based around the uses of herbs, both medicinally and culinary. I use a lot of herbs at home and therefore have a fairly overused herb garden. Two of my favourite herbs are Purple Sage, which has so many decorative uses alone and the lovely golden Oregano. As long as you don’t plant golden Oregano in daylong sun, it makes a fantastic plant looking good at the front of borders along with being planted up with other herbs in containers and pots. There’s something quite lovely about herbs being planted in more unusual or vintage styled containers and one of the simplest is to plant up old wooden bulb or fruit crates. Stacked up in a mini terrace, these look lovely by the kitchen door or on the terrace. Remember to use a soil-based compost when planting into containers and give them a weekly feed from March through to September.

You can use purple Sage, Salvia officinalis purpurea, in the same ways as green Sage however the purple variety has the added benefit of keeping its colour when cooked and looks lovely with roasted red onions along with making a great colourful backdrop for roasted joints of pork.

Its fair to say that herbs largely divide into two groups; those which like full sun, such as Rosemary, Sage, Thymes and Tarragon, and those which like a bit of shade during the day such as Rocket, Sorrel, Parsley and other salad type leaf producing plants. The golden Oregano I mentioned earlier prefers some shade during the day or the brilliant golden yellow leaves will scorch. Having said that it’s such a useful little plant, looking stunning with bold colours in hot borders and looking lovely as a loose edge to herb garden paths. It makes a fantastic addition to salads adding a slight spicy hint, and I like to use it chopped up with flat leaved Parsley and Chives when I make potato salads.

Another herb I could not be without is Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis. I know that many of you may be groaning now thinking how easily it seeds itself around but hear me out; lemon balm has many redeeming quality’s, and not just its use as flavouring for ice-cream. It has been cultivated for over 2000 years first being introduced as a medicinal herb by the Arabs from northern Africa and southern Europe. You can use it in teas as a mild sedative or calming agent. It also has antibacterial and antiviral qualities and in France it is known as a remedy for fatigue, headaches and helping with anxiety and depression. It was also mentioned by Shakespeare in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. I grow the variegated form, ‘Aurea’, over the normal green in my garden, there are in fact three species, ‘Aurea’ which has golden blotches irregularly splashed over the leaves, officinalis the green form and ‘All Gold’ the golden form. Lemon balm grows well in partial shade and it tolerates full sun but will not grow as large. Plant in humus rich soils and it will grow up to 80cm in height.
Another plant I couldn’t be without is Atriplex hortensis var. rubra; it’s an annual and seeds prolifically, which I love because it makes its own combinations throughout the garden. In my garden it has quickly spread from the herb garden over into our long borders and has made itself quite at home.

It has lovely dark burgundy ovate leaves, up to 18cm in length, and later in the year stunning hanging seed pods which look like little gems turning from brilliant glossy burgundy to faded gold before falling or blowing away in late October. In the course of the year it can reach up to 2 meters in height. The leaves can be picked and eaten raw in salads, or cooked and treated like spinach. It prefers very light shade and humus rich soils that are free draining to really grow large. More recently, trials have been undertaken in Sweden, as Atriplex is a potential source of Biomass. So far average yields of 14 tonnes per hectare have been achieved so the outlook is promising for further use.

Another herb I grow is Lovage, levisticum officinale, I add it to any stocks I may be making for its fantastic flavouring qualities but I also grow it around the garden because according to folk-lore it improves the health of surrounding plants. I really like umbels in the garden, and flowers of Lovage don’t disappoint being sulphur yellow and appearing in summer. Lovage grows up to 2 meters tall and it prefers partial shade in well-drained soils.
Of course you can’t talk about herbs without including Rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis, native to the Mediterranean region; I can’t help but be taken straight to rural Italy every time I crush some leaves and breathe the scent in deeply. There are so many uses for Rosemary, that it might be easier to state one use I don’t personally think it is cut out for, making hedges. Rosemary has a habit of dying back or just totally dying during winter, so using is as an alternative to box is not such a good idea in my mind, as you will get patches of die back leaving a messy finish. Saying that, Rosemary can grow up to 2 meters, and when it grows into large specimens like the ones at Sissinghurst Castle, they are stunning in flower stopping you in your tracks. Not bad for a plant which can cost as little as £1.79 or less at nurseries and garden centres. Rosemary prefers full sun in well-drained soils. I really like to use Rosemary on the barbecue; by adding decent size sprigs to the hot coals you can fill the air with its beautiful scent. Naturally its most common use is as a garnish and cooking ingredient for Lamb, but if you ever have a go at making your own tomato sauce, which is very easy, add some Rosemary and take it to another level.

By: Paul Hervey-Brookes

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Tag : gardening,garden center,herbs,cooking,garden decor


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