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.
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.
Summertime, and the bees are buzzing, the butterflies are flitting, the hoverflies are, well, hovering and the herbs are looking, tasting and smelling wonderful! A drop of sunshine on the leaves brings the oils to the surface, and the aroma is literally sensational – makes your mouth water. Then there’s the flowers, full with nectar, enticing a host of most welcome lodgers to the farm.
Bee on a Borage flower
We’re big on bees, beneficial insects and biodiversity (which simply means the diversity of all the living things around us). Bees and butterflies are necessary for pollination, and by providing them with a natural habitat in which to thrive, we are not just doing our bit to keep the planet happy, but we are actually helping to increase our yields. Increasing biodiversity in the garden is common sense really.
Hence our Soil Association organic status, and peat-free growing. We grow a lot of Butterfly & Bee herbs, and now that the herb farm’s in flower, it’s just buzzing!
Thyme for a Bumble (Woolly Thyme)
Bee-autiful lavender (Ashdown Forest)
Bees particularly love blue and violet colours, so borage, catmint, cornflower, echium, flax, lavender and polemonium bee-come magnets. For more butterfly, bee and beneficial insect herbs, Search on our website, and under the dropdown list, ‘Uses’, choose ‘Biodiversity’…and get your garden buzzing!