We are the Texas Thyme Unit, a Unit of the Herb Society of America. We meet at 10:00AM, the fourth Wednesday of the month (No meeting in July) at the Huntsville United Methodist Church on 1016 Sam Houston Ave., Huntsville, TX 77340. We are dedicated to promoting the knowledge, use and delight of herbs through educational programs, research, and sharing our experience with the community.
Our group was founded in 2009. Since then we have planted the Ella Ruth Herb Garden, the Children's Sensory Garden and have built the Herb Cottage on the grounds of the historic Wynne Home in Huntsville. In 2016, the Unit, with the support of the Huntsville Garden Club, completed the Memorial Rose Garden. The Garden commemorates the contribution of roses by the Garden Club to the grounds of the Wynne Home. TTU members maintain all of these gardens.
Our members also teach classes in the culinary, landscape, and creative use of herbs. Our members regularly present herbs to Huntsville school children and Master Gardener groups. Our annual spring Herb Festival has become a destination. Thousands of herb, butterfly and vegetable plants, mostly grown by our members, are offered for sale. Vendors, speakers, children's activities, artists, and music make this day a unique experience for the whole family. Our next Herb Festival is Saturday, March 27, 2021 on the grounds of the Wynne Home Arts Center in Huntsville.
Anyone who has an interest in herbs is welcome to join us. We welcome all levels of interest.
THE STORY BEHIND THE NAMING OF THE GARDEN
by Carol Hayes Skidmore
Have you met the patroness of the Wynne Home herb garden? She is a lovely lady named Ella Ruth. Standing watch in the herb garden behind the Wynne Home, she is named for the two sisters who grew up there, Samuella and Ruth Wynne. Here is their story:
“Once upon a time there were two sisters who lived in a beautiful mansion surrounded by large pecan, oak and cedar trees along a creek and near the downtown in a small east Texas town. The sisters were named Ruth and Samuella Wynne, and they grew up in that house in the early decades of the twentieth century. They were beautiful and popular and, in time, the house was the scene of many activities, parties and recitals—so much so that laughter and love of family and friends became embedded into the very atmosphere of the house.” (This paragraph was written by Linda Pease in the book The Wynne_Home: Then and Now.)
Samuella and Ruth used to run and play in the area where the herb garden now stands. They had other gardens for growing flowers and vegetables. They also had chickens which lived under the house. You can be sure they had lots of fresh, homegrown food. The girls might have enjoyed a picnc and lemonade in the spacious, sloping yard with its big trees, gardens and soft grass. During the summer, they were sure to have sat under the trees with their dolls and tea parties. They had beautiful dolls, pictures of which can be seen in the Wynne Home.
Known as being somewhat mischievous, the girls loved to climb out of the window onto the roof on the east side of the house. One particular time, as their mother was arriving home from a trip to the store, she was frightened to see Samuella and two neighbor children out on the high roof. Mrs. Wynne stopped the car in the middle of the street and hollered for them to immediately get inside!
One of Mr. Wynne’s hobbies was grafting trees, pecan and probably fruit. It is almost certain that the girls helped him with the process. On the Wynne Home grounds still grows one of his grafted trees which bears both large and small pecans.
As mentioned above, the Wynne Home was the scene of numerous parties for Samuella and Ruth. Their mother loved Halloween parties which were held in the attic converted into a “spook house.” Guests walked across crackers on the floor (to simulate bones), reached into bowls containing peeled grapes (for eyeballs), and experienced other ghoulish treats.
On another occasion their parents (Gibbs Adair and Lela Mae Wynne) treated the girls and their friends to a special “moonlight” party during a summer full moon. They played games passed down from other generations of children who grew up there.
As Samuella and Ruth grew older, they loved to roll up the carpets in the living and dining rooms and have their friends over for dances. According to a 1934 newspaper account, the rooms were beautifully decorated with fall flowers and lighted tapers.
Both girls attended college, Samuella at SMU in Dallas, Ruth at SHSU for a time. Their talents were many. Each performed on radio shows at various times, Samuella at SMU and Ruth later when she was living in New York. Both girls were excellent artists. Ruth did drawings for SHSU and was known for her cartoons. On display in the house is a bracelet that Ruth made for Samuella. As a young woman, Ruth was traveling on a train on which Norman Rockwell was also a passenger. She consented to his request to sketch her. He subsequently used this sketch in his “Freedom from Want” painting (one of a series called “Four Freedoms”).
Samuella was said to have played the piano so well, she could have been a concert pianist. She also learned to fly an airplane. She sang as a soloist and choir member for the SMU choir. Also a designer, she worked as a commercial artist for The Houston Chronicle.
Pictures of the sisters, their parents and other family members can be seen in the Wynne Home. In 1997, Samuella and Ruth donated the beautiful and historic house to the City of Huntsville for use as a cultural arts center.
If you have not met Ella Ruth, come by the Wynne Home any time to visit. Also stop by to visit during our Herb Festival in March.. Hosted by the local Texas Thyme Unit of the Herb Society of America, the event will feature speakers, crafts, vendors, food, musicians, lots of herbs and other plants, and many other delightful opportunities to enjoy a lovely day! You can tour the herb garden, see Ella Ruth, and learn about the many herbs which grow there. When you see Ella Ruth keeping watch in the herb garden, she may seem austere and reserved compared to her namesakes. But if you look closely, you may see a gleam of mischief in her eyes!