Walking through Carol Wolosik's gardens you don't just learn about herbs and their many uses, you also get great conversation.
As she points to the many varieties of mint growing in one of her nine gardens, she'll tell you that red stalk peppermint is great for inhaling and apple mint makes a delicious tea. She also encourages visitors to take notice of the environment and pleads with them to take care of it.
She'll reflect on the past, when life was simpler. She'll tell you that her love for herbs goes back to childhood days spent with her grandmother -- a gardener who believed in cooking and healing with herbs.
And she'll eagerly give advice to anyone ready to start theirown herb garden.
So it comes as no surprise that she considers her "hideaway" on Deep Run Road in Whiteford's rolling hills an herbal retreat, or that the business she runs from her cedar cottage is called simply, "Conversation."
During a recent tour of her gardens sheexplains that herbs are easy to grow, and just about any variety is suited for Harford's climate.
"Some just won't winter well," says Carol as she snaps off a piece of lemon verbena, rubs it between her fingers and inhales the aroma. "This and sages are just some of many herbs that don't make it through the winter," she says.
Parsley, though, will grow well during the winter, she explains. Thick in texture, parsley can stand cold weather, but she warns, "You're competing with the rabbits. They love it too."
"You can never have too much parsley," she adds. "You can incorporate parsley in just about anything. It's one herb that blends well with others. And it's a great breath freshener, so carry some around with you."
To get the most use out of an herb garden, Carol recommends growing herbs in abundance, cutting and tying them into bunches and hanging them upside down to dry.
Once dried, they can be crumbled and stored in jars and used asa flavor enhancer for culinary delights for months to come.
Though cooking with herbs is flavorful and healthy, there are many other uses for them.
For instance, dried or fresh herbs can be very decorative in ornamental arrangements. Herbs also can be used as room fresheners and insect repellents and are an alternative to conventional, over-the-counter medicine. And they can even work as an instant heat source.
"I dry red hot peppers and my husband, David, who works outdoors in the winter, will crumble them into his boots," says Carol. "They work just like little heaters."
Carol teaches the many uses of herbs and how to start a garden in classes at her cottage on the hill. And everyone attending a "Conversation" session will be able to taste one of her many herbal culinary creations and will take home a gift.
She'll teach just about anything that interests her students. An artist by profession, Carol conducts outdoor painting classes. She teaches wreath-making and creating gift baskets using fresh or dried herbs, evergreens or fruit. She'll share recipes for herbal teas, luncheons or dinners, or she'll give instruction in creating herbal T-shirts or clay creatures.
Individual instruction is available, but six people are needed for a group session, she says. She also conducts workshops for children.
She will waive the fee for anyone bringing five other people to a class.
The cost for a one-day workshopis usually $25 a person and includes all material required, as well as herbal refreshments.
"Taking a class from Carol is like an escape from the world, like nothing else exists," says Linda Gebhardt, ofBel Air. "I was taking a water painting class while working on a political campaign, and it helped me regain my sanity," she added. She also has participated in Carol's wreath-making workshops
Gebhardt said the only art education she had received prior to studying with Carol were mandatory classes in school. "The ones that make you believeyou don't have any artistic abilities," she said.
After one of Carol's lesson's, though, Gebhardt came home with a painting she liked and could be proud of.
"She told me to just sit back and paint what I see," says Gebhardt, "and it worked."
Gebhardt attributes Carol's easy teaching style to her painting success. "She's mellow, laid back and doesn't criticize. She brings out the best in you -- she's just a delightful person," she explains.
And her herbal luncheons, which are part of the class, are delicious, added Gebhardt.
Carol's famous herbal luncheons -- which she caters at her home -- might include a salmon mold using home-grown dill and garlic, a Chinese chicken salad with sesame seeds and green onions, apple mint tea, fruit salad with rosemary, and a home-baked cake with rose geranium leaves and lemon verbena icing.
One can see the many uses of herbs immediately upon entering the Wolosiks' cedar cottage. Nestled among trees atop a hill on an 8-acre tract, the cozy cottage is home not only to Carol and David, but also to about 15 cats, a collection of lovely antiques and an abundance of art and hand-made crafts.