The Herborium ~ Your Online Herbal


There many different kinds of Herb Gardens these are just a few of the many possibilities!


Formal Herb Gardens

Formal herb gardens look gorgeous - at least during their peak season of May through June. The structure of the garden helps to cover the straggly appearance of overgrown, recently sheared or bolting herbs.
Generally, formal herb gardens are laid out as a series of beds creating some geometric form, like a square, circle or half-circle. The plants will vary in each bed, but the hardscaping pulls things together as a whole. Paths between the beds are often paved with stone or brick, adding even more 4 season structure to the picture. Add a central feature, like a sundial, urn or birdbath, and you have a garden that will look polished even when the plants are covered in snow.



Knot Gardens

One type of formal garden, called a knot garden, comes down to us from Elizabethan England. The English and the French loved their knot gardens and usually patterned them after a rug or tapestry in their home. The main ingredients consisted of intricate geometric patterns, dwarf hedges of evergreen herbs, and/or paths. There were the closed knot gardens with no access and compartments, containing colored sand or gravel. Then there were the open knots with paths forming part of the patterns and compartments filled with sweet-smelling plants such as rosemary, hyssop, sage, and lavender. Traditionally, the planting schemes were sparse with the emphasis on the individual species. For instance, all the hedges were of boxwood, and knots were made in groups of four. These gardens demanded time and care as the hedges needed constant and careful trimming to maintain their appearance.




Germander, rosemary, myrtle, and gray santolina are other herbs suitable for topiary. Myrtle can be trained to the shape of a small tree, and if you can get it to bloom at Christmas time, you will have a very sweet tree. Possible shapes include wreaths, hearts and espaliers. Espaliers (from the French word épaule meaning shoulder) are plants trained to grow on a trellis. They are especially suited to small spaces. It is a plant grown flat, like a vine, against a wall, fence, building, or a trellis. Outdoors, dwarf fruit trees such as apples, pears, and citrus fruits are commonly used. In planning an espalier, a support is necessary. Eye screws with wire pulled taut between the screws at various horizontal intervals works well. When growth begins on the plant, allow only branches growing in the right direction to remain. Clip off all others. Bend branches as they grow while they are pliable, and secure them with twine or floral tape to the wire at the appropriate height. Possible shapes are fans, candelabras, fountains, diamonds, and triangles. For an indoor espalier, use a wooden trellis stuck in a pot. Peppermint scented geranium is a good choice because of its sprawling habit.



Informal Gardens

These are gardens with minds of their own actually. It's OK if chamomile seeds itself in the pathway. I don't mind that the thyme creeps all over the place or the spearmint spreads like crazy. A little bit wild, a little bit untamed, but, for the most part, a really nice mix of textures, foliage colors, heights, and varieties.

There are herbs for all conditions. If your area is hot and dry, consider planting Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, thyme, sage, rosemary and artemisia. If you have shade, the following herbs are suitable: elderberry shrub, any of the mints, valerian, foxglove, sweet cicely, sweet woodruff, angelica, and lady's mantle. Herbs and flowers are beautiful together. You might consider flowers of only one color-a white garden or a magenta garden. If you are mixing annuals with perennials, you might want to group all annuals together to make taking care of them easier.


Rock gardens

Herbs are especially suitable for rock gardens, which are very informal, because so many of them are low growing. Here are some plants to start with if you have a suitable area: common chives, garlic chives, Roman chamomile, bush basil, wild ginger, alpine strawberry, dwarf oregano, dwarf sage, winter savory and the creeping variety, all the thymes-creeping red, pink and white, wooly, golden lemon, purslane, and saffron. For color, there are low growing violas and species tulips, and for shade, there is sweet woodruff. Corsican mint, pennyroyal, prostrate rosemary, golden marjoram, lady's mantle, parsley, chives and saffron crocus are good rock garden subjects, also. Choose indigenous rocks to your area and dig them in so they look like Nature left them that way.


Scented Gardens

Scented herbs brings to mind the pleasant fragrances of lavender, sage and lemon balm. Fragrant herbs plants can be used for potpourri, oils and lotions, cooking or just to enjoy a heady whiff as you work in the garden. Often the fragrance of herbs is in their foliage, so planting your herbs where you will brush by them is an easy way of enjoying a scented herb garden.

Anise Hyssop:  All it takes is a gentle breeze to let you know when anise hyssop is in bloom. The licorice scent is unmistakable. Both the flowers and the leaves are perfumed and edible. Anise hyssop makes a great tea, if you can fight your way through the bees that are drawn to it in number.

Artemisia: Artemisia are such decorative foliage plants, it’s easy to forget their wonderful scent. But one brush against the leaves and you’ll understand why artemisia are such mainstays in the making of perfumes. Two to try are: Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and Wormwood (Artemtsia absinthium).

Basil: Basil is usually thought of as a culinary herb, but a listing of basil varieties tells you immediately that basil is a fragrant herb of limitless variety: 'Spicy Globe', Cinnamon', 'Lemon', 'Lime', 'Thai', 'Greek', 'Cuban'...

Lavender: Lavender is a wonderful all-around herb; beautiful to look at, wonderfully fragrant, good for cooking and a deer deterrent.

Lemon Balm: Lemon balm lives up to its lemony name. The leaves smell and taste of lemons. But the plant can become a nuisance, as it spreads rapidly by runners. Plant where it will have room to roam or grow it in a pot.

Mint:I doubt most people would enjoy the taste of mint so much if it weren’t so aromatic. In fact, you don’t really need to ingest mint leaves to sense the taste - that’s how fragrant they are. And like lemons, mint has a clean, astringent smell.

Nepeta (Catmint): While you’re planting herbs for you to enjoy, you might want to tuck in a few plants for you cat, too. Nepeta’s fragrance is subtle to humans, but many a cat has been intoxicated by it. Be forewarned, you may plant it for your Tabby, but every cat in the neighborhood will eventually find it.

Scented Geraniums: Scented geraniums top the list of fragrant herbs. Most don’t have showy flowers, but their leaves are lacy and untouched by insect pests. And then there’s the perfume. Scented geraniums mimic some of nature’s best loved scents, like apple, chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, lime, mint nutmeg, orange, rose and strawberry, to name a few. It’s easy to be drawn into collecting scented geraniums.

Rosemary: Rosemary is another herb that wouldn’t taste so wonderful if you didn’t first get a whiff of its earthy evergreen scent. I can’t imagine enjoying munching on pine needles, but rosemary has that fine balance of gutsy evergreen and subtle Mediterranean flair.

Thyme: All the thymes are richly aromatic. There’s nothing like walking on a carpet of creeping thyme. For a bonus, try growing one of the ‘scented’ thymes, like lemon or lavender thyme. If you can bear to part with some sprigs, thyme makes an unexpected addition to an otherwise unscented bouquet.

Christine Nyland 2016