The Bristol Magazine May 2022

Page 66

GARDENING - MAY.qxp_Layout 2 19/04/2022 16:14 Page 1

“If you've got the room, then a designated space to grow herbs is a good idea and can become a beautiful feature in its own right,” says Elly

What’s your flavour? Looking to spice up your green space this spring? Here, Elly West explains how a herb garden can provide so much more than some flavour to your cooking


have to be honest, buying herbs from the supermarket doesn't sit well with me. It always seems quite wasteful; a few leaves in a cellophane bag that I might use half of before they go limp in the fridge after a day or two. So much nicer to have a selection of fresh growing herbs, providing fragrance, texture and colour in your garden while also attracting bees and butterflies, ready to pick in the quantity you need, as and when you want to add some flavour to your cooking. Many of us may grow herbs without really thinking too much about it – an old woody rosemary or sage bush, some sprawling lavender or an overgrown bay tree. I'll never forget surprising a client with the life-changing news that the leaves from the enormous bay tree in his mixed hedge would be exactly the same as he'd recently bought from a shop to add to a casserole. Herbs make great additions to our gardens and kitchens; they are low-maintenance, many thrive on neglect. They don't need much space or attention, and even a window box or patio pot can make a great spot for easy pickings. If you've got the room, then a designated space to grow herbs is a good idea and can become a beautiful feature in its own right. We have a long history of growing herbs in this country, both for culinary and medicinal purposes. The Chelsea Physic Garden, created in 1673, is one of the world's oldest botanic gardens, established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to grow and showcase medicinal plants. Located on the River Thames to make the most of its warm air currents, and to allow plants to be easily imported. It 66 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE


MAY 2022


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now contains around 5,000 different edible and medicinal plants. Herb garden designs dating back to medieval and Renaissance Europe, and the old monastery gardens, continue to influence modern gardeners, where the herbs are divided into beds arranged symmetrically around a central point such as a sundial, or topiary bay tree, as a permanent feature. A cartwheel shape with brick edging or low clipped box is attractive and keeps things organised. Traditional English cottage gardens of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, on the other hand, often mixed vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers all together. This can work well too, with herbs being good additions to gravel gardens or grown alongside traditional favourites such as roses and hardy geraniums. When planning a herb garden, aim to include a mix of evergreens, perennials and annuals. The hardy Mediterranean evergreen shrubs such as bay, rosemary, lavender and sage will create permanent backbone and structure in your garden. Low-growing thyme and oregano will also be there all year round. Originally from stony, sunbaked hillsides, they don't mind scorching heat, drought, freezing cold winds or heavy downpours. However, they do need good drainage as it's the combination of cold and wet soggy soil that will kill these herbs off. When you're deciding where to position your herbs, traditional thought is as near to the kitchen as possible, however, always prioritise the best position for your plants over the distance you need to walk to get to them. Unless your garden is enormous, it's unlikely to make a huge difference to your day, and picking a few herbs makes

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