Woman’s gardening knowledge lives on through family, friends

RUTH BORMUTH sits near her garden at her house near Rawson. Bormuth died Jan. 28 at the age of 90. (Photo provided)

RUTH BORMUTH sits near her garden at her house near Rawson. Bormuth died Jan. 28 at the age of 90. (Photo provided)

It was the kind of place that had morning glories climbing up the clothesline posts, a second-floor greenhouse, and herbs that were harvested daily.
Ruth Ann Bormuth’s life on the family farm at 5291 Ohio 103, near Rawson, had always been infused with the plants that she grew and nurtured.
When she died on Jan. 28, at age 90, she was mourned at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jenera, where she had been a longtime member. But the horticultural knowledge she passed on to others will be used for years to come, her friends and family say.
Bormuth’s green thumb came from necessity. Her daughter, Mary Ann Gallant, said the farm was a traditional operation that produced much of the food that the family of six needed.
Vegetables such as corn and beans were grown and canned. The children, including Mary Ann, the oldest, and her three younger brothers, Paul, David and John, were required to pitch in.
But their mother also made time for flowers, which adorned the perimeter of the house and grounds in whatever unstructured, cottage-style way suited her.
Iris, day lily, primrose, and other blooms provided plenty of color. Scented geraniums perfumed the air.
“There wasn’t anything she didn’t like to grow,” Paul said.
With some of her roses, she ground the petals to make beads, Gallant said.
Later, when the kids grew older and began to leave home, Bormuth branched out by becoming interested in herbs.
“She was very interested in medicinal herbs,” said Ann Boyd, a fellow gardener. “Her hallmark was the comfrey she grew. She used to make a wonderful salve from it.”
Boyd said Bormuth wrote to national organizations and publications in the 1970s to challenge critics who thought the herb was dangerous.
Bormuth grew and used other herbs for teas and cooking, Boyd said.
In the 1990s, she formed her own club, which she called The Gathering Basket Herb Society. It remains active, with about 50 members who propagate plants, information and ideas. It annually donates about $500 to the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library for bookmobile operations and to buy books about herbs.
Through the society, Bormuth also swapped, sold and shared her flowers and herbs with others.
An upstairs room served as her plant nursury. Boyd recalls watching her lug soil and water up and down the farmhouse’s steep staircase, which had no rails.
“I thought, ‘No wonder she stays in such good shape,'” Boyd said.
Even advanced age, which caused mobility issues, didn’t keep her from growing things. Boyd said when she could no longer walk to her usual outdoor plots, she created a container garden near the house, which she could reach by scooting down steps.
“There was a lot of love surrounding what she did,” Boyd said. “And I could always trust her opinions” about plants.
The essence of Bormuth’s gardening spirit will be evident during the last weekend in April, when the society holds its annual herb sale at Boyd’s home, which is distinctive in that it used to be a filling station. It is at the corner of U.S. 224 and Liberty Township 139, west of Findlay.
Brown: 419-427-8496
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