CONCORD -- While most residents were at barbecues celebrating America's birthday, Jane Kelley and Karen Mahshi were in Mahshi's garden talking herbs.
As members of the Northern California Unit of the Herb Society of America, the women said they've always had a reverence for the plant world and what plants can offer to humans.
Kelley had spread several jars on a table that contained different stages of rosebeads -- from conception to final product. She had always made rosebeads and said she was glad that 2012 was, according the HSA, was "the year of the rose."
That theme will hold true on the Nor Cal Unit of the HSA's annual Herb Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15, at Rodgers Ranch in Pleasant Hill. Each year, local HSA members seek to enlighten the public about herbs through demonstrations, handmade products and talks.
"This is a chance to showcase the herbal gardens at Rodgers Ranch as well as let the public know about Rodgers Ranch because a lot of people still don't know about it," said HSA member Cathy Hostetler of Walnut Creek, who will be selling her handmade, herbal-inspired cards and journals.
Herb Day includes a talk on "Caring for Your Roses," at 12:45 p.m. by HSA member Shawna Anderson. Mahshi and Anna Zakaria will discuss "Container Gardening for Herbs and Succulents," at 3:15 p.m.
At 2 p.m., Kelley will explain her process of making rosebeads, an ancient technique still used today for jewelry and rosaries. The
The finished products -- rosebead necklaces and earrings are individually placed in airtight jars with a drop of quality rose oil on a cotton ball to preserve the rose scent, said Kelley, who grew up on an orchard farm and has had a lifelong interest in herbs.
Mahshi, the Concord resident who was raised in upstate New York, said she has been interested in herbs since she was 12. When she moved to California, she joined the Northern California Unit of the HSA and remembers meeting in members' homes until they began gathering at Rodgers Ranch a few years ago.
Mahshi will be showing some of the lavender wands she's made, taking long stems of lavender and weaving them with satin ribbons to make a bundle to scent drawers and closets. Also a quilter, Mahshi will show how she uses fabric to make such pieces as decoupage plates.
Marian Woodard, a Master Gardener from Pleasant Hill who teaches herb classes at Rodgers Ranch, will talk about the benefits of a spiral garden at 11:30 a.m.
"I'll talk about how to grow the most amount in the least amount of space," she said.
The teaching gardens at the ranch include two newly-installed spiral gardens -- one of them was built using recycled bricks from an old fireplace at the Rodgers Ranch house.
"Growing herbs is an easy way to learn about gardening," Woodard said.
"Herbs are important because they add to the quality and taste of food," she said. "They have an honest, basic, medicinal, nonpharmaceutical quality. Aloe can be used for burns, feverfew for headaches, echinacea for colds. Anybody can grow these herbs."
One benefit of growing one's own herbal garden is convenience -- gardeners can simply go outside and pick the herbs they need to heal a wound or flavor food, she said.
"I love getting people excited about what they can do in a limited amount of time," Woodard said. "A spiral garden is a great conversational piece -- it brings people together."
Who: Northern California Unit of the Herb Society of America
What: Herb Day 2012, July 15
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Rodgers Ranch, 315 Cortsen Road, Pleasant Hill