upon a time, the kitchenMage had the herb garden of her dreams.
Wisteria draped the entrance arbor, opening onto a herringbone path
interplanted with thyme and moss and edged with lavender and a plethora
of mints. Herbs, both common and rare, filled this garden and new finds
were constantly finding their way there. Rare thymes and more mints
than she could name filled the beds, and the air, with intoxicating
scents. A few choice trees also lived there: the prized sweet bay, a
pink dogwood bent near horizontal from its attempts to survive its old
home, and the maples (no two the same) that defined the border.
Oh, I'm sorry! I was daydreaming there for a minute.
While I would love to have that herb garden again (and it is worth a look,
although I apologize for the old, not so great photos) the sad fact is
that I don't. Worse, I won't have anything like it for a few more years
to come. A few summers from now, I expect to once again walk through a
garden like that, although not too much like that.
have a new house and a new "yard" - if one can call close to nine acres
a yard - but after two years, the new garden remains unplanted. When we
arrived, the little beds around the house's foundation looked like
builders had done the planting: some unkempt low junipers and dozens of
pansies, in a stunning array of magenta and white-one shade of each.
Boring! (When the foxglove and daisies that had been hidden in winter,
when we bought the place, first emerged, it seemed fitting somehow that
they were also white and purple.)
the only thing to recommend the gardened areas was the blueberry patch.
The untended space, mostly Douglas firs (originally planted for timber
harvest) with fern-laden undergrowth edged up against wild fog forest,
has more to recommend it, including the wildlife. At least most of the
Call me naïve, but I really hadn't counted on the sheer volume
of critters in the yard. In addition to the deer and small creatures
common to the cusp of field and wood, there's an elk herd - numbering
from a dozen to many times that, depending on how close we are to
hunting season - wanders through on their way from on valley to the
next. I don't even want to think about what the neighbor's escaped cows
did to the poor magnolia!
There was a bit of momentary panic at the thought of doing without any herb garden while I wait for fencing to protect my treasures from marauding beasts before I put them in harm's way. Really good fencing. Luckily, it was winter and I really couldn't do much beyond sulk at the idea of life sans garden. That and watch the critters.
the first couple of months, I noticed that nary a critter has ventured
close enough to the house to see, let alone nibble, the beds of
evergreen blobs and rampant pansies. Go figure.
One day it dawned on me. They never came close to the house.
beds, filled with plants I found neither useful nor, truth be told,
attractive were rapidly emptied and replaced with an herb garden that,
while not quite so poetic as the old one, is wonderfully functional and
quite lovely in its own way.
This small scale gardening has also
been a learning experience. The prominent location and shallow beds
call for plants that are beautiful as well as aromatic and tasty so I
have selected colorful varieties of some favored herbs: Tri-color and golden sage,
variegated mint and thyme, and golden oregano, along with lots of
edible flowers brighten front edges, while a swath of many mints
thrives in the back, dry stripe under the roof overhang.
rosemary has a home and creeping thyme softens the hard line between
concrete and garden Best of all, there are chive clumps everywhere!
And I must admit I love being able to step outside in bare feet to
harvest herbs, something that was more difficult in the large garden.
some plants has been a struggle. The first winter killed all the
expensive new tarragon plants and last
winter's freeze/flood cycle took
out half of the rosemary yearlings. Those plants sometimes died at the
old place too, but with room to plant a hundred rosemary cuttings,
rather than a tenth that, half of them dying isn't quite so sad.
two years though, almost everything I need for cooking is here. There
isn't a lot of some things, the thyme collection is short a few things
(lavender and caraway evade me) and I can't find any lime mint. But
there is enough to cook with daily and share with friends. And it is
lovely, not looking at all like it was planted as a functional garden.
More than one person has commented that it looks like a park.
garden has also led to my conviction that any small space - even yours
- can be transformed into a gorgeous herb garden that will rock your
culinary world. Thoughtful plant selection and placement can result in
a garden that will improve both your cooking and your yard.
I know this isn't my old herb garden, it will do for now. In fact, even
after the large garden goes in, the little one stays. I just need a
cat-sized wisteria arbor.
(my herb garden set on flickr)