areas, a large barbecue and basically everything needed for an elaborate outdoor reception.

Later, when talking with Rolfe and Janet, I learned that this was a rare event-free Saturday for them so they were caring for the grandkids.

Walking under a large, rustic trellis, swathed in verdant hop vine foliage, we entered the garden. Laid out in a large parterre, Rolfe explains how each circular corner was planted with a specific theme in mind.

For example, one series of grids contains edible flowers, while another has flowers used to make dyes. Another holds insect-repellent plants and another, aroma therapy plants. One section of the garden is planted with the surprisingly numerous thyme (Thymus) cultivars. (I counted 37 varieties in their catalog.) Most varieties were in bloom, ablaze with happy honeybees and other pollinators.

A moon garden, with white flowers and silvery leaves awaiting magical moonlight illumination adorns the center of the grid. All of the plants in the garden were in their peak, evidenced by the hundreds of honeybees flitting from one flower to another.

While I’m not an herbalist, I am a plant geek and saw several plants that interested me. Unfortunately, a lot of their stock was sold out since peak sales are in spring. Still, I had to purchase a new-to-me variety of thyme called “Tuffet.” The tag reads, “Miss Muffet would love it.”

I also purchased a Mountain Mint called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium after earlier reading online accounts of how much the bees love its plethora of white flowers. Fortunately, this mint is not a huge spreader like your typical mint (Mentha spp.) plants are.

My daughters and I enjoyed strolling garden paths, sniffing fragrant blossoms and making mental notes of plants we’d like to grow next year. When the sun became a bit too warm, we took a stroll through the shady woods and saw glimpses of the aforementioned creek with its musical gurgling, then came to the reflective pond, mirroring summer skies behind a cool, leafy canopy. Secretly I wondered if I might return here as a mother-of-the-bride someday.

Although The Thyme Garden is closed now for the season, the website lists all the details for tours, luncheons and other special events, including a Salmon Walk and Herbal Dinner in November. Additionally, you can purchase seeds, hop roots and many other herbal goodies at thymegarden.com. Also check out their page on Facebook where you can see lots of garden and food photos.

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