Avena Botanicals in Rockport, Maine, is a garden and herbal apothecary where remedies are grown,created and sold. During its relatively short growing season, the gardeners collect over 1,800 pounds of herbs from three acres that make up this healing biodynamic garden.
Deb Soule started Avena in 1985 with a commitment to offering high quality organic herbal remedies to her community. A student of the herbalist, Adele Dawson, Deb creates over 200 herbal remedies which can be found online at: www.avenabotanicals.com and in natural food groceries and stores throughout New England.
I arrived at Avena after having taken a leisurely drive up the coast of Maine with a friend. The afternoon had a subtlety about it and was perfect for a garden walk and meditation. In fact, the garden serves as a healing space for visitors, a living classroom for students as well as a sanctuary and apothecary.
Stepping inside the new building where the tinctures and lotions are made, Deb and I had a
chance to discover that we shared a few mutual friends, and one especially. Deb had apprenticed with Adele Dawson, the internationally known, petite and spritly herbalist who lived into her 90’s in northern Vermont. Being a friend of Adele’s myself, years ago during my college days when I met her as a visiting artist, I had been offered a similar apprenticeship to study herbal medicine with her. However, I reluctantly declined Adele’s invitation and my Path led me to a life in the Southwest for nearly twenty years.
Just a few years later in the early 1980’s, Deb chose to study with Adele and we are now the beneficiaries of that mentorship!
I had the opportunity to talk with Deb Soule recently.
CAC: “Tell me about Avena Botanicals.”
DS: “Avena is 30 years old. The gardens have many purposes and are at the center of all that we do here. We are a special group of people who love plants working together to help people heal.”
CAC: “What inspired you to work with herbs and medicinal plants?”
DS: “ I grew up in a rural part of Maine and as a young child spent lots of time in natural settings with my grandmother who was a great birder and very attuned to flowering plants…I began seeking out people who could teach me about the medicinal uses of plants which is how I met Adele Dawson when I was 22. Adele’s book, Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Herbs (Stephen Greene Press, 1980), was an important book for me as she was a gardener, artist, activist and community herbalist. I met Adele at an herb gathering in 1981 where she came to present. She was one of the first herbalists I met who also gardened. She was very supportive and encouraging of my vision of creating healing gardens and an apothecary. Adele and I shared a great love of travel. Her way of serving others by listening and caring has been a great teaching for me.”
Check out more about the artist, activist and community herbalist, the late Adele Dawson, in the Backdoor Garden section of Curious About Cuisine.
Every morning when I’m making my hot tea to start the day, I pull down the mug that I purchased at Avena Botanicals which proudly displays the saying , “Healing Begins in the Garden.” Check out Deb’s beautiful website and see what I mean!