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Archive for June, 2010

HERBS IN THE ROCOCO GARDEN

A wide range of herbs are grown in the garden, usually in association with other plants – particularly in the Exedra Gardens and the Kitchen Garden.

KITCHEN GARDEN

  • We grow the useful culinary herbs such as Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Mint, and Parsley. 
  • Interesting tall herbs like Lovage, Valerian and Tansy can be found on the Giant’s Border in the Kitchen Garden, alongside the stately large Cardoons and the occasionally flowering Jerusalem Artichokes.  Another tall robust perennial herb, Elecampe can be seen next to the garden’s two scarecrows in the soft fruit borders.
  • The shrubby herbs feature Old English Lavenders, Myrtle (the dwarf species makes a good hedge),  Santolina spp (Lavender cotton), which has a delightful aromatic scent and silver grey foliage, Rosemary and Wall Germander (Teucrium chamædrys), which has pretty rose coloured flowers, and makes an attractive low growing hedge.
  • Some of the more unusual herbs include Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus henricus) – the leaves were used as an alternative to spinach, and Orache (Atriplex hortensis) – the young leaves are used in salads, and on the Continent as a spinach substitute.

THE HERB TUMPS

A selection of our herbs is grown on the 6 herb tumps in the Kitchen Garden.  These are raised gravelled mounds (hoggin), as used in the mid-18th garden here.  It is a beneficial way to grown these sun loving plants from the Mediterranean, providing good drainage.  The surface gravel mulch means that competition from weeds can be easily dealt with.  I would recommend herb tumps as an alternative to the more traditional herb borders.

FOCUS ON HERBS – Umbelliferæ

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

It is native to the UK, with attractive aromatic foliage. The lacey leaf foliage is followed in early summer by white flowers in compound umbels.  Our Sweet Cicely in the Kitchen Garden has started to spread from seeds distributed round the parent plant, so I hope to transfer some of the seedlings in the autumn to grow on.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Native to the Mediterranean possibly introduced by the Romans and mentioned by Gerard in 1597. Fennel is a tall stately herb (4 -5 feet) with beautiful feathery foliage; it seeds itself around, which is useful for replacing the rather short lived original plant.  We have the purple leaved (or bronze fennel) in the Exedra Garden, and it combines well with other hardy plants.

Dill (Anethum gravolens)

Dill is native to the Mediterranean.  It is similar in appearance to Fennel, with the same feathery leaves, but only reaches 2-3 feet.  Unlike Fennel it is an annual.  We grow our Dill on in small pots and plant them out in clumps about 6 inches apart, so that the plants can help to support each other.  The chief culinary use of Dill seeds is for pickling cucumbers and the whole plant is aromatic.  It is reputed to cross with Fennel, but this does not seem to be a problem, because we grow on fresh stock and rotate the plants.

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