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Plants speak the language of fragrance. Rosemary Nachtigall became fluent in that tongue and over three decades interpreted it for thousands of visitors, from Earth’s every corner, at the Squaw Valley Herb Gardens she and husband Tim Friesen created just outside Kings Canyon National Park. Her towering, sequoia-like presence was felled several weeks ago by a malady whose name she refused to utter or permit anyone to speak in her presence. Rosemary was born into Reedley’s 1948 close-knit, sheltering, Mennonite farm community, during an era when families could yet modestly thrive in middle class circumstance on 20 acres of Thompson Seedless raisin grapes, or in the Nachtigalls’ case, a few Santa Rosa Plums for good measure. Stalwart churchgoers – mom accompanied at services and taught piano – Rose’s folks saw to their children’s grounding in the Golden Rule and religiously focused education. Her fine high school singing voice won Rosemary a coveted spot on the world traveling Youth for Christ Teen Team, followed by teacher education at Oral Roberts University. By 1981, back in Reedley, a more secular Rose was cultivating fresh spiritual roots in her garden, a collection of herbs tucked into one corner of the family’s farm, and kindling romance with high school acquaintance Tim Friesen. Matrimony flamed desires for a “home place”, which their modestly sized nest egg determined would be five rough Squaw Valley foothill acres. The word was hardly coined when this couple set out to become agritourism pioneers. While Tim’s carpentry crafted homespun indoor comforts, Rose dug out and hauled her entire Reedley herb collection up the hill. Convincing tour bus guides, hell-bent for spectacular national park scenery, to stop and smell the roses proved difficult. Slow revenue growth sent Rosemary back to schoolmarming at Dunlap’s rural K-8 where, for 15 years, she instructed children in “everything they needed to know”. Back at the garden, Tim and our plant whisperer evolved an atmosphere of playful botanic monasticism that gradually attracted guests as bees to nectar. Rosemary’s flagship lavender soothed and calmed visitors whom she regaled with herb lore on strolls through fetching gardenscapes. Tim’s and Rose’s intimate farm to fork events, often charity fundraisers, are legend, always championing we local farmers of whom she was so fond. Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire argues humans are enslaved to the plants that we bend to our agricultural needs. Rosemary was her garden’s willing, happy servant and in that role ministered to the community she so loved. –Tom Willey
more info: www.squawvalleyherbgardens.com