Herb Study Garden - Cheekwood
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Herb Study Garden

In celebration of Cheekwood’s 60th anniversary as a public institution, we’re highlighting one of our 12 distinct gardens each month to showcase our wide variety of garden offerings. With 55 acres of rolling hills and 12 intricate, unique gardens, there’s something for everyone to experience and love at Cheekwood.

Cheekwood’s Herb Study Garden was installed in 1983 and is located between the Turner Seasons and Carell Dogwood Gardens. This garden is devoted to the study and evaluation of herbal plants to determine those that can be successfully grown year-round in Middle Tennessee. The garden is a project of the Herb Society of Nashville (HSN), Unit of the Herb Society of America. They are devoted to promoting the knowledge, use, and delight of herbs through educational programs, research and sharing the experience of its members with the community.

The Herb Study Garden is categorized by 7 themed sections that are planted in raised beds constructed of stonework. Plants with medicinal, culinary, and household uses are categorized within these themed garden beds which provide visitors with the historical relevance of the herbs along with their contemporary uses. The 7 primary categories of the garden include:

1. Blue Flowered Herbs with Gray & Silver Foliage
2. Annual Display Bed rotating seasonally
3. Texture and Fragrance
4. Culinary
5. Herbs used by Native Americans of Middle Tennessee
6. Herbs Brought Over & Used by Early Colonists of Tennessee
7. Mediterranean Herbs

During the spring season, guests can find Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) blooming with primula and various ephemerals including bloodroot and anemone. Water lilies and lotus grace the circular fountain and bloom all summer long, in addition to a plethora of popular kitchen herbs like oregano and thyme. In fall, marigolds, goldenrod, and beautyberry take center stage.

An arbor, outfitted with bench seating, is situated in the middle of the garden and anchors climbing roses, clematis, and other vines. In the summer months, it is used to showcase tropical plants such as citrus and gingers. The arbor also provides a beautiful centerpiece for wedding ceremonies.

Like the Burr Terrace Garden, this space was originally designed by James W. Coile, and the similarities of the two can be seen in the circular forms and intimate scale that Coile incorporated into many of his designs. In 1999, the Herb Study Garden was enlarged as part of a more expansive renovation at Cheekwood. This opportunity allowed the HSN to increase the scope and variety of herbal plants showcased, enhancing the educational quality of the space for Cheekwood guests as well as HSN members.

Did you know? The five columns providing the stately backdrop for the Herb Study Garden’s amphitheater are relics of the Tennessee State Capitol. One hundred years after their construction, the columns had deteriorated significantly, and it was decided to replace the porous, soft Tennessee limestone with columns made from the more durable Indiana limestone. After several decades in storage, the columns were moved to Cheekwood in December of 1999. The addition of the Tennessee Capitol artifacts to the Herb Study Garden was part of an expansion that was finished and dedicated on June 13, 2001.

These relics, including accessories to the columns that now function as a bench and even part of the water feature, are on loan for a total of 50 years from the Tennessee State Museum. These artifacts reflect Tennessee heritage while also paying homage to Greek Revival Architecture, the design of the state capitol and many buildings that were erected in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The ruins are reminiscent of ancient Greece, alluding to Nashville’s nickname, “Athens of the South”, and add a sense of antiquity to the botanical garden layer of Cheekwood.

The Herb Study Garden is a magnificent component of Cheekwood’s 12 distinct gardens and is beautiful throughout the seasons. Be sure to pick up a Gardeners’ Top Picks for a look at what’s in bloom during your next visit to Cheekwood.

Click here to read about our other distinct gardens.

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