ROCKPORT – Avena Botanicals in Rockport only opens its gardens to the public for a few events each year, and space fills quickly. Which means it’s a special treat when the opportunity arises to explore the grounds of the farm, and learn about the plants herbalist and founder Deb Soule has on site.

It was over 40 years ago Soule received her first herb book. She began studying directly with plants, and when she recognized the need from people for quality plants 37 years ago, she started Avena Botanicals.

Ten years after, she moved to the Mills Street location where the farm is located today.

“I studied the land for the first year,” Soule said.

She watched how the sun moved over the land, and how it impacted what grew where, before she began planting, and growing.

Deb Soule leads a garden walk at Avena Botanicals in Rockport on July 25. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Certified organic for over 30 years, Avena has two-and-a-half acres of herbs, which produce over 1,000 pounds that are hand harvested during the appropriate seasons.

She said 70% of the botanicals used in their products are grown on site.

The gardens are what Soule calls a Sanctuary Garden — a peaceful space, full of pollinators flitting and buzzing about.

“There has been over 60 species of birds photographed here over the years,” she said.

Schisandra chinensis climbs an arbor at Avena. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

The garden walks, lead by Soule, are not merely to see the blooms, or to smell the fresh, vibrant smells of the herbs, but an educational experience as well.

One learns the name of the plants, if they’re native to the area, what each plant is best used for, as well as the best ways to utilize the plant for its intended purpose.

Soule has studied Ayurvedic and Tibetan Chinese medicine.

For those interested in a more in depth education in herbal medicine, Avena has a living classroom. Through classes at the Herbal Classroom, people can learn about herbal medicine, biodynamic and organic herbal gardening, Ayurveda, as well as about pollinator habitats.

Queen of the Meadow. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

“The intention is to grow as many medicinal herbs as we can, as well as have access for teaching,” Soule said.

For those that may not be able to take a class, or partake in a garden walk, Soule has also written books to help those interested in becoming more familiar and learn about herbal medicine.

In 2013, she published “How to Move Like a Gardener,” followed by “Healing Herbs for Women: A Guide to Natural Remedies” in 2016.

For anyone interested in attending a class, or garden walk, or for those interested in the products Avena makes, visit AvenaBotanicals.com.

In the garden at Avena Botanicals. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer