Ayr Hill Learning Garden at Vienna’s Little Library

The Ayr Hill Learning Garden is a colonial herb garden located on the grounds of Historic Vienna, Inc.’s Freeman House behind the Little Library. Guided tours are available by appointment at the Freeman Store (131 Church Street NE, Vienna, Virginia 22180). The garden was installed and is maintained by Ayr Hill Garden Club!

Vienna’s Original Library



1. Savory – once as popular as black pepper for seasoning, this herb complements foods that require long cooking times or are mild in flavor. Also relieves gas.

2. Flax – is grown for its seeds. 2 varieties include brown and yellow/golden. Both have similar nutritional value and equal amounts of omega fatty acids and linseed oils. The fibers are used to make linen.

3. Sage – highly valued for health, aids digestion of fatty foods and is most often used in cooking.

4. Rosemary – the essence of the herb garden, this herb has many cooking uses for most dishes. Also relieves gas and aids fat digestion.

5. Hyssop – the herb has a minty taste that makes it tasty addition to salads, game, stews and soups. Also aids fat digestion.

6. Oregano/Marjoram – is useful in sauces, meats and vegetables. Also used for headaches, coughs, and stomach disorders.

7. Thyme – adds distinctive aromatic flavoring to sauces, stews, stuffing, meets, poultry, soups and salads. Also relieves spasms and coughing. Essential oil is a powerful disinfectant; a salve is used for athlete’s foot.

8. Tansy – a natural insect repellant used as a strewing herb on floors and in beds. Tea used for colds, stomach aches and intestinal worms. At Easter, made into ‘Tansy’ a rich custardy pudding. Believed to arrest decay.


9. Southernwood – an effective moth repellant and strewing herb. Also called ‘Lad’s Love’ or ‘Maid’s Ruin’, as it was known to increase men’s virility. Used to improve digestion and liver function. Poultice used to treat wounds and frostbite.

10. Flax – used by colonialists to regulate the constitution. Poultice used for boils and inflammation.

11. Echinacea – traditionally used to treat shock, snakebite, and traumatic pain.  Extracts stimulate the immune system to restore normal body functions. Root used as an external antiseptic and sweat producing agent.

12. Calendula/Marigold – soothing, healing antiseptic. Use in ointment for leg ulcers, varicose veins, bedsores and bruises.  Take as a tea for digestion and to promote bile in the liver. Good for alcoholics.

13. Hyssop – often used as a tea for easing coughs, sore throat, and loosening phlegm. Poultice reduces inflammation and heals wounds and bruises. Often called the ‘holy herb’, as it was used to purify temples and for ritual cleansing of lepers.


14. Rue – a strewing and anti-plague herb carried in nosegays to ward off pestilences. Used as a deterrent to cats, who do not like its musty odor. Called ‘herb of grace’, as it was used to sprinkle holy water before mass.

15. Lavender – known for its sedative powers, tranquility and purity are inherent in the unique fragrance. Also a strewing herb, repels insects and the plague. Masks household smells and malodorous streets. Healing powers come from the oil.

16. Hyssop – used in potpourri and cologne. The scent is so strong, old women used pressed flowers in their bibles to keep them awake during sermons.

17.  Fennel – the licorice scented and flavored fennel was in great demand in the middle ages. Every part of the plant is edible including the roots. Roman ladies used it as an appetite suppressant. It was brought with early settlers to Virginia. and is used to make absinthe.

18. Dianthus – also known as Sweet William, these flowers have a strong scent of cloves and have been used in perfumes for over 2000 years.

19. Catnip/Catmint – attracts cats, butterflies and bees while repelling insects that would eat its leaves. Also repels mosquitoes (better than DEET in the air), cockroaches and termites.