Wednesday, 6 June 2012

My herb garden


Growing herbs is one of life's great unsung pleasures: it is easy, it fills your garden with bees and pollinating  insects, it transforms your cooking.  Once your herb garden is established it doesn't need a lot of your time either.  I have been giving my herb garden a bit of attention today, pulling out the odd weed, discouraging the mint from world domination, potting up new seedlings to give to friends and family.  The chives in flower are as lovely as any border plant.


Here they are jostling with culinary mint.  I grow all sorts of mints: lime, lavender, apple and spearmint as well basil mint.  You would hardly believe that the leaves really smell of anything other than menthol but they do.  The basil mint in particular has taken off.


Some are more vigorous than others.  In our garden it is the culinary mint and the basil mint which are romping all over the place while the others sit more decorously in their slate lined boxes.


Sweet marjoram is a favourite with bees and butterflies when it flowers.  I don't really use it for cooking but I love to see it, half grown through with michelmas daisies, when both are covered with butterflies in September.  Marjoram is one of the toughies, like the others in the same bed:


 A golden leaved sage


A culinary sage.  I like the look of the purple sage very much but find that this one has a finer flavour in cooking.


And thyme.  Why is one half of this plant flowering and the other not?  I have no idea!

Back against the garden wall are all sorts of other things which don't mind the stony soil.  They do at least have real soil.  The sages and thymes thrive in the thinnest of soils possible.


Lovage is one of my favourite herbs.  It is a beautiful, almost stately plant and the leaves have a faint flavour of celery.


Next to it is lemon balm, seriously reduced in size this year and looking all the better for it.



Borage and camomile both took a while to settle down having been grown from seed - too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet - but both look healthy now.


You can't have a herb garden without rosemary.  The bees love its blue flowers and rosemary and garlic with roast lamb is my favourite summer roast.  I love herb jellies as well, with herbs floating in clear, pink apple jelly, and rosemary works wonderfully for that.

Let's finish with two of my absolute favourite herbs, as much for the beauty of the plant as for their flavour and usefulness.


Fennel is just glorious, a soft green feathery fountain.  When it flowers it will be over my head.  If I were an insect I would live in a feathery tower of fennel.


And  lastly sweet cicely.  The finely cut foliage is beautiful in itself but the white foam of flowers, reminiscent of a less creamy elderflower, are the emblem of early summer.  Cut them down as they go over though or it seeds itself about with abandon.

If you are interested in herbs, their history and how to make a herb garden today, I am running a course here.

If you have never tried them put aside a sunny patch in the garden, not with your best soil, perhaps somewhere where other things struggle, and have a try.  Truly you won't regret it!

43 comments:

  1. I can smell and taste this post... delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can't imagine a garden without herbs - you've got far more than me though. I planted some sorrel this year and have to keep reminding myself that it's not a dock (which it looks remarkably like) so I don't weed it out! I like the look of the Cicely, think I'll have to try and get some of that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree totally about the sorrel. Looks are not its strong point. It does taste good though, sort of lemony.

      Delete
  3. I'm getting into growing herbs. Have quite a bit of Sweet Cicely and been told to let it go to seed and then you blend the seeds with sugar and use them as dusting on sticky buns etc

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds gorgeous! I am usually so busy cutting off the seedheads I don't think about using the seeds. Will have a go at that this year.

      Delete
  4. Love the herb garden - so verdant and aromatic. Some of these don't even have to have sun to flourish. Can recommend Lemon balm sorbet ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another one to try! I have lemon balm by the bucketload and lemon balm tea, nice though it is, doesn't quite have the allure of a sorbet.

      Delete
  5. Hadn't heard of basil mint before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are all sorts of odd mints Lucy. Lavender is also a bit of an oddity!

      Delete
  6. I love your herbs, Elizabeth. They are a particular love of minemainly because, as you say, they are a doddle. (mostly) I rely a lot on my lovage - or the triffid, as I call it - for preciselyy its celery flavour in soups and sauces. Now, a question - does basil mint - which I've never heard of before - really taste of basil? If so, would it be a better bet than actual basil which I don't find easy to grow? As a mint I would expect it to be quite prolific. Tis could be the answer to a prayer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well to my sense of smell and taste basil mint smells of basil but doesn't really taste of it! I don't think it would be a replacement. Warmth is the answer for basil I find. It grows fine in the greenhouse and when it goes out it goes into a cloche. Wish I could give you the answer to a prayer but I think maybe not!

      Delete
  7. Lovely herb garden and far more than I have. My husband was horrified when I planted rosemary, thyme, sage and chives in the garden alongside our garage at the entrance to our house. They have all grown wonderfully and look great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A house is not a home without herbs in the garden!

      Delete
  8. Thank you for this lovely tour. By coincidence, on one of my rare trips out, a friend was showing me around hers this week. Mine is all in pots though the variety is not bad. I would have loved to come to your day, it sounds so interesting, but but my' chauffeuse' (i.e. Jo) is away that weekend. Best of luck for the day and hope it's a bright sunny one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks SS. If you are not too far away from Cheshire perhaps you can make another one. We try to do something herb related every year.

