History of the LOW COUNTRY HERB SOCIETY
The thought of an organization was originally conceived in 1984 by Ann Macintire, a Brookgreen Garden volunteer. At that time, as part of a new Volunteer Program at Brookgreen Gardens there was a tour which focused on the "economic" money crops of the plantations: rice, indigo, sugar cane, cotton and tobacco and included the limited herbal plantings in the gardens. Herbs, while not actually money crops did make an essential contribution to plantation life.
During the following two years interest grew in this tour as did the space for herb plantings. The newsletters reported, by 1986 there were six beds with no particular theme and some irrigation in place.
In 1986, Ann with Brookgreen's support suggested forming an organization to focus on the herb beds. A notice was put in the paper to bring together anyone interested in forming an Herb Society to come to a meeting at Brookgreen. At the first meeting 19 enthusiastic people showed up. The main goals at that time were to develop and maintain the herb beds and give educational tours. Subsequent meetings brought new faces and by the end of the year there were 30 members.
The plan for giving tours at Brookgreen of the herb beds was brought to the membership in 1986. Our SOCIETY member's volunteered to do the hard work to put the beds in shape to be presented to the public. One brief article in the first newsletter noted that several volunteers gathered and bagged marsh grass which was brought back to the gardens and laid on top of existing beds. Also each bed had been outline with bricks. The herb garden tours started in May 1987 and were conducted on Tuesdays, by appointment in May and June.
Later the gardens were expanded to include eight beds, each with a different theme and cared for by LOW COUNTRY HERB SOCIETY volunteers - each assigned to a specific bed. The themes were: heavy sweet scents; mints, teas, medicinal; culinary, native, historic; culinary, heavy flavors; light scents; culinary, Mediterranean; dyes, dried flowers; and heavy scents, bug repellent, wreaths.
Meetings were held at the Brookgreen Gardens educational center from 1986 to 1990. It was in 1988, that the society's members took over the responsibility for developing the herb beds at the Rice Museum and I believe, it was at this time when the objectives of the society were redefined. They refocused their efforts on the maintenance of the garden at the Rice museum while at the same time continuing to maintain the herb beds at Brookgreen. The association with Brookgreen continued until 1993.
In 1989 the gardens at the Rice Museum and Brookgreen suffered the wrath of Hugo. It was reported in the LCHS newsletter: " The Rice Museum Garden for all practical purposes was destroyed. The Sampit River surged into the gardens depositing a sail boat, timber, debris and several inches of pluff mud. The good news was that the Rice Museum was not damaged. The gardens at Brookgreen looked bad at first look but after cleaning up the beds and trimming severely, it looked more promising. Thanks to the Herb garden volunteers who took time from cleaning up their own yards to clean up the Rice museum and Brookgreen Gardens."
Meetings from 1990 to 1996 were held at a variety of locations, some based on meeting topic and many times in member's homes or at the Rice Museum. From 1996 meetings were primarily held at the Georgetown Library and Prince George Parish Hall and by 2000 we met for the first time at St. Paul's Waccamaw Methodist Church.
As previously indicated, the Society's membership in 1986 began with 19, grew to 30 within a few months. By 1989 there were 53 members. During subsequent years, membership and interest continued to grow and by 1996 there were 91 members. At the end of our 2010-2011 meeting year we had 103 members. Dues were $10 in 1986 and were increased to $15 in 1996 and later to our present dues of $20.
Fundraising has been a part of our organization from projects to create dried herb blends and homemade lotions, plus the herb sales started in 1990 during the Plantation Tours with the proceeds going toward repairing the damage of Hurricane Hugo. In subsequent year's cookbooks, calendars, tee shirts and herbal design tote bags where offered.
Low Country Herb Society has been active in the community from the beginning.
The scholarship program started in 1997 with a $500 scholarship; we are now able to do two $1,250 scholarships. Initially a collection of herbal books was started at the Rice Museum, but when the collection became extensive they were donated to the libraries. The donation of herb books and videos to local libraries continued for many more years. The society provided educational exhibits for the flower shows held by the Georgetown Council of Garden Clubs. We started decorating themed Christmas trees for the Hospice Festival in 1991 and continued until 1998. Our Spring plant sales held at the time of the Plantation Tours were originally held in two locations: Georgetown and Pawleys Island. Now we have two garden festival events: fall and spring at Inlet Culinary Garden. Our joint effort has resulted in support from Inlet Culinary of $2,000 each year. We have come a long way - I found a note in one of the 1988 newsletters that the herb sale had a profit of $33.
From the first meeting in 1986 to now, the common interest of LOW COUNTRY HERB SOCIETY members is in learning about herbs, their uses, growing, and preserving. The purpose of the organization:
to gain knowledge and simulate interest in the planting, harvesting and use of herbs;
to sponsor and cultivate related herb programs for the community;
to simulate an increased awareness of herbs through the publishing of the Low Country Herb Society newsletter on a regular basis.
The support of the members, from the beginning, to accomplish all that they did was essential. It is with the continued support of our membership that Low Country Herb Society will continue for many more years.