Herb Garden

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

“My love affair with nature is so deep
that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist.
I crave a more real and meaningful relationship.
The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients
are the bread and wine
in which I have communion and fellowship with nature,
and with the Author of that nature.”
Euell Gibbons

 

 

August 19, 2014 lavender 032

Garlic chives remain one of the easiest of herbs to grow.  Plant in full sun, keep them moist, and they will grow indefinitely.  A perennial herb, the stand of chives grows a bit larger each season.  All parts of the plant are edible, and leaves can be snipped year round to season in cooking.  Chives are especially nice mixed with cream cheese or sour cream.  Their flowers may be cut for arrangements, cut and used as a garnish, or left to delight the bees.

Thyme grows as another spreading, perennial herb which enjoys full sun.  It blooms sometimes in summer, and it is a favorite for cooking.  A good cheese spread may bee made with chives, thyme leaves, and perhaps a little garlic, minced Rosemary, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix these into any combination of soft cream or goat cheeses.

Grape leaves make tasty wraps for various fillings.  Our favorite are Greek dolmades, which are stuffed with a mixture of rice and herbs, then steamed.  Grape leaves may be eaten raw in salad or added to sandwiches.

 

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil leaves remain our favorite summer herb.  Eaten raw on a sandwich, pureed into pesto, or cooked with tomatoes, their distinctive flavor sings “summer,” even when enjoyed in February.  Their flowers are edible and may be enjoyed as cut flowers or as a garnish.  Stems of  Basil, mixed in with other flowers in a vase, perfumes the entire room.

Basil

Basil

Scented Pelargoniums are not only edible, they dry beautifully.  Lemon, orange, or rose scented geraniums, as they are called, may be added to home made mixes for tea, used as flavor in baked goods, or may be dried and preserved for their fragrance. Their flowers are edible and may be used to garnish cupcakes.  Some Pelargoniums survive the winter for us in Zone 7B.  They die back to the ground, but will sometimes come back from their roots in late spring.  They are happiest in full sun with moist soil.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

Plant all of the mints in full sun.  They prefer moist soil, and will spread madly over a summer.  Every part of the plant may be eaten fresh or dried.  Used mainly to flavor beverages, mints are wonderful fresh or dried in tea.  A stand of mint in bloom remains busy with every sort of bee and wasp enjoying the feast of nectar.  This chocolate mint has beautiful, distinctive foliage and smells like minty chocolate candy.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun. All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.   All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

A garden may be appreciated by all of our senses, including taste and smell.  These wonderfully fragrant herbs contain healing oils and compounds, in addition to their delicious flavors.

Although not a traditional vegetable garden, an herb garden allows us to consume a bit of what we grow and use the plants in many different ways.

Salvia officinalis, 'Tricolor' is delicious. This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes. Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil and used as a tasty garnish.

Salvia officinalis, ‘Tricolor’ is delicious. This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes. Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil and used as a tasty garnish.

Whether bringing cut herbs and flowers indoors to enjoy, making sachet packets to keep moths out of our drawers,   blending our own tea, or cutting herbs to add to our food; we come to know these beautiful plants better through frequent use.

Salvia officinalis, 'Berggarten'

Salvia officinalis, ‘Berggarten’

Perennial herbs generously offer themselves up season after season, and once planted, remain with us so long as we tend the garden.

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

*

 Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Doing Little Bits

VAriegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Variegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Today has been another day of weeding, spreading compost, planting, and delighting in bits of perennial poking up through the warming soil.

Each newly emerging Echinacea, Monarda, and Comfrey merits a quiet celebration that winter is behind us now, and spring unfolding.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed.  Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies.  Several of these will be transplanted soon.  Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed. Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies. Several of these will be transplanted soon. Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Finding a dead looking stick poking out of the Earth, with a small cluster of dark green leaves emerging at its base, brings quiet satisfaction that another hardy plant has survived to grow for another summer.

