A herb garden with these versatile plants will be packed with power.
A herb garden filled with herbs must be some of the hardest-working plants around. Not only do they look good and smell wonderful, they bring bees and other useful insects to the garden – and can instantly lift your spirits.
Sitting in a quiet corner surrounded by soothing, herby scents will soon leave you sitting relaxed or re-energised. The aromas of lavender, sage and lemon balm are the perfect antidotes to a busy and stressful day, and if you plant peppermint with lavender and camomile around your favourite garden seat, the fresh fragrances will help you wind down and ease headaches.
A cup of herbal tea will also help – camomile, especially, makes a good bedtime drink and sleeping on a lavender pillow will help transport you to the land of Nod.
Feeling lethargic? Hanging a few sprigs of eau de cologne mint Mentha x piperita citrata under the hot-water tap when drawing a bath is especially good for reviving your spirits.
Good soil and a bit of shade is all you need, but be aware that the roots are invasive, so where space is limited it must be grown on its own in a tub. Mint and rosemary are good for re-energising, too, and can be relied on for repelling insects, so arrange a few pots on the patio.
The low-growing bushy plants of thyme make a pretty dwarf edge around flower beds. Train the creeping varieties over the rim of patio pots and squeeze between paving slabs to make a scented path that will also put pep into your step.
Fabulous with food
It’s worth building up a potted collection of culinary herbs such as basil, chives, parsley, oregano and thyme – you’ll have a supply of fresh leaves to snip and season your favourite recipes in no time.
In hotspots where other plants might shrivel, grow the drought-busting curry plant, feverfew and camomile to supply plenty of leaves and flowers for making soups, stews and teas and salads.
And when these leafy herbs die down in autumn, replace them with rosemary and sage for flavouring winter casseroles.
Shrubby rosemary makes a sizeable plant, and the upright variety Rosmarinus ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ can be easily clipped and trained into topiary shapes to use as focal points on a patio.
Another culinary classic that responds well to clipping is Laurus nobilis, or bay. Buy or train a couple to make lollipop trees, which can be used to flank either side of the front door, and use leafy trimmings to add flavour to casseroles or roasted gammon.
If you’re particularly adventurous in the kitchen, you’ll probably find reason to grow many more herbs in your herb garden but, whatever you choose, make sure you add annual borage to the list.
The leaves can be used to add a refreshing flavour to summer drinks, and if you also grow chervil, has a delicate, parsley-like quality with a hint of aniseed and dill, you’ll have the ingredients for making a fine pickling vinegar for cucumbers and cauliflowers.
Treat yourself to a herb garden
Herbs have long been used as medicine for people and livestock, and in the Middle Ages, women who followed herb lore and other methods of healing were often accused of witchcraft! Nowadays, you’d more likely be thought of as sensible and wise to keep an herbal first-aid kit at home for treating minor ailments.
Aloe vera is the handiest to have in the kitchen as the leaves contain a soothing, gel-like sap that can be used to rub on burns. Its healing properties will prevent blisters and any pain will quickly ease. It’s also useful for relieving skin conditions like acne and eczema and treating insect bites.
Pot marigold petals have a similar healing power and can be made into a cream by mixing with an emulsifying ointment to safely soothe skin rashes and sunburn. Comfrey ointment works magic in making bruises fade, and is also good for treating cuts. If you suffer from arthritis, try the old remedy of steeping comfrey leaves in water and using it to soak bandages for wrapping your aching joints.
For beauty rituals, lemon balm, spearmint and thyme can be steeped in boiling water and used as a facial steam to deep cleanse your skin. Your pets’ wellbeing can also be helped by a herb garden. Nepeta cateria or catnip for example, will have your cat rolling around on the leaves in ecstasy – a sure sign he is happy! And a few drops of cooled camomile tea given to an animal will work wonders if it is spooked by loud noises or gets stressed by car travel.
A herb garden offer the gardener a plant palette like no other to create painterly borders. There are hues of green, purple, gold and silver as well as wonderful leaf textures – woolly, crinkled, feathery and grassy leaved – arranged in clumps, mounds and spires for making borders with impact. Make use of the blooms, too; herb flowers are usually umbels, bells and balls plus, of course, daisies that reign supreme.