‘Root Seller’ full of garden knowledge

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, June 14, 2012

This wonderful copper and iron hand-fashioned gazebo covers the walk leading to a beautiful old greenhouse from the parking lot. “It is a fabulous piece, all hand-cut and hand-hammered by a master metal smith in Cassopolis, by the name of Harold Nelson,” says “The Root Seller,” Ruth Semones. Off the Water photo/KATHIE HEMPEL

What I hadn’t counted on when I visited the Root Seller is I would encounter a walking plant encyclopedia known as Ruth Semones.

I love fresh herbs in pasta and vegetable dishes. Fresh rosemary and thyme in a roast is heavenly. Visiting the Baroda market at 1251 Hinchman Rd. in Baroda is like a guided tour through a plant museum. I thought I would find out a few hints, maybe some nontraditional uses and that would be great.

Visiting her 1251 Hinchman Rd., Baroda, location is like having a guided tour through a plant museum.

“A lot of people who come here are a little overwhelmed at first by all we have here,” said Semones, who took the name of the Root Seller in her 20s, and she has claimed it ever since.

Semones will have moved to this property two years ago in August, and she says this will be her forever location. She has great respect for Sam Somora, who founded Sunshine Perennials on the property.

“Sam had indentured himself to the grocer in Baroda the last two years of high school to get the money to build that greenhouse,” she said.

During her high school days in Jefferson, Ind., she had the good fortune of a teacher, James Ward, who recognized her enthusiasm for horticulture and fed her all the knowledge she could hold. As a child, she remembers loving to work with her mother in the yard.

“I think many people think of herbs as these cute little plants that grow close to the ground — that’s not necessarily so. Some of the best medicines, herbs traditional use, come from trees. People need to experiment.”

Certainly, pick the basils, thymes, sages, rosemary, mints and balms. However, an injustice will be done if you don’t spend some time and learn more about when to and how to plant your purchases. For instance, instead of just having a specific herb garden, Semones says what you want to do is to incorporate herbs throughout your garden.

She introduced me to calamintha, a plant with a very strong minty fragrance. She says it has manners. Like most mints, she is sure it would make a wonderful tea with medicinal properties, but loves that it blooms all summer long until frost and informs me the bees love it. I’m sold.