      Delete
  9. The first gardening I ever really did was herb gardening, and I could taste and smell all those different plants as I scrolled down! So glad you did end up having Lemon Balm - I was expecting it after all the mints and didn't see it, so I assumed you probably didn't grow it since it isn't used much in cooking. But for smelling purposes, it is wonderful! I love the licorice smells of fennel - used to give my boys fennel tea for colic when they were babies. When we moved to the desert Southwest in 2000, I started growing a lot more rosemary, and continued doing so when we moved to Texas, where we had a low border of rosemary in the back garden. Our yellow Labrador would go out there, romp in the rosemary, and come in smelling like a leg of lamb - not that I was complaining. He often rolled in other, less savory items.
    As you know, gardening is not really possible for me right now, but I do have a couple of mint plants growing in our tiny laundry room here on the 14th floor..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the idea of a dog smelling like a leg of lamb - beats fox poo any day!

      Delete
  10. Lovely. Now I wonder if Blogger will let me comment today...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blogger did let you! I hadn't realised there were problems. Have you had a lot of trouble and is it blogger generally or just mine?

      Delete
  11. Elizabeth, as I scrolled through your very fine photos and descriptions, I truly could imagine the marvelous scents of all those herbs. I am trying very hard not to be "green" with envy of your garden, but it is increasingly difficult! Every one of your posts just tell me more and gives me more inspiration.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Next time you come to the UK you must visit me and take a look yourself. Then you will be able to see all the weeds and untidiness too so you will have a real picture! Make sure it's summer though!

      Delete
  12. It all looks wonderfully healthy Elizabeth! My plant shopping list at the moment reads borage, lemon verbena and (more) chives. If it ever stops raining I'll get them into the herb bed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you were closer I could give you loads of borage and chives!

      Delete
  13. I also love herbs, though the range growing here is more limited than yours. I'd like to know how to grow Basil, which I use a lot with tomatoes. It comes from the supermarket bursting out of its plastic pot but shrivels up if it gets half a chance, inside or out. It seems the botanical equivalent of the sheep. But I'd like to grow it outside - surely there must be hardy varieties that are nasturtium-easy to grow. I have lovely Apple mint here from the Mill in France. It is spreading nicely and the perfume when you walk over it reminds me of everything exotic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't bother with supermarket basil Fennie. They pack lots of seedlings into a pot and they are not easy to keep alive in the longer term. Try growing it from seed (fresh seed!), germinating it somewhere warm, inside if you don't have a greenhouse. It shouldn't go out until it is pretty warm, June for me, and even then it is quite a good idea to keep it under a cloche. Feed it with a seaweed feed every couple of weeks. You might have to protect from snails and slugs. It seems fine in my garden here but in previous gardens it has been a bit snailed!

      Delete
  14. I have only just begun a new herb garden, having lost the previous one to an expansion of the house. It's so nice to visit your garden to find inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What fun to design and plant up a new one! I am thinking of adding Angelica to mine!

      Delete
  15. Your herbs certainly look healthy and happy! Sweet Cicely is one of my favourites too, I love the aniseed scent. I love eau de cologne mint for its scent too. Looking forward to meeting you at Blackden - let's hope the weather is better by then!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen to that! It seems amazing that I took those photos only yesterday. Today has been a total washout!

      Delete
  16. I wish there were scratch and sniff blogs. I could almost smell those pictures as it was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the idea of a scratch and sniff blog. I think you should get a patent out quickly.

      Delete
  17. Such a delightful, heavy-on-the-senses tour this is! I never knew the chive flowers are so breathtakingly pretty. The pictures remind me of Jamie Oliver's herb garden; one could get lost in such places for hours. My only regret - I wish I could sniff a bunch-ful! :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chives are such a lovely flower when they flower and can be so tatty at other times of year. The secret is to keep on cutting!

      Delete
  18. I can smell this post ... heavenly!!! Oh to be in a Welsh hills herb garden now that summer's (supposed) to be here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was lovely when I took the photographs but since then has been wall to wall rain! It has just stopped now and I have walked round. It is no wonder everything is so green!

      Delete
  19. Beautiful, beautiful photographs. I can almost smell those herbs. I laughed when I read, 'you can't have an herb garden without rosemary.' The only way I could grow it would be to buy a big plant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is rosemary not hardy for you Nan? I have lost the odd one occasionally here but mostly they survive!

      Delete
  20. I agree with your philosophy about having fresh herbs for cooking. Nothing beats going out to the garden and getting a sprig of mint or rosemary fresh off the plant. Another one I love is basil -- can be tempermental if the weather gets chilly, but tastes wonderful chopped up over tomatoes or in homemade pesto sauce. Hmm.... all this is making me hungry! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  21. Fab photos ..I've just planted up a herb bed on my new allotment plot ...hope they grow as well as yours ;0)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Gorgeous. Everything looks so healthy!

    ReplyDelete

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!