The many qualities of your herbs

Choisya, Lemon Balm and roses emit their fragrances. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Choisya, Lemon Balm and roses emit their fragrances. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

I’d always find space for herbs in the garden because they go hand in glove with the vegetables, but it’s their hidden depths that fascinate.

Visually attractive and steeped in history, they are easily propagated via division, stem cuttings or seed.

Think Scarborough Fair if you’re just starting to grow them because parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are solid, no nonsense bankers, and are available in pots.

Young curled parsley plants raised from seed and potted-on have just been planted on the edge of vegetable beds. Potential stem cuttings of sage are emerging outdoors, and we have rosemary Jessop’s Upright by a bench, at the pondside and in a raised herb bed.

Grasping a branch and allowing it to pass through your hand releases an unforgettable scent. It is covered in blue flowers, and the time is right to take non-blooming shoots as stem cuttings.

Silver and golden thyme are attractive, but the green-leaved version, Thymus serpyllum, is hardiest. A light clip to remove spent flowers is all it requires.

Chives is the most used herb in our garden and the bumblebees agree. Constant cutting encourages fresh shoots, but when left unharvested, it bears a succession of flowers. This leads to self-sowing, which can become a nuisance. I’ve just re-laid the flagstones that allow access to island vegetable beds because the joints were full of young chives.

Fragrant plants should be so accessible that when stationed front of border or close to pathways it’s possible to stoop, touch, imbibe. This can be helpful for those who are partially sighted.

Years ago, I befriended Brother Wilfrid who tended the roses in Alnmouth Friary Garden. He was blind, but used herbs as touchstones to navigate the pathways.