Sandy Mush Herb Farm

I have been wanting to visit Sandy Mush Herb Farm for more than 20 years. These folks, Kate and Fairman, were members of the International Herb Association (IHA) for many years, even though I don't believe I ever met them at the conferences. Over the years when visitors would find us here at Long Creek Herb Farm, they would often comment, "The only road to an herb farm worse than yours is the one leading to Sandy Mush." So last week, while I was attending the IHA conference in Townsend, TN, outside of Knoxville, it seemed a great chance to visit Sandy Mush. After all, it was only 3 hours away and I might not get that close again. Reading over their website directions, they are very upfront about the condition of their road - small cars can't make it, big buses can't, either. But having a pickup that's high off the ground, I was undaunted.

As we drove past beautiful woods, waterfalls, mossy roadsides and North Carolina plants galore, we encountered Fairman, on his tractor, grading some of the road. "Is your pickup a 4-wheel drive?" he inquired. Nope, but the pickup goes just about anywhere, I replied. "Well, once you start up, just don't slow down, give it some gas," he said. And off we went up a delightful road with boulders the size of giant watermelons in the road. 
Kate greeted us in the driveway. She and Fairman have been on the farm for 30+ years. They sell at farmers markets in the spring (in Asheville, as I recall), but their main business is selling their 1,300-plus plant varieties by mail. She made us feel welcome and sent us to explore on our own. This was more fun than I could had ever imagined! There were many, many terraces of stock plants, some varieties I have only read about before.
There were 3, maybe 4, greenhouses. Since it's late in the season they were low on a lot of plants - thankfully for them because you want to sell your plants in late winter to late spring. But there were still lots and lots of great plants to buy. And so we did, 3 boxes full!
Kate and Fairman's house, hidden in the trees.
There are terraces with beds and pots of shade garden plants. Native plants, cultivated herbs, medicinal herbs - so many varieties! If I had stayed all day I still would not have seen them all.
I loved this spot, a clearing with the stone in the middle. It was peaceful, a spot for contemplation. Nurseries almost never have something wonderful like this. Kate and Fairman live here, and have a dedication to peaceful coexistence with the land and so it is fitting to find this.
They will probably laugh that I found the outhouse so charming. But it is! They could have built just an ordinary outhouse, but it wouldn't have been nearly as pleasant as this.
The garden tool shed fit nicely into the paradise landscape at Sandy Mush.
Monarda didyma, also known as bee-balm.
Monarda, or bee-balm, is one of the most pleasant of herbs for teas. It thrives along the edges of North Carolina woodlands and roadsides. Sandy Mush sells several varieties in their catalog.
Pathway to the creek. I believe the overhead, bending trees are rhododendrons and azaleas.
A leaning rake made an intriguing trellis!
A magical pathway at Sandy Mush Herb Farm.
This pathway, above, was like entering into a fairyland, going from one area to another. Sandy Mush is a delightful paradise, a place I have longed to visit. Some places you imagine in your mind never measure up, while others far exceed what your imagination could ever conjure. Kate and Fairman were such kind hosts and my visit was so far beyond anything I had ever imagined. I am so glad I got to go there!
If you would like to download their catalog of over 1,300 plants they offer, click this link. Their plants are wonderful, you will find herbs and varieties, plants and trees you don't even know yet you want.


lemonverbenalady said...

I started my first herb garden with plants from Sandy Mush! Never have been there. Guess I need my Subaru back! Thanks for sharing your adventure, Jim!

Michele Brown said...

Kate's plants are what I started Possum Creek with back in 1998. I held my breath for the entire drive up their road.

darius said...

I've been up to Sandy Mush a few times despite the treacherous "road" at the edge of the cliffs.

I still have a great garbanzo bean and brown rice salad recipe I got from them nearly 30 years ago from their newsletter, many years before I ever lived close enough to visit.

Their herb offerings are wonderful (by mail) even if you never get to visit!