Garden design with herbs: 7 'must grow' herbs for a well-designed herb gardens
Fresh herbs are widely available in all major supermarkets, but most are extremely easy to grow at home. More fresh and flavoursome and so much more convenient for the keen cook, what could be better than nipping outside to get that sprig of rosemary for the roast lamb, or a handful of beautifully fragrant mint for the ultimate mojito?
But we shouldn't dismiss herbs as being purely for the kitchen. Many can also add a great deal to the garden as well. Offering colour, flower, texture and fragrance I really wouldn't want to design a planting scheme without including at least a few of my favourite herbs.
Whether grown in containers or as part of a mixed planting scheme in a border, herbs can be an invaluable part of a great garden, so why not have a go at growing your own?
Here’s my garden designer's list of the top 7 ‘must-grow’ herbs:
1. Sage (SALVIA)
A really strong and reliable performer, sage is invaluable to the cook as a flavouring for stuffings and pork dishes. Very easy to grow, sage is a perennial that will generally look after itself with the minimum of attention. There are lots of different varieties of sage, but I love the purple ones for a burst of added colour.
2. Thyme (THYMUS)
Thyme is great for adding flavour to soups, stocks or roasts. Mainly low-growing, there are many different thyme varieties, each with a subtly different scent and flavour. Low-growing thymes are also a superb choice as ground-cover at the front of sunny borders, their tiny leaves providing lovely textural contrast alongside plants with larger foliage.
3. Mint (MENTHA)
Another herb with many varieties to try. Perfect for adding flavour to salads or desserts, when boiling or steaming vegetables, or even with a gin and tonic or mojito. Mint tends to grow vigorously and has a habit of taking over- manage this by keeping it contained by planting it in a large pot, either as a stand-alone feature or sunk (pot and all) in to a mixed border alongside other plants.
4. Oregano (OREGANUM)
I believe that fresh oregano tastes infinitely better than the dried version offered by the supermarkets. Shred the leaves on pizza or pasta dishes for a real ‘taste of the Italian sun’. A really easy-to-grow perennial, but one that is often forgotten when it comes to selecting plants for the garden.
5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
A brilliant garden herb, rosemary provides excellent textural contrast. With fine needle-like leaves, it looks wonderful alongside anything with a larger and fuller foliage. My preference is always to go for one of the upright varieties ('Miss Jessops' Upright' is a favourite) rather than a lower growing sprawling type, but each to their own. Particularly good near the front of a border or close to paths- I can never resist running it through my hands as a pass to release the glorious fragrance. An essential companion for roast lamb and roast potatoes, rosemary is also great as a base to pasta sauces and stews.
6. Bay (LAURUS nobilis)
A definite ‘must-have’ for any keen cook, bay leaves add wonderful flavour to stews, casseroles, or roasts. Bay is an attractive and easy-to-grow shrub that is usually much tougher than people give it credit for. Having said that, it can be vulnerable in very exposed positions (particularly if growing in pots or containers where the roots are more vulnerable), so keep an eye on it in the really cold months. I much prefer to use freshly-picked leaves when I’m cooking than the dried alternatives, so why not add a bay tree or two to your garden this year?
7. Lavender (LAVANDULA)
Perhaps not everyone’s first choice for a herb garden, but lavander offers us far more than pretty flowers and a scented haven for bees. The flowers are edible and wonderful when used sparingly in cakes and biscuits, as well as some savoury dishes. I’ve just searched for ‘cooking with lavender’ on Google and was presented with 340,000 results! Why not give it a try?
There are, of course, many more herbs available to us, and I’m sure that you’ll have your favourites that haven’t appeared here (I’ve not even mentioned dill, coriander, parsley or fennel, for example). The point is that we can all grow a few herbs regardless of how much space we’ve got in our gardens or on our patios. Give them a try- they’ll add so much to both your kitchen and garden that I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.