Kent Taylor, a major figure in the herb community in the 1970s and 1980s, died February 6, 2008. He was 63. His family owned an herb farm in California, of which he assumed management in the 1970s. At the time, Taylor’s Herb Gardens was the largest supplier of live herb plants to nurseries and herb farmers across the United States and continued to be until the late 1980s.
“The simple fact of the matter is that if there is a live herb plant growing in someone’s garden in the USA, it could probably trace its family history back to Taylor’s Garden!” wrote Warren Raysor, Taylor’s long-time friend (e-mail, April 29, 2008). “That’s the primary gift that Kent brought to the herb industry.”
Kent Allen Taylor was born in 1944 in Pasadena, California. He, his sister, and his older brother were raised on the family herb farm, which began on 2 acres in San Gabriel, California, a city later renamed Rosemead.1 Kent and his wife Betty began a branch of the farm in Vista, California, just outside of San Diego in 1974. This became the main location of the farm in 1978.
“Kent was quite a gentle soul. He was two years older than me and he loved to tease me,” said Taylor’s sister, Jean Langely, president of Taylor’s Herb Garden of Arizona, Inc. (e-mail, March 26, 2008). “Kent had a lot of charisma about him, and he was a caring and generous man.” Langely’s nursery in Phoenix was incorporated into the family business in 1976.
“Kent was encyclopedic in his knowledge of the growing and uses of hundreds of herbs,” wrote long-time friend Anita Field-man (freelance writer, editor, and publicist) in a eulogy e-mailed to Kent’s friends and family (e-mail to M. Blumenthal, March 9, 2008). “But something he shared epitomizes him to me. ‘I talk to herbs,’ he said, almost shyly, not knowing what my reaction would be. When I smiled in approval, he continued, ‘and you know, they talk back to me.’ I didn’t doubt it for a second. Kent Taylor and the herbs of the world had a very special relationship.”
Raysor agreed that plants became “inspired” in Kent’s hands: “I know they talked to Kent, and he taught many people how to talk with them,” wrote Raysor in a tribute to Taylor (written communication to M. Blumenthal, May 4, 2006). “Kent was a character, a Leo by nature, who would entertain busloads of visitors along his garden paths, smelling this and tasting that….Thousands of people discovered that legacy of herbs in Kent Taylor’s garden.”
“Kent was one of those rare individuals who make being in the herb community so interesting, and so rewarding,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. “Kent’s generosity and hospitality were legendary. Back in the late 1970s, in the heyday of the old Herb Trade Association (the initial trade organization for the herb industry), he’d invite many of his herbalist friends to spend a few days with him on his farm, showing us the herbs he and his crew were planting and tending, talking herb stories, acquainting all of us with the fragrance, flavor, and lore of many herbs that some of us had never experienced in person.”
Taylor is survived by sister Jean Langely, his former wife Betty Green, his three daughters Toni, Tiffany, and Christi Taylor, and 3 grandchildren.
—Kelly E. Saxton
1. Taylor D. An Outline of the History of Taylor’s Garden, Inc. [fact sheet]. Vista, CA: Taylor’s Garden, Inc.; November 1985.