Tulsa’s Anne Hathaway Herb Garden has been a source of recreation, relaxation and growing ideas for more than 70 years.
JoAnn White and Ann Sittler with the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden’s Rosalind Cook sculpture.
Baby, it’s cold outside, but on a bitter January day, that doesn’t deter JoAnn White from showing off the tiny jewel of Woodward Park, the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden.
Here are the bay trees that weren’t supposed to last, she says; the last bits of sage; the stems of rosemary; the lamb’s ear; the bronze fennel that brings in swarms of ladybugs.
For those who tend this garden, White among them, it’s a labor of love that has not been lost to time or chance.
Growing herbs fits naturally with today’s passions — gourmet cooking and organic everything — but this is no fad. The garden has been 72 years in the making and the maintenance.
The small plot on the park’s northeast corner started in 1939 after Tulsan Jewell Huffman took a trip to England, where she saw the real Anne Hathaway Cottage Garden at Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the place where Anne grew up to marry a local boy named William Shakespeare.
Inspired, Huffman started the Anne Hathaway Garden Club, where members’ duties included planting and tending Tulsa’s garden.
“In the beginning, it was a family thing where husbands and children would come” once a year, White says. “The ladies would have a day in the garden and serve lemonade and tea and dress in long dresses.”
The club still exists, although spokeswoman Beverly Arnold says the vagaries of aging prevent members from working the garden, recently enhanced with a Rosalind Cook sculpture at its center. That mantle has passed to White, who began her love affair with herbs as one of the “youngsters” of the Anne Hathaway Club. Today, she and the other herb gardeners are members of the Tulsa Herb Society, which began in 1988, growing out of the Hathaway Club.
Each Tuesday, member Ann Sittler joins White, and it’s obvious they are the most committed. A few other members of the Tulsa Herb Society come and go as helpers to pull, trim and observe the health of the plantings.
They don’t work alone. The City of Tulsa Parks Department took over the garden’s official maintenance in 1982. Parks Department staff work with the faithful coterie, helping clean away the detritus of everyone’s efforts.
Maureen Turner, chief horticulturist for the City of Tulsa, says this group is one of her favorites, a successful collaboration between public and private gardeners who participate in improving the plot.
For the tenders, the real tug is not just working the garden but also the friendships and the time they have together to solve the problems of the world, breathe in the fragrant scents and find relaxation and peace.
“This is a healing place for us,” White says. “Several of us have had breast cancer, and we can hardly wait to get back in that garden.”
What’s in the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden?
- Bay laurel
- Bronze fennel
- Lamb’s ear
- Mexican mint marigold
- Salad burnet