herb notes

July 2019

Salad Burnet ( Sanguisorba minor

The super garden all-rounder – salad burnet is a hardy perennial evergreen, salt tolerant (so it can be grown near the sea) and drought resistant (due to its deep rooting).

It is a useful companion plant for thyme, and it will not be bullied by the mint – it was a common sight in the Tudor herb gardens, and often planted along the narrow little pathways alongside thyme and mint.  

The summer flowers are a subtle, soft pink, with the dainty ‘drumstick’ flower heads providing an inoffensive diversion in the garden. 

We sprinkle the leaves onto a jug full of water which gives a delicious cucumber-like flavour. Traditionally used in salads, it is a handy replacement for tarragon, and a handful of leaves are just the ticket over fish, stirred tossed into mushroom soup, also with cheese, eggs, broad beans, butters, and those long gin and tonics !     

As a medicinal herb, it is recommended for gout and rheumatism. It was traditionally used as a wound herb, when it was applied directly to the injured area to staunch bleeding. It will grow to about a foot high, and can be divided in the autumn.

May 2019

Feverfew ( Tanacetum parthenium

The poor relation of the Chrysanthemum, feverfew has very lovely daisy like flowers surrounding a yellow centre. It makes a handy edging plant  – sharply cut, delicately tinted , its light green leaves can last through winter. It really loves a rocky crevice or crack.  It’s a hardy perennial – and as a self-seeder, spreads happily without much help.

Also known as bachelor’s buttons and wild chamomile.  

The name would suggest a possible remedy for fever, but feverfew is well known for treating migraines. To eat, a few leaves can be added to a green salad, but use with a honey/sweet vinaigrette to offset the bitterness. 

During the European plagues, feverfew was planted around homes to prevent illness and ward off evil spirits

Useful as an insect repellant, it can be sprayed to deter  mushroom fly, moths, aphids, thripes and red spider mite. But! it repels bees too!. Dried feverfew can be gathered into muslim bags as a moth repellent for wardrobes and drawers.   

April 2019 

Welsh Onion (Allium fistulosum)

The welsh onion will cope with a British winter, and its cut and come again leaves give onion flavour all-year round. Its blue-green foliage tastes stronger than chives but slightly milder than the better known onion.

Lovely creamy-white flowers burst out in early summer. It loves loads of sun,  will grow up to a metre, and enjoys a moist and well drained soil.

This perennial is stronger in taste than chives but milder than the cultivated onion. 

March 2019

English Mace (Achillea ageratum

Often overlooked ( sad, but true,) this beauty is one of the first brave appearances of the spring, and , for that alone, we give English Mace a round of applause.

Don’t confuse English Mace with the spice, (the spice is the outer husk of nutmeg) 

Great to eat with chicken, fish, cauliflower, potatoes, neas, rice, pasta, plums, peach

Loves to grow in large pots

Tall strong stems will carry daisy-like flowers which bloom well into the autumn

Pick in summer and hang upside down for dried flower arrangements later in the year 


December 2018

Loving the Rosemary

It’s time for the evergreens (such stars of the herb garden at this time of year also include myrtle, sage, lavender, thyme) and  for any growing spaces small, large, full sun, part shade, pots and containers, your rosemary will grow with just a little tender care.

As a hardy evergreen it moves from late summer to Christmas with dignity and calm, confident its usefulness will move from sprigs on the iced summer gin and tonic to a hearty place on the Christmas dinner table.

Those of a certain generation will recall how Edison Lighthouse proclaimed ‘Love grows where my Rosemary goes’ and tradition has it that brides wear a rosemary headpiece as a love charm and carry sprigs in their bouquet. A pungent herb capable of extremes, it also needs to be mentioned, rosemary has its remembrance origins in the ancient custom of including sprigs in funeral wreaths.

The literal translation of rosemary is ‘dew of the sea’ , and the tiny blue, butterfly and bee attracting flowers come into view around early spring into early summer and offer a visual indulgence of the subtle and ‘water drop’ kind. Its needle like leaves, which are bluey grey in colour, add structure in a garden and will landmark when the perennials take a well- earned break.

All the rosemary’s are easy to grow; find a sunny well sheltered spot and make sure the soil is free draining or add some grit to help. It might be worth mentioning some varieties (there are quite a few!) ‘Prostratus’ is low  growing with a trailing habit and great for pots and growing over a  wall – white flowers appear on the variety Rosemary officinalis f.albiflorus ‘Lady in White’ and for hints of ginger, try Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Green Ginger’ with its ginger scented leaves.

Just one last thing – to bring summer memories to the Christmas table – don’t forget the gin and tonic with a sprig of rosemary for topping, and say ‘cheers’ to the gardening year.