What is a herb, exactly? I wasn’t actually sure myself, so I asked Google, and it replied Any plant with leaves, seeds or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine or perfume.
Which is actually a very large number of plants when you think about it. Thanks to our mild climate, we can grow herb plants here from all parts of the world so when it comes to planning a herb garden we’re really spoiled for choice.
If you don’t have room for a dedicated herb garden, though, you can still grow your favourites In fact even if you have lots of space, it’s no harm to include plants that we think of as herbal in amongst those that are first and foremost ornamental. Many are really good all-round garden plants and deserve a place in almost any border. Growing them in different parts of the garden allows you to give each kind the habitat it likes best – aromatic and possibly woody herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage will be happiest in full sun and well drained soil. Lavender’s the same, and although we get a high level of rainfall in the west of Ireland, it can do quite well thanks to our mild winters – but it absolutely, positively has to have good drainage. Some of the leafier herbs such as parsley, mint and coriander will be quite happy in damper soil in a shadier spot.
I know I’m always banging on about getting outside and enjoying your garden, but this is actually another way to encourage you to do it. Having your favourite herbs sited at intervals around the space will encourage you to move around the garden and get interactive – in my garden the raised bed of lavender right at the end, at the bottom of a sunny wall, will tempt me out even in winter to rub the evergreen leaves and inhale the sunny scent of summer.
A couple of characters you do need to watch out for – mints and lemon balm are inclined to run amok and spread fairly rapidly, so unless you’re into herbal tea in industrial quantities it’s probably wise to confine them to a large pot. When there’s a place for everyone and everyone’s in their place, your garden will be all set for herbal happiness!
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