2013 Herb of the Year elderberry
The elderberry is the 2013 Herb of the Year and will be featured in lectures at the Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival. (paherbandgardenfestival.com)

New homeowners facing empty planting beds.

People dealing with high blood pressure or obesity trying to reduce their salt intake.

Hobbyists looking for a splash of living color to enhance their crafts.

The 15th annual Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival has something for all of them.

More than six dozen vendors will fill the York Expo Center's Memorial Hall with plants, food, herbal remedies, crafts and more on Friday and Saturday. One of those vendors will be Barb Steele of Alloway Creek Gardens & Herb Farm near Littlestown in Adams County, who has been to the festival every year since its inception.

"There's good food there, and workshops and demonstrations that are herb-related," she says. "They have a lot of good tastings if you want to sample some of this stuff."

Variety: The variety makes the show a good place for both novice and expert herb growers, she says. Those who aren't interested in growing their own items can find herbal oils, potpourris, salves, soaps and other end products at the festival.

"When you talk to the maker of the product, you can see you're not dealing with a giant corporation," Steele says.

Aside from vendors offering informal advice, the show features a lecture series throughout the day. The sessions are free with regular admission.

Steele will give a talk focusing on the 2013 herb of the year, the elderberry, as well as other fruits and hops vines - a topic that might interest home bread bakers and the growing craft beer movement. Elderberries, of course, are best known for their use in jellies and wine.

Education: She plans to cover a basic explanation of the plants, how best to grow them, how to deal with birds and other wildlife stealing the harvest, uses for the plants, and which varieties grow best in southcentral Pennsylvania.

"We try to give out information to make it a good experience," says the expert with four decades of working with herbs under her belt.

Although these days she tends her greenhouses and runs the farm with her husband and a few helpers, Steele wasn't always so keen on the idea.

"When I was a teenager, I used to have to help my father with his azaleas and weed and all, and I said I was going to move to the city and paint the sidewalk green," she says.

At the herb festival, even the strongest holdouts might find the idea of gardening growing on them, too.

Festival

The 15th annual Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival runs for two days in Memorial Hall at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township.

The festival is open from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It features workshops, lectures and dozens of vendors with plants, crafts, culinary items and more.

Admission is $5 for adults and free for children under 12.

For more information, call (717) 848-2596 or visit www.paherbandgardenfestival.com.

- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.