I always say that the best part of our home is the fact that Frank and Rita live across the street. It has been a blessing in so many ways to move into their old home here on 222. Before they built their new house across the street, they lived and raised a family for 20 years on our side of the street. So much of the landscape here was shaped by their hands.
Though I have tended and added to it, this herb garden is here thanks to Rita. The boys love the old dinner bell in the center so I added a path for them to get to it without trampling my plants.
Every year it’s a joy to see the mostly perennial herbs begin to come back to life. Here’s a look at what’s happening now in the old herb garden.
Tarragon (left) is a sort of licorice-y herb that I especially like to mix into a light chicken salad. It grows tall and spreads actively.
Hyssop (middle) is a nice herb for teas or herbal waters. It has a lovely smell and produces pretty edible flowers. I started this from seed last year and it is coming back strong and hearty.
Violas (right) are sweet little edible flowers that make a fun addition to salads.
Last year I added several types of poppies. I believe this one in the foreground is a bread seed poppy. You’re supposed to be able to harvest the seed pods and eat the seeds. They are looking much healthier this second year. Hopefully we’ll get some pretty flowers to attract pollinators to the herb garden as well.
At the top you can see a long-established stand of onion chives. These are a great stand in for scallions and they produce a lovely and tasty purple flower that I like to add to salads raw or infuse in white wine vinegar for a year-long kitchen staple. Chive vinegar makes a tasty addition to homemade salad dressings!
Along the right edge of the bed, you can see several thyme plants as well. Thyme is a nice woody, lightly spicy addition to many dishes. I also like to put it in some of my herbal waters and mix it with fruit like peaches in jam.
This Apple mint has been here forever too. I dig it out enmasse every year, and every year it pops up all over again. I tried planting it in a big pot, where it has thrived. Now if I could just get rid of the rest of what’s in the ground! Mint is a versatile and tasty herb and there are so many interesting varieties but please oh please – don’t plant it directly into your garden. Mint is a plant that should always be grown in pots unless you are looking for a plant to take over an area. Apple mint has soft furry leaves and a lighter flavor than some other varieties.
This is one of my many elderberry patches, a remnant from when I moved my first plant around, trying to find a place where it would have enough space to spread. If you don’t get every last bit of root out, it will re-sprout. It’s not a bad thing! Now I have elderberry growing here there and everywhere 🙂
Elderberry and elderflowers are a fabulous immune supporting herb. I make elderberry syrup and drink a swig of it every day, year round. I think this is how I have managed to stay pretty healthy despite visiting teachers in so many schools plus teaching preschool (so many germs!).
Next on the tour is plain old garden sage and golden oregano. This oregano stays low to the ground and spreads actively. I actually dug out a huge patch of it a few years ago because it was taking up too much space in the garden. It has a nice mild flavor and pleasant aroma. Would probably actually be a lovely ground cover too!
At the top is anise hyssop, another nice herb for teas or herbal waters. It produces small purple flowers which are also edible.
Below is comfrey, a medicinal plant that I use to make comfrey salve. There’s some debate of safety of its use. Herbalists had used it for ages but new research has found it contains some harmful chemicals. The salve I make is Vaseline based and I use it as a general healing salve. It is soothing to cuts and seems to help the skin regenerate more quickly to heal in fewer days. It’s a recipe from Rita. She first gave me a jar to use on our young chickens when they got minor injuries, but she said – I use it on myself too.
Chamomile grows so well in our area. It spreads out quickly and will fill up a flower bed in a year or two. It produces small, fragrant flowers that I harvest and dry for tea. Chamomile is another long-used medicinal plant. My great grandmother was a midwife who knew much about natural healing plants. My mom said when they had a bruise or a sprained ankle her grandma Rose would brew up a strong batch of chamomile tea, soak a washcloth in it and wrap the injured area. It would help reduce inflammation quickly and without any drugs needed.
My lemon balm got a bit frost burnt but is recovering. The smell of these leaves reminds me a little of lemon house cleaners. If you look up lemon balm recipes you’ll find so many options for ways to use this herb! It can be made into drinks, added to dishes or used in natural cleaning products.
Finally, several years ago I planted mulberry trees on either side of the herb garden. They have grown splendidly. The trees were beginning to leaf out and flower just when those several nights of hard frost hit earlier this month. They look pretty sad now but should begin to try again here soon. Mulberry jam is one of my favorites!
Once it warms up I’ll add some annual herbs like basil, dill, rosemary (never seems to survive the winter here), cilantro, parsley (actually had one manage to overwinter this year!), etc.
Herbs are so fun to play with in food, adding such rich and interesting flavors. And they are pretty easy to grow.
What’s your favorite herb to grow?