Herbs are my true plant love. If some cruel being told me I could grow only one type of plant, I would choose herbs.
From the first green shoots in early spring, to a mid-summer explosion of scents and flavours, to the whiff of ghostly fragrance that floats up when you rub a snow-covered leaf in January, herbs offer delight twelve months of the year.
I spent a year working at an herb and perennial nursery some time ago, and learned that the varieties of herbs available go far beyond what we usually see in our local nurseries (unless you are very lucky to live near one that knows their herbs). From Cleveland sage to African blue basil, orange spice thyme to grapefruit mint, there’s a variety for every nose and palate. For example, Richter’s Herbs in Ontario, Canada boasts over 1000 varieties of culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs! Just paging through their colour catalogue is enough to make my nose twitch and my mouth water, and inspire me to order something new to grow.
Herbs in the Garden
Many herbs make amazing landscape plants! Although herb gardens in all their historic forms are lovely and worthy, please don’t isolate your herbs. In my garden, wooly thyme and orange spice thyme drape gracefully over brick walls, mounds of purple sage rub elbows with lavender and iris, and green-and-gold ‘Doone Valley’ creeping lemon thyme floods the gaps between succulents and my rock collection. With their subtle textures and variegated leaves, they are the perfect foil to more colourful perennials.
Top Tips for Growing Herbs
- When planting herbs with perennials and annuals in the garden, think carefully about siting and mix plants that have similar needs. Blend sun lovers like lavender, thyme and sage with coneflowers, succulents and dianthus that also appreciate a bright, warm spot.
- Take into account the characteristics of each plant when mixing them. Don’t mix moisture-lovers like chives and parsley with herbs like rosemary and lavender that prefer much less water.
- Avoid planting mint in any garden; it will soon take over and turn into a real thug that will be difficult to remove. Instead, give mint its own place, either in a large container in part shade, or in a corner of the garden corralled inside a cut-open five gallon plastic pot sunk into the soil.
Herbs in Containers
Containers are a wonderful place to grow herbs. One pot on my patio is filled with a jumble of feathery tarragon and dill, with purple and yellow Johnny jump-ups and lemony-tart gem marigolds as backup singers. In another pot, several types of basil jostle dill, alyssum and more Johnnies, while Italian parsley and green chives keep company with self-seeded calendulas. Rosemary gets its own pots, growing with prostrate rosemary cascading over the pot edge.
Top Tips for Growing Herbs in Containers
My intention is to invite you to wake up your senses to the smells, flavours and textures of herbs, and to open your mind to the possibilities for herbs in your garden. Got any tips to share on growing herbs, or a favourite herb you just can’t do without? Share with us in the comments!