It’s that Thyme of the year.

I am a real sucker when it comes to thyme plants.  I can be found at plant fairs hunting them out, as others hunt truffles.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  They can vary in scent from wonderful spicy orange and a herby lemon to a pungent pine.  The leaves can vary from large and round to long and thin, or even woolly.  I defy any one not to want them in the garden especially when they are in flower.  Historically they have been used medicinally since Assyrian times, which was at the end of the second millennium BC.  Current research has shown Thymus vulgaris arrest the ageing process and is very beneficial in the treatment of stomach ulcers.

My collection has expanded over the past two decades to over  50 different thyme varieties and it is at this time of year they look so beautiful.

The best culinary thymes  in my opinion are, Orange scented, Thymus ‘Fragrantissimus’, Broad leaf thyme, Thymus pulegioides, Golden lemon thyme, Thymus ‘Golden Lemon’, Lemon thyme, Thymus ‘Culinary Lemon’ and French thyme, Thymus vulgaris ‘French’

If I had to just choose one it would be the broad leaved thyme as this is so useful with its large leaves that can be used whole or chopped, roasted with vegetables,

Thymus pulegioides

used in marinades, or infused in water then added to the bath to ease my aching muscles.

The  creeping varieties  are wonderful for bees and butterflies and spread delightfully over gravel and rocks. Here are just four to inspire you.

My top tip for growing thymes is to cut them back after flowering, this encourages the plant to put on new growth which helps to protect them from the vagaries of the winter.

We will be taking a lovely selection of Thymes to  this  years RHS Hampton Court , 2nd-8th July, where I am going to create a small herb garden that you will be able to walk through.  This will be situated down by the Rose Marquee site number TH/5   and near the Thames entrance.  Look forward to seeing you there.

Hampton Court herbs-a-buzzing

Hampton Court Flower Show was a joy, if a little wet (saved on watering though).

Visitors are still surprised to see us there, as we no longer exhibit in the floral marquee. Instead, these days, we have a ‘plant plot’, and Jekka continues to create a beautiful herb display to show visitors how organic herbs can totally transform a garden.

 Jekka’s Herbs, and the team – Dan, Hannah, Mark and Jekka, Hampton Court 2011

The archway (above) is Galega officinalis  Goat’s Rue (a.k.a. French Lilac), flanked on each side by Humulus lupulus‘Aureus’ AGM Golden HopMonarda didyma Bee Balm Bergamot obliged by opening its beautiful red blooms that week, and Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ was an absolute show stealer. And we were very pleased to pick up an award – runner-up in the ‘Totally Plants’ area.

Oregano Kent Beauty

Jekka’s display was a bee magnet. The moment we unloaded the plants, the bees moved in and lodged happily with us all week.

Bee-ing busy on the Cornflower

Tall swathes of Lythrum salicaria Purple Loosestrife, Salvia sclarea Clary Sage, Ammi majus Bishops Flower and Centaurea cyanus Cornflower surrounded the thyme garden at the front.  Our best selling herbs had to be Persicaria Odorata, Vietnamese Coriander and Porophyllum ruderale, Bolivian Coriander.

The very lovely Alan Titchmarsh kindly popped along to see us, along with BBC Gardener’s World presenter, Joe Swift.

Jekka and Alan Titchmarsh (top), Joe Swift (below) and a spot of welcome sunshine

July has been..um, busy (understatement). We really do need another experienced horticulturist to join the team. Now we’re all prepping for the next big buzz on the farm: our July Open Days, which start this Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th, 10am-4pm. Bee there!

Hampton Court Thyme (making loose with the Purple Loosestrife)

It’s just a few days until Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – where does the Thyme go? To the flower show of course. Specifically Thymus ‘Lemon Curd’, Lemon Curd Thyme, Thymus ‘Fragrantissimus’, Orange Scented Thyme and Thymus vulgaris, Garden Thyme, to name but a few of the 20 odd thyme varieties that will be winging their way up the M4 this weekend.

A quick glance outside, and all is serene and beautiful, aromatic and immensely peaceful, exactly as you’d imagine an organic herb farm to be..

Achillea 'Gold Plate' glowing in the peace of a summertime herb farm

..but part the Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’ AGMAchillea ‘Gold Plate’ and the Lythrum salicaria, Purple Loosestrife, and you’ll find a hive of busy people, pruning, clipping, watering, feeding and finally manhandling the herbs onto trolleys to be loaded up for Hampton Court.

