Adelma organized a small group of friends to study herbs and began to treat the group to modest herbal lunches. As her culinary treats grew more elaborate the group invited friends. Friends attracted more friends. Soon Adelma felt the need to charge for the lunches. Herb gardens in various forms began to sprout around the house. As things continued to mushroom Adelma recognized the potential for an herb-related business.
Once she started to grow a business, Adelma sought out large-scale herb grower Sal Gilbertie, now the largest herb grower in New England, as a main source for her herb plants.
Adelma was a favored herb speaker at meetings and conferences. She designed authentic herb gardens for historic societies, museums, and reconstructed villages featuring 18th-century gardens.
She was also a prolific writer of herb books. One of the most cherished and frequently used is her A Merry Christmas Herbal, published in 1968. She started writing, she said, when her herb study group looked around for resource material and found that the few available books were old, out of date, and often out of print, and they invariably were published in England. Adelma began collecting all the herb books she could find. Ever the superb businesswoman, she again recognized the potential of such material and began writing and marketing her own books. Folklore and history had long been one of her many interests. Herb lore, pagan and Christian, was a specialty, and she skillfully wove it into her writing.
Many of Adelma's admirers, who are now in herb businesses of their own, credit her for inspiring them to start a business.
The compliments, smiles, stories, and her dramatic flair for telling them explains in part the charisma that everyone mentions when they speak of Adelma. "She made you feel good to be around her," say those who fell under her spell.
Just the day before she died Adelma signed her last will and testament specifying that her Caprilands Herb Farm be made into a non-profit foundation for herbal education; a dream which is now a reality.
The Foundation will be a wonderful memorial to a fascinating woman whose motto was "Plant an herb garden. Grow a better world." Adelma Simmons' contribution to the awakening of interest in herbs cannot be underestimated.
Donations to The Caprilands Foundation may be sent c/o Tolland Bank, 3534 Main Street, Coventry, CT 06238.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Portia Meares