Garden Diary - January 2022

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Garden Styles: Herbs in the Garden
Friday, 28 January 2022

Perhaps it comes from marriage with an engineer for lo these many years. Discussions may begin with "First, define your terms."

What's in a name. My assumption is that "garden" is reasonably well understood. What about an herb garden? Let us then define herb. Merriam-Webster offers two options. One is botanical, and is used for a seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season. The second describes herb as a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities.

Herbs can be grown in a container, individually or as here, several in a half barrel.

In the ground, herbs can enhance other plants: silver lambs ear
embellishes rose 'The Fairy' and the seed heads of pennisetum.

Here lavender is growing together with callirhoe as an ornamental. Garden? Yes. Herb garden?
Lavender has woody stems. It is, therefore, not an herb in the botanical meaning of the term.

However, because lavender has culinary and aromatic properties it is an herb in the second sense of the word. For example - while ingredients are variable, in North America herbes de Provence include lavender as well as thyme, savory, oregano, and also fennel seeds.

As well as culinary uses lavender has aromatic properties. Sachets

of the dried flowers are used to scent linens.

The distilled oil perfumes toiletries, soaps, and bath oils.

Lavender has long been recognized, and appreciated, for its aromatic properties.

This woodcut depicts lavender, in Peter Schöffer's Herbarius - Rogatu plurimorum... of 1484.
It illustrates and describes 150 plants and 96 medicines commonly found in apothecaries.

When lavender is grown as a crop, just as corn or Christmas trees, is this still

a garden? I think not, because any ornamental aspect is incidental, not deliberate.

By now, when I say "herb garden" has this discussion provided you, dear reader,
with an understanding of the concept? Have I defined the terms? Maybe. Partially.

The plants which are classed as herbs, yes. The garden style - not as clearly.
Herbs may be casually intermingled with other plants in an ornamental garden.

Herbs may be grown in a very formal garden style where the different areas
are delineated with hedges. These parterres are ornamental even in winter.

The most elaborate I have ever seen was the Queen's garden, at the Palais Het Loo
in Apledoorn, in the Netherlands. The weekend hunting lodge of King William and
Mary, his queen, has been restored to its original, elaborate 17th century glory.

The parterres are at their best when viewed from above, here infilled with herbs,

sage and lavender. Their loose growth makes a contrast with the crisply trimmed hedges.

As the song goes, "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme."

In the kitchen

In a pot

In the garden

And now we know how our herbs in their gardens grow.

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