Once these little bits of green emerge, they grow so very quickly.  The change is apparent from day to day, as they grow, branch, and set buds for another season.

I worked today on some informal herb and perennial beds terraced on the slope behind our butterfly and hummingbird garden.  Several large Lilac shrubs, just opening their flowers, anchor these long narrow beds.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.  This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms.  Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.   This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms. Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

I’ve been digging them into the hillside bit by bit over the last few years, planting sturdy shrubs, iris, and herbs whose roots will hold this hillside in place and whose blooms will attract every butterfly in the county.

Now I’m hoping to find some milkweed plants to work into this area as hosts for Monarch butterflies.  There is already bronze fennel growing.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  This newly emerged herb will grow to 4' or more tall by lae summer.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies. This newly emerged herb will grow to 4′ or more tall by late summer.

I’ve planted additional parsley this year, and I broadcast dill seeds last year.  Although many butterflies lay their eggs on hardwood trees, like the Tulip Poplar, parsley, dill,and fennel host the swallowtail butterflies which animate our garden for months each summer.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Host plants are a very important part of any butterfly garden and help insure that our butterfly populations are maintained or increased year to year.

Now, as we are adding plants for the new season, is an important time to consider how our  choice of plants can  contribute to the health of our environment.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside.  A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas.  Bees love its blue flowers.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside. A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas. Bees love its blue flowers.

My partner and I have been keenly interested in the data on climate change released by the UN over this past weekend.  The amount of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe is higher now than it has ever been in the last 800,000 years.

Carbon in the atmosphere contributes to our planet’s rising surface temperature.  An increase of only two degrees Celsius will re-shape our landmasses as coastal areas flood.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis.  This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis. This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Although the problem is vast, and will take planet wide cooperation to fully address, each of us can do a little bit to help.  If all of us will do a little bit, then all of us together can make a tremendous positive difference.

All plant life, from algae growing in a pond to the beautiful Cedars of Lebanon, continuously draw carbon out of the air.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today.  Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today. Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

The basic process of creating food from sunlight requires carbon dioxide and water.  Plants convert these compounds into sugar, storing the sugar in each and every cell.  The  products of this process are pure oxygen and water vapor.

This means that everything we plant, whether a tree  or a marigold flower, will help scrub carbon dioxide out of the air;while producing pure oxygen for us to breathe.  Isn’t this an elegant plan?

Lanbs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

Lambs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  I love its silvery foliage throughout the season.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

We lose so many large trees each year.  Some are lost to logging or to clearing land for new shopping centers, roads, neighborhoods, and agriculture.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

Other trees are lost to storms or disease.  If each of us can counterbalance this by planting even one tree each year, it can make a tremendous difference or our environment.

Not only do trees scrub huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they offer cool shade.  Their roots hold the soil against erosion.

April 9 2014 buds 015

Those of us fortunate enough to have land where we can plant trees can certainly add a tree to our yards.  Those without space to plant can contribute to organizations dedicated to rebuilding forests around the world.

Every little action from each of us adds up to a mighty effort towards healing our planet. 

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

There are many organizations involved in reforestation.  One particularly interesting one is the  Eden Reforestation Projects.

But today, I wasn’t doing anything so grand as planting a tree.  Rather, I was pulling weeds, building the soil with compost, and planting herbs.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden.  Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden. Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

I planted parsley, sage  and thyme today, and some marigolds.  Every little bit we do makes a difference.

The garden is still looking rather unimpressive.

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage,  Salvia officinalis"Berggarten."  The sage will grow to

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage, Salvia officinalis”Berggarten.” The sage will grow to about 2′ by late summer.

There are still leaves lying about, and the little wild strawberries would gladly re-take our hillside given the chance.  Their dense mats hold the soil.

The little strawberries they produce feed our birds.  And yes, even the little weedy wild strawberries filter carbon out of the air, and do their little bit to make our planet a better place to live.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

 

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