All hands to the herbs & Jekka making loose with the Purple Loosestrife

Jekka’s been buzzing about in the  ‘Shade tunnel’, mocking up her corner plot organic herbs display, to inspire show visitors – yes, you will definitely want to do this at home. It’s just beautiful. We can’t give away too much just yet – you’ll have to come along and have a look for yourself (or see our next blog post, post-Hampton Court). But there will be a Galega officinalis, French Lilac arch – otherwise known as ‘Goats Rue’ although this sounds more like a regretful ruminant, than the racemes of white/mauve flowers which drape gracefully over the pergola. Flanked on either side by Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ AGM, Golden Hop, the archway leads to a dreamy vista of Salvia sclareaClary Sage, Bishops Flower and Papaver rhoeas, Field Poppies.

Clary Sage, Borage, Purple Loosestrife, Field Poppies, Hops, Chamomile

Clary Sage, Borage, Purple Loosestrife, Field Poppies, Golden Hop, Chamomile

As well as these beauties, we’re taking over a hundred different herb varietes to the show, including cut-and-come-again herb salad pots, which are on special offer for the show, and just a few of these absolutely stunning Tanacetum parthenium ‘Santana’Feverfew Santana

Feverfew Santana - available at our stand (PK246). First come, first served..adored by our herb farm customers and bees and butterflies. We can't grow this plant quickly enough, so we have a limited supply available at the show - first come, first served. As well as the herbs, we'll have seeds and Jekka's signed books, including her latest 'Jekka's Herb Cookbook (at a special Hampton-Court-Treat-price of £20, saving £5)'.Come and smell. Jekka's Herb Farm will be at stand PK246, near the Long Water, July 5th - 10th.

P.S. If you’re not going to Hampton Court Flower Show this year, you can always pop along to our next Open Days, 22-24th July instead.

June Open Days – nipping out for a sniff and a rub between downpours

Mostly, we’re very grateful for a drop of rain in summer: the herbs love the combination of wet and warmth,  and we love it because it reduces our daily task of quenching the thirst of 650+ herb varieties.

However, sunshiny days are infinitely preferable when opening up the farm and inviting people along for an enjoyable meander through the herbs.  The Friday and Saturday of our June Open Days were a bit wet for a lengthy amble amongst the aromas, but, happily, this didn’t deter our fabulous, die-hard, herb loving visitors and we were delighted to welcome back many regulars as well as many new visitors to the farm.

Ominous sky..but enough blue for a pair of sailor's trousers?

The weather forecast was pretty dreadful, but our visitors are made of sterner stuff

Nipping out for a sniff and a rub between downpours

Jekka’s farm tour became a herb talk in a warm, dry, aromatic polytunnel and our wonderful caterers, Berry Blue, had their busiest event at the farm ever – when the rain came down, everyone headed for the food marquee, where herby feasts and a hot mug of herb tea braced them for their next expedition outside.

Jekka's herb talk in the dry, aromatic polytunnel, and a very helpful young man

Jekka’s herb workshop was all about ‘How to take herb cuttings’, and she was delighted to make the acquaintance of her youngest pupil, Millie, who demonstrated great potential of becoming a future ‘Queen of Herbs’. Jekka’s next (pre-bookable) herb workshops (22nd – 24th July, 12pm) will tell you all you need to know about growing your own  salad herbs for autumn.

Millie (left) demonstrates her new skill - taking herb cuttings

Happily, Sunday dawned (and remained) much brighter, and visitors could take their time to enjoy the scents and arouse their senses. Jekka gave an outdoor herb talk to visitors, who learned that herbs in containers, such as Bay, won’t survive on love alone – they need a weekly feed at this time of year – we use liquid seaweed; that ‘Sir Basil‘ doesn’t like to be watered after midday; that Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and thyme must have very good drainage to thrive, and that herbs in flower now, such as lavender and thyme, should be cut back after flowering to promote plant health and maintain good shape. It was actually warm enough for her audience to sit back and soak up some most welcome sunny rays.

Soaking up some herb learning

The rain rarely deters open day visitors, who are often as nuts about organically grown herb plants as we are. But we would appreciate (please, please, please?)  some warm, dry days from 5th – 10th July, when we’ll be at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, and 22nd-24th July – our next Open Days. Fingers and fronds crossed.