It is officially only 7 weeks until the first day of spring, so I thought I would inspire you to grow some new herbs this year because herbs are the one collection of plants that can transform a meal into a feast. Simply imagine tossing some Chive flowers, Wild rocket, chopped French parsley, amazing red Pak Choi,
some wonderful crunchy Purslane, and some hot spicy Mustard leaves with some Lettuce and you have a salad to whet all palates.
To me herbs fulfil everything one needs in a garden; they look good, taste good and do you good, what more can you ask of a plant?
Gardening for the table in landscape terminology is short term gardening. It allows the gardener to experiment. It also allows the gardener to be optimistic, for there is ‘always next year’. So by even growing a pot of herbs on a windowsill or some rows of rocket in a container, it connects what you eat to the process of growing. That growing process starts from the soil which is the engine of all gardening, be it in a container or a garden plot. So for those of you who wish to grow your herbs in a window box or container it is well worth investing in a good potting compost .
When growing plants in containers it is also worth investing in a good liquid fertiliser so that you can regularly feed your herbs. Why feed the plants? Well, this is because the plant will quickly use all the nutrients and minerals from the potting compost and, to keep your herbs productive and healthy when grown in a container, you need to supplement their feed.
If the thought of Spring has inspired you I will be running a Propagation day course for 12 people at the Herboretum on April 6th and April 20th and a Herb garden design day course for 14 people on April 13th and May 4th . And for those of you in the UK with eagle eyes the first ten of you to email the herb farm with your postal address will be sent 3 packets of seeds, with our complements, to start your spring sowing.
Posted in Edible herbs, Herb seeds, Seasonal Tips, Organic Gardening, Propagation, 2013, Culinary Herbs, Herbs in containers, Planning a herb garden
Tagged organic herbs, Herb Garden, chives, Herb seed, food, plants, Culinary herbs, herbs in containers, liquid fertiliser, propagation course, herb garden design course, free seed packets, chive flowers, spicy mustard, herb garden design
I love early winter, the light levels are still good, the warmth is still in the soil and the seed harvest is finally in. I now look forward to sitting inside in the warmth, cleaning the seed so making it easier to sow.
I never ceased to be amazed by the ingenuity and beauty of seeds.
Szechuan pepper – Zanthoxylum simulans
Talking of 2013 I have already started sowing the seeds for early flowering. The germination has been very good.
Cornflower – Centaurea cyanus
These Cornflowers took a mere 5 days to germinate using a bottom heat of 15C . I have now removed them from the heat. They will grow on in the greenhouse until spring has truly arrived. Hopefully they will be ready and in flower for our display at the 100 th Chelsea flower Show where we will be launching our new Herboretum. I know the tickets for this truly amazing show are now on sale, being that it is the 100 th Chelsea can I suggest that if you are thinking of coming you get a ticket soon.
Painted Sage – Salvia viridis
These Painted Sage, one of my favourite annuals, also germinated quickly and I am 90% certain they will be a show stopper next year . Here, as a reminder of the beauty of this sage, is a photograph I took in the early summer.
On a positive note, for those of you who do not enjoy the winter months, it is only 16 weeks until the 1st of March!
Posted in Chelsea Flower Show 2013, Flower Shows, Herb seeds, Organic Gardening, Propagation, Seasonal Tips, Seed Sowing, Uncategorized
Tagged Cornflower, jamaica street, nature, organic herbs, Painted Sage, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, seed harvest, sowing the seeds, Szechuan pepper
Origanum dictamnus, Dittany of Crete
The word Oregano is derived from the Greek oros, meaning ‘mountain’ and ganos, meaning ‘joy’ and ‘beauty’, how right. This is the most wonderful group of plants that not only look stunning at this time of year but are also useful in the kitchen and very beneficial for bees and butterflies.
The leaves of this herb have a wonderful rounded flavour and a tea can be made from the leaves to ease an upset stomach. Sadly this oregano, is now endangered in the wild. To grow it in the UK you must plant it in a very well drained soil as otherwise our wet winters will cause it to rot.
Another wonderful oregano in this group is Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ much beloved by bees.
Origanum ‘Kent Beuaty’
These amazing bracts which surround the small flowers turn an even deeper shade of pink as the flowers fade.
The bracts dry beautifully making them ideal for dried flower arrangements and a wonderful Christmas presents for friends.
Origanum ‘Jekka’s Beauty’
This oregano I found as a seedling growing along side Origanum dictamnus. I propagated it and found that it ran true from cuttings so named it Origanum ‘Jekka’s Beauty’. The leaves of this oregano are also hairy, just like O. dictamnus, and they also have a good culinary flavour.
With all these special, beautiful, Oregano’s it is essential to cut them back hard after flowering so that they make a new crown of leaves which will then help the plant survive the winter months. You will then be rewarded with a spectacular display in the following summer.
Posted in Butterfly and Bee herbs, Edible herbs, Oregano, Organic Gardening, Seasonal Tips
Tagged butterfly and bee herbs, oregano, seasonal tips, food, nature, Origanum, Culinary herbs, dried flower arrangements, travel
I never cease to be inspired by the fortitude of plants as they always seem to shine despite what the weather throws at them. Here are a few that are currently lifting my spirits even on the glummest days.
Santolina, Cotton Lavender. This herb is a native of Southern France and the Northern Mediterranean area. It was used medicinally for many centuries and historically, during the Medieval period, it was used both as an insect and moth repellent and as a wormer. There are many forms, my favourites are:
Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Lambrook Silver’
Santolina pinnata subsp. neapolitana ‘Edward Bowles’
This herb needs to be cut back hard after flowering to prevent the plant becoming woody or splitting . Unlike its common name sake Lavender, this herb will shoot from old wood, which makes it ideal for growing as an edging plant or as a hedge.
Perilla frutescens var purpurascens Purple Shiso has, unlike its cousin Basil, thrived this year. The purple variety has come into its own in the garden as its deep colour makes the constrasting green leafed herbs seem more vibrant.
Another herb which has truley been spectacular throughout these dank days is Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver Queen’.
I took this photograph at The Organic Garden on a particularly showery day, yet it still shone at the front of the border; it’s attractive silver foliage reflecting the light of the day.
These plants are currently available on the farm and if you also wish to be inspired please join us at our next Open days on Friday 20th, Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd. You will be able to browse our whole collection and, for those of you with exotic taste, I will be giving two free talks a day on ‘Oriental Herbs.’ Please visit the Open day link for more information and I look forward to seeing you next weekend, whatever the weather!!!
Posted in Herb Farm Open Days, Organic, Organic Gardening, Seasonal Tips, Uncategorized
Tagged Artemisia, cotton lavender, herb farm open days, Perilla, santolina, Shiso, Weather
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,
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.
Posted in Butterfly and Bee herbs, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Organic Gardening, Seasonal Tips, Thyme
Tagged Bees, bees and butterflies, Broad Leaved Thyme, butterfly and bee herbs, Creeping Thymes, Culinary Thymes, food, organic herbs, RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, thyme