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!