Polly Haynes, known to many as “the Herb Lady” in Vermont, has been herb gardening for more than 30 years. A visit to Caprilands Herb Farm and luncheon with the legendary herbalist Adelma Simmons (1903-1997) sparked the inspiration and desire to make the wide and wonderful world of herbs part of her life. She established Meadowsweet Herb Farm in 1979 at her 1865 farm in the tiny mountain hamlet of Shrewsbury, Vermont, or “beyond the boonies”. Polly’s independent, creative spirit and tireless love of everything herbal transformed the farm into a “feast for the senses”.
In the spring and summer months the herb gardens would burst alive with colors and fragrances. The early medieval design of simple rectangular beds in the Renaissance Herb Garden evolved to exuberant Cottage Herb Gardens. The greenhouse produced over 100 varieties of herbs and scented geraniums and dazzled visitors with huge rosemaries. A colossal flowering and fragrant jasmine plant welcomed you when stepping into the greenhouse from the deep snow of a Vermont winter. The Herb Shop for Polly’s herbal wreaths and bouquets, savory seasoning blends, artful herb vinegars and fragrant potpourri blends was located in the farmhouse “summer kitchen”. The Meadowsweet workshops were located in the old ballroom. Throughout the year Polly sold her potted herb plants and herbal products at flower and handcraft shows throughout New England and New York.
The handsome Meetinghouse Barn designed by Polly was based on her research in Shaker architecture and served as an inspiration to all visitors. The barn was built as a tribute to the Shakers, who originated the concept of growing and harvesting herb and garden seeds and packaging them in small colorful envelopes for sale. The Shakers were the first herb (seed) business in this country and it was wildly successful. The Meetinghouse Barn also hosted many festive herbal luncheons and educational workshops. Meadowsweet Herb Farm closed in 2005 with the death of her husband, Elliott, and her desire to live where her aging Morgan horses would enjoy a milder climate and where Rosemary, the herb of remembrance, could grow outside year-round.
You can find Polly and Meadowsweet Herb Farm in several books including Herbs – Gardens, Decorations and Recipes – and Gifts from the Herb Garden by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead as well as Hidden New England, a travel gem. In the useful book Herbs for Sale by Lee Sturdivant, the Meetinghouse Barn is featured on the front cover. They have also been featured in various newspapers and magazines including Yankee, Victoria, Gourmet and Brides. A 30-minute video produced by Across the Fence (University of Vermont Extension Service) and Dr. Leonard Perry, horticulturist, take you on a tour with Polly of her herb gardens and workshops. This popular video played on PBS stations for many years. Polly has been a popular speaker at various Vermont and New England Regional Flower Shows and Garden Clubs for many years for her informative and lively presentations.
In Virginia, Polly has found new inspiration for sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for herbs with you and looks forward to making new friends and connecting with old friends.