|Every gardener has a different opinion about how things should be done. An example is a favorite saying from one of my good gardening friends: "You get three gardeners in one room - fist fight!". While I don't completely agree with Gerry - I know that there is always more than one way to approach a subject. I hope that we can provide you with some useful information, and some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.|
Simple Herb Garden -Part 1
By The Garden Commando
The subject of Herbs is vast, and could not possibly be covered in a small space - so in this section, we are going to deal with a basic herb garden, which will combine beauty with four basic, useful culinary herbs.
Starting a simple herb garden
These plants as well as being excellent culinary herbs, are very attractive and can be planted so as to form a decorative bed.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Used in cooking as a garnish, or to add a subtle flavour to soups, stews, salads and fish, finely minced Parsley with a touch of chopped Celery leaf, also provides a somewhat salty taste. Medicinally, Parsley has diuretic properties and is used as a tonic tea. Some people believe that Parsley has the ability to help drain excess fluids from your body and is therefore beloved of dieters! Chewing a few Parsley leaves can even help to sweeten the breath, according to some herb experts.
Parsley is a hardy biennial, but is usually treated as an annual. You should keep it pinched or clipped back to discourage it from going to seed (which it will, if you are not observant); unfortunately, when that happens it loses much of its beauty, becoming leggy and straggly looking.
Curled Parsley can be planted in neat clumps throughout the bed, or it can also be used for an edging. It does not grow very tall - 6 to 8 inches, and looks very attractive as a border. You can snip pieces off for the kitchen without spoiling its looks.
Sage, Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage was used extensively in the old days as a cough remedy or an astringent (helps night sweats), but Sage should be taken medicinally in extremely small doses, and only with the advice of a naturopath or an accredited herbalist.
There are many different types of Sage, but not all are hardy in our zone. Common Sage has soft, gray-green foliage and produces spikes of soft purple flowers in the early summer. This type will survive our winters (usually), but resist the urge to go out and cut back the branches in the early spring, to "tidy up", since you may damage the plant. Wait until you see signs of growth, then carefully remove just the dead tips of the branches, and any that are weak or straggly looking.
Some of the more interesting varieties, such as Pineapple Sage (with brilliant, scarlet flowers), or Lemon Sage, must be treated as annuals since they are not hardy in Zones 5 and below, but their foliage is very decorative and the wonderful scent given off by the plants is so interesting, that it is well worth growing them in this manner.
Sage if allowed to mature, attains a shrubby appearance, tending to spread out a bit - so give it some room. To best use its structure, I would tend to plant it in the mid to back part of a herb bed. If room is limited (2-3 feet) then perhaps you will only have room for one Sage, but if you have a fairly large area (3 feet and over), then you can include more.
| Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub from the Mediterranean and produces clusters of pale blue flowers in the summer. Though not hardy in our climate, it should not be left out of your herb selection. Rosemary is delicious chopped and sprinkled on pork or lamb roasts, or added to soups and stews. It is also nice added to dough and baked in to herbed bread. As a beauty aid, Rosemary is used to make a hair strengthening rinse. It is also used as a digestive aid and to improve circulation.
You can either treat it as an annual and buy a new one every year, or you could bring your indoor pot of Rosemary out in the warm weather. Though slow growing - in its natural habitat - Rosemary can get up to 6 feet tall - there are also dwarf varieties available, that grow to 18" tall and would be suitable for container growing.
If you treat your Rosemary as an annual, you would just plant it in the herb garden, directly into the soil. Rosemary likes a slightly limy soil and plenty of sunshine. If you are using an indoor potted plant, that you plan on bringing back indoors when the weather gets cold, use it as the centerpiece of the simple garden by placing it on a raised brick or square stone. (To ensure the health and happiness of your potted plants, place the pots within a larger container, with pebbles in the base to help conserve moisture.)
Thyme (Thymus spp.)
Some types have variegated leaves (a few examples are Golden Thyme, Lemon Thyme or Variegated Silver Thyme). Some are hardier than others, and you will have to experiment. One of my particular favourites is Golden Thyme because the leaves are so decorative. I like to plant this one alternately with Silver Thyme to form an attractive, low border. In addition to the foliage, Thyme produces masses of pale pink to rich mauve flowers, usually in June and July.
Though not really very aromatic as a cooking herb, I have to mention Woolly Thyme here. This is a furry, graygreen plant that hugs the soil. It is at its best when positioned in a very sunny area adjacent to flat stones. It makes a soft, gray mat and also produces tiny pink flowers in the summer. As I mentioned, it is not particularly aromatic for cooking purposes, but it still has a soft, pungent scent when the leaves are gently touched (which everyone wants to do, by the way)
Thyme is a relatively short plant - usually no taller than 6 inches; you could use therefore use it for the very front edging of your herb bed. In a really small bed, you could just feature a couple of different Thymes in the foreground. If you have plenty of space, you can plant small groupings of different Thymes throughout your herb bed.
| Bibliographical References
The following texts were used to research the material provided for this article. There are many, many wonderful books on Herbs, and you should try to find some for yourself. The books listed here were the ones I found helpful, and some of which I have in my library at home.
Herbs continued ...Herbs 2
|This page was updated December 28/99|
References to plants grown in the garden as ornamentals are based on my own, personal experiences with my garden and client gardens, as well as material and references in the above texts.