Our IHA pre-conference tour was a full, fun and educational day visiting gardens, a hortorium, a distillery, and apothecary from Corning to Ithaca, New York. It was the perfect way to kickoff a great conference (www.Iherb.org). Our first stop was Finger Lakes Distilling, where we had a tour from two handsome and knowledgeable young men of their operation beginning with the storage hoppers of grain, though the stillroom and aging room and then onto the tasting room in the shop. Their spirits are made from their own grapes and local grains and botanicals and are high-quality products. (www.FingerLakesDistilling.com) In a jolly mood, we headed from there to Ithaca where we visited the Ithaca Apothecary where we enjoyed a variety of herbal tea samples and browsed the herbs, teas and honeys sold there. (www.DowntownIthaca.com)
We arrived at Cornell Plantations, where we had a picnic-style lunch under one of the pavilions there. It was located a short walk from the Herb Garden, where we headed for a walkabout. This is a lovely and well-maintained garden with a huge variety of herb plants from trees and shrubs to container grown specimens. There was quite a bit of oohing and aahing and photographic opportunities of native and imported plants. (www.CornellPlantations.org)
For those of us able and willing, we hiked up a steep hillside to the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. It was well worth the hot hike uphill. The Hortorium houses an enormous collection of botanical specimens and ancient herbals. We were divided into two groups-one to talk about the hortorium and view specimens-and the other got to see some of the wonderful old publications, which were truly exquisite. Some were tiny and some were quite large with color plates that still maintained shockingly bright colors. (www.BHort.bh.cornell.edu)
From there, we piled on the bus and headed for Healing Spirits Herb Farm (www.HealingSpiritsHerbFarm.com). Once there, we spilled off the bus amongst rain showers and some braved the outdoor garden tours, while others visited the apothecary shop and a number of us went to the barn and set on the porch overlooking some of the gardens. The barn had tables and chairs set up with tablecloths and chair covers and bouquets of herbs and wildflowers on every table. We had a delicious dinner there with all sorts of herb and vegetable salads, roasted (just dug) potatoes, grilled chicken and homemade elderberry wine. To complete the festivities, a local barbershop quartet serenaded us at the end of this fun-filled day. I highly recommend visiting all of the aforementioned places if you are in the area-they are worth taking a detour.