The Mountain Rose Herbs' procurement team pulled into a long driveway, following the handpainted signs of flowers pointing the way to park. We stepped out into the warm mid-morning air of Southern Oregon, smelling the smoky undertones of nearby wildfires. As our car doors opened, a flock of birds flushed out of a happy feeding frenzy; sparrows, juncos, and other small song birds were only mildly disturbed from the meal of seeds and small red berries. A wonderful herbal garden sat before us laden with their fruits of early fall.
We made our way down the driveway on foot and noticed small crops of plants scattered throughout an open area. Just ahead of us sat a large greenhouse and an outdoor shade cloth shelter harboring an incredible assortment of potted plants. Halfway up the drive, we were warmly greeted by the owner of this plant paradise carrying his sweet granddaughter in his arms.
Richo Cech, along with his family, began Horizon Herbs back in 1985. After finding a passion for cultivating diverse herbal seeds and understanding the increasing need for these seeds, Horizon Herbs was born, and the family began selling the products through their homemade catalogs.
Richo generously gave of his time, offering a small tour of his private herbal gardens where all the magic happens! We gained such appreciation for all the dedication, time, and commitment it takes to grow these plants so that they will bear fruit and the seeds can be saved to pass on to others.
The diversity of his offerings is nothing short of incredible, ranging from common traditionally used medicinal weeds, like dandelion, to lesser known plants across the globe. Richo’s perspective on his trade is that “no plants are too common or too rare to benefit from cultivation--they are all medicine."
Providing medicinal seeds and live plants to the people not only connects folks to their own health, but also with nature. Every seed packet sold has specific instructions about how best to sow the seed, since every plant has different requirements. This connects the person to the cycle of that plant, as well as to the environment in which one lives. This creates happy growing conditions!
Patience and thinking outside the box are very important factors when trying to get certain seeds to grow. A common complaint from people who are trying to grow from seed is that the seeds don't sprout. There are always a small percentage of seeds that are duds, however, more often than not, the seed is simply missing one small factor that encourages it to begin life. It could be giving it more time, or considering when it should be planted (seasonal), light and soil conditions, or the seed needs a specific action to mimic natural conditions such as storing in a cold, wet place for a certain amount of time. When truly stumped, Richo recommends looking to nature for the answer.
Learning about the life cycle and growing conditions of a certain plant will give you a wealth of information in understanding how that plant reproduces and when. Experimentation is a fun and excellent way to learn what your plant needs – a whole new world may open before your eyes.
As we listen raptly to Richo’s stories and advice, we again notice the bird activity on the property. Richo smiles with the look and knowledge of one who has spent his life in nature and remarks, “The birds rejoice, that’s what it’s all about, we’re all connected.”
Horizon Herbs has just released their Fall/Winter catalog with the great tag line of “Plant it in the Fall!” We tend to think of planting season as being a springtime activity, however, many plants prefer (and it is part of their natural reproductive cycle) to be seeded in the ground this cool time of year. Many shrubs and perennials have an easier time being transplanted in autumn as their energy is naturally transferring to their root system, and this helps lesson the shock and gets them ready to grow come spring!
I always notice the abundance of seeds this time of year and realize that a large majority of our plants will drop their seeds now, and then begin to grow when life starts stirring in the spring. According to Horizon Herbs' catalog, “…50% of temperate species germinate most reliably when planted using standard technique in a warm greenhouse or spring garden. But the remaining 50% do best sown outdoors or in the cold greenhouse in the fall or very early spring…”
A few examples of these fall sowed plants are Poppies, Shepherds Purse, Angelica, Black Cohosh, Borage, Comfrey, Stinging Nettle, and Passionflower.
You can find these and all the other seeds we offer from Horizon Herbs on our website. Please visit Horizon Herbs directly for an online catalog or to request one of their paper catalogs. For those of you itching to get your hands dirty but not sure where to start with medicinal plant gardening, I highly suggest Richo’s The Medicinal Herb Grower: A Guide for Cultivating Plants that Heal.
Mountain Rose Herbs is honored to support Horizon Herbs in “empowering gardeners to grow roots of sustainability.”
For more visits to the farm see: Sowing Seeds at Horizon Herbs