The Literary Gardener – May 2017

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.
~ 19th century English ballad

Simon and Garfunkel did not write “Scarborough Fair,” although the folksy musical duo’s 1966 version of the song is most well known today. In fact, the author of “Scarborough Fair” remains a mystery, although historians say the 1800s adaptation, which was the first to include the lyrics we’re familiar with, came from an Old English ballad that was popular during Medieval times.

Scarborough is a small town on the eastern coast of England. It was once a popular gathering place during August and September when vendors, traders and entertainers would come from all over England to sell their wares in a huge open-air market that lasted for 45 days.

Back then, everyone would have known that the herbs mentioned in the song symbolized virtues the songwriter wished his former true love would show for him: parsley for comfort; sage for strength and wisdom; rosemary for love; and thyme for courage.

There is little doubt that Medieval Englanders looked forward to the Scarborough Fair every year, much like 21st century Southern Oregon gardeners look forward to the annual Spring Garden Fair. The iconic event is our way of welcoming in the gardening season, and to once again experience the magic of being around so many plants and plant lovers at one time.

The 38th Spring Garden Fair, hosted by the Jackson County Master Gardener Association, takes place from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday, May 6 and from 10:00am to 4:00pm, Sunday, May 7 at the Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Admission to the fair is $3 for fairgoers 15 and older. For more information, see the JCMGA website at

There will be plenty of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme at this year’s fair, along with thousands of other plants and garden supplies, yard art, free gardening demonstrations and much more. Here are some recommendations to make the most of the Spring Garden Fair this year:

  • Stop by and say hello to vendors who are Jacksonville residents: Alison’s Garden, Blue Door Garden Store, the English Lavender Farm, and Klamath Siskiyou Native Seeds.
  • Visit the Jackson County Master Gardener Association’s new Mother’s Day gift booth.
  • Bring a plant you’re concerned about to the JCMGA’s Plant Clinic and talk to knowledgeable Master Gardener volunteers about insect and disease problems.
  • Check out gardening books at the JCMGA’s used Book Garden or the Garden Book Connection.
  • Pick up a copy of the “Garden Guides for the Rogue Valley” at the Information Booth. There‘s a guide for vegetables, berries and melons and one for trees and shrubs. I think both guides are indispensable for gardening effectively in our region.
  • Attend one or more of the short gardening demonstrations presented by Master Gardeners. Topics include: drought tolerant & deer resistant gardening, culinary herbs, starting a vegetable garden, pollinators in the garden, summer mulching and watering, raised bed gardening, planning and growing a monarch butterfly garden, gardening in the shade, growing onions and garlic, and winter vegetables.
  • Enter the raffle for a chance to win: a birdhouse, Royal Weeder lightweight tiller, 2 Adirondack chairs with a small table, loppers and 2 trimmer tools, large cedar plant box on a stand, two owl boxes and one free Master Gardener class for 2018 and vouchers for Master Gardener evening classes.
  • Check out all of the opportunities for becoming a part of a local gardening or nature community. Folks will be on hand with information about: the OSU Master Gardener program, OSU Master Food Preservers, OSU Land Stewards, Cascade Bonsai Society, Rogue Valley Rose Society, Rogue Valley Audubon Society, Rogue Valley Food System Network, ACCESS, Pollinator Project of Rogue Valley, Siskiyou Koi and Pond Club, Southern Oregon Bee Association, and the State of Jefferson Alpaca Association. Another booth will offer information about all of our local garden clubs.
  • And, of course, be sure to stock up on lots of edible and ornamental plants that will be on sale from the Jackson County Master Gardener Association and several local plant nurseries and growers.

According to Medieval herbal lore, the combination of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme creates a powerful love potion that no one, not even the most reticent, can overcome. Stepping into the Spring Garden Fair brings on a similar kind of exhilaration—one can’t help but fall in love with gardening and springtime all over again.