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The herb garden

The herb garden

Perhaps you dream of a garden where the lavender grows waist-high, or of a camomile lawn that’s soft enough to lie back on. Even if your aspirations are more modest – simply to snip fresh, fragrant leaves as you cook – herbs smell and taste so much better when grown from scratch.

Pots of fresh herbs breathe life into a home. They reveal that someone who loves their home lives here. In previous centuries, they were grown as remedies, which people – and then esteemed apothecaries – would gather, using them to cure, to calm, and to soothe. Today, they continue to be a balm in the home, although more often in the form of a tea, a scent or a flavour.

If your herb growing experience is limited, by all means consult books and websites (The Royal Horticultural Society at rhs.org.uk has a wealth of advice). But also grow what you love. If you adore coriander in a salad or chives on new potatoes, there’s your best motivation. Chives are, incidentally, the easiest herb to grow from seeds, so ideal for novices.

It’s best to start small, sewing seeds in pots or trays indoors. You can also buy young plants from nurseries, but don’t attempt to nurture supermarket herbs pots. They’re grown rapidly under glass, so not designed to endure the British climate for long.

For owners of a smaller garden or courtyard, your herbs can safely stay in containers rather than planting them out into borders. As they begin to outgrow their trays, transplant them into containers. Pretty terracotta pots or vintage wooden crates work well as they are deep enough for roots to grow and they look good grouped together.

In a garden with space to plant out seedlings, waiting until the early spring frosts are behind us. But in the meantime, think about what type of layout appeals. The formal herb gardens of British country houses were traditionally laid out in geometric arrangements, but a more natural, flowing arrangement has a definite wayward charm.

Whether you achieve your dream of a wild meadow laced with scents, or merely a few pots to snip from as you cook, herbs bring nature into the home. They show that this is a place where care and attention are given freely – and where life flourishes.