“Learn about some of the many uses for herbs. Become acquainted with new varieties.”
By Patricia A. Sheridan, Montgomery County Master Gardener
After two years of planning, and a lot of manual labor, the new Herb Area is ready for visitors. This space is more than twice the size of the old herb garden and includes many exciting new features. Perhaps most notable is the beautiful copper wind spiral that is located in the center. Created by Brian Koehle, one of our master gardeners, it is flanked by a circle of colorful pots filled with assorted herbs, including scented geraniums. And yes, the geraniums really ARE herbs.
The brick and rock structure on the back left side of the area is another new feature. It is a keyhole garden,
so-named because, when viewed from above, it resembles an old-fashioned keyhole: round in shape with a wedge cut out. There is a central basket, a wire cylinder that functions as a holding area for composting material. Climbing spinach, an attractive vine, adorns the cylinder. Water is added here. As the composted vegetation decomposes in the basket, nutrients will be distributed throughout the surrounding area thus nourishing the growing plants. The garden bed itself was constructed in a “lasagna-style” with layer upon layer of garden soil, cardboard, and top soil, and a bottom layer of rocks for drainage.
The parterre (partitioned) design of the new Herb Area lends itself well to a theme garden layout. Raised beds allow for excellent drainage as well as ease in tending the plants. The largest areas are beds of general culinary herbs. Those planted here include the most familiar and popular ones used for cooking. We have parsley, dill, sage, rosemary, salad burnet, and English thyme, to name a few. Also within this area is a space that will be devoted to herbs typically used in Asian cooking. At this time, we have only two, lemon grass and Thai basil. The herbs under cultivation will change with the seasons. Best “guesstimate”: approximately ninety percent of the plants in the Herb Area are edible.
Do you think basil is, well, just basil? Basil is called the “king of herbs.” Over 100 varieties are said to exist. Our all-basil bed has seven different types, each with its own distinct pleasant aroma. There are many uses for basil aside from the making of pasta or pesto. At the time of this writing, our basil types include Genovese, Aussie sweet, magical Michael, cinnamon, citrus, red Rubin, and African blue basil. All make attractive additions to any type of garden. Only the African blue basil is not edible. However, it is a great attractor of bees and butterflies in a home garden.
“I know a bank where the wild thyme grows…” A Midsummer Night’s Dream
or, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…” Romeo and Juliet. Curious about the herbs mentioned in the writings of William Shakespeare? It seems that the Bard was very knowledgeable with regard to the characteristics and various uses of many herbs. His writings mention more than 30 different herbs and flowers. Our Shakespearean garden features bronze fennel, pink creeping thyme, chamomile, yarrow, rosemary, bay laurel, tansy, and of course, the red rose. We even have a statue of old Will himself to watch over the plants in his garden. Come visit!
Moon gardens are an old English tradition. They were originally designed to be romantic and enchanting places planted with gray and silver herbs that had light-reflecting qualities under a full moon. By day, a gray and silver garden can offer a refreshing contrast to the brighter colors displayed in other garden areas.
Many of the silvery-colored herbs thrive in dry, sunny locations and are quite drought-tolerant. They are also ideal for gardeners who want interesting features but a low maintenance garden. Our version of the gray and silver garden is planted in two separate sections with lamb’s ear, Goodwin Creek lavender, artemesia, silver English thyme, sage and a curry plant. Perhaps you will find inspiration here for your own gray and silver moon garden.
The purpose of the Montgomery County Master Gardeners’ Herb Area is to promote herb gardening and related subjects through education and community outreach. Our goals are to:
- Facilitate interest in herbs and their uses by working with herb societies and educational institutions.
- Pursue information on culinary, aromatic, and decorative uses for herbs, and recipe development.
- Distribute information about herbs and their uses.
The desired effect was to create a space that conveys a sense of calm while providing a punch of color, fragrance, and flavor.
Please visit the new Herb Area and let us share our passion for this diverse and interesting group of plants with you.
For more information on HERBS or issues affecting your garden, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office by phone by calling 936-539-7822, send an email to us at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Montgomery County Master Gardeners’ demonstration gardens at 9020 Airport Rd., in Conroe.