Self-seeding herbs

Live and let live in the garden

Many flowering herbs do have a tendency to set seed, often in the most unlikely places. In my garden, I believe in letting seedlings stay where they are until I can identify them!

Wall herbs

wall herb robert

Herb robert, Geranium Robertianum, readily self-seeds into cracks in the wall, and was traditionally used for toothache, nosebleeds and healing wounds.

Herbs in the veg patch

There is a lot of bare soil in my veg patch in early spring, and a few herbs have been known to colonise it!

Milk thistle

milk thistle herb foliage

Milk thistle, Silybum marianum leaves are very distinctive, and this herb self-seeded its way from someone else’s garden into my veg patch – presumably via a bird! I live on the South Coast of the UK, and it is thought to be a native of this area although it has naturalised in various places around the World. Milk thistle is cultivated as an alternative medicine associated with protection of the liver, although clinical trials are ongoing.

medicinal milk thistle

Chamomile flowers

chamomile herb flowers with kale

Chamomile comes up every year in my garden in among the kale and I’m pleased to see it, drying the flowers for tea year-round. This variety of Chamomile flower is Matricaria recutita (syn. M. chamomilla), known as German or blue chamomile.

Herb flowers

borage calendula flowers

Borage and marigold both seed themselves around happily. I leave the borage or starflower, Borago officinalis to flower wherever it germinates and use it fresh from the plant as a decoration on summer punch. Current scientific investigations include its use as an anti-inflammatory. Seeds of the pure white strain of this flower are now commercially available, but I personally prefer the more common vivid blue seen here.

My pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis predictably self-seeded themselves in a pot, so I rescued them, using them as an edging plant for my vegetables. I dry the calendula flowers and petals and add them to potpourri. The petals are a bright additive to salads, but in the American Civil War and World War I, calendula flowers were used when dressing wounds to promote healing.

Fennel in the borders

bronze fennel flowers pollinators

Pollinators such as hoverflies love fennel flowers, Foeniculum vulgare, because they form a flat landing pad. I very much enjoyed a talk by Herb Society President Toby Buckland recently, in which he pointed out that fennel secretes a chemical which deters the growth of nearby plants. This plant was self-seeded in the border, so I soon had my husband onto the job of weeding it out (see below)!

Fennel has an aniseed flavour and can be eaten as a vegetable or herb, and the seeds make a pleasant tea which refreshes the digestive system.

aromatic fennel leaves

Spot herb seedlings

There are many more self seeding herbs including lavender (especially if grown in gravel), marjoram (it grows in cracks in my patio), and lemon balm to name just a few. So don’t be too quick with the hoe, you might be missing an opportunity!

Read more about herbs in my Sussex garden

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

Herb Society events 2016

It’s May and the sun is shining on herb gardens around the country

A great time of year to get out and about for herbal inspiration

RHS Flower Shows

Chelsea Flower Show this year is 24-28 May. The Herb Society doesn’t take a stand at this event, but we can guarantee a profusion of herbs! For example former Herb Society President Jekka McVicar has designed the St John’s Hospice garden entitled A Modern Apothecary. Herb exhibitors include Hooksgreen Herbs, run by our own Chairman Malcolm Dickson and his family. Another Chelsea regular is Downderry Nursery, the well known lavender grower.

The Herb Society has had a strong showing at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshire in the last few years, with our stand scoring a Silver Gilt medal in 2014 and a Silver in 2015. Although we are not exhibiting this year, again it’s bound to be a great show for herbs – visit from 20 to 24th July 2016.

herbs for tea tatton flower show

Detail from the Herb Society exhibit at Tatton 2015. Image credit Peter Depledge

Herb Society Summer Gathering and AGM at Cressing Temple FREE to members

On 30 July 2016, starts at 10am, Free to Herb Society Members

Cressing Temple, between Witham and Braintree in Essex, has the most fantastic and unique buildings and gardens.  Given to the Knights Templar in 1137, its Grade I-listed Barley and Wheat Barns, built in the 13th century, are among the oldest timber barns in the world and few surviving Templar buildings in England.
cressing temple herb garden Jan 2015

Cressing Temple and its herb gardens from the air

Among Cressing Temple’s gardens, the Walled Garden is faithfully reconstructed as a Tudor pleasure garden, featuring an extensive collection of herbs commonly grown in 1600 – one of few in the country.
The Herb Society’s summer gathering and AGM is kindly being hosted by Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens.  To coincide with this event, on the weekend of 30 and 31 July, Cressing is holding a Healthy Living and Wellbeing Fair.
The event kicks off at 10am in the conference room with refreshments on arrival followed by the AGM.  For lunch, you can have a bite to eat at The Barns tearoom (www.trooms.com), picnic in the grounds or purchase food at the Healthy Living Fair.  You will have the afternoon to wander the fair which continues until 5pm.
herbs cressing temple Knot garden

Herbs in the knot garden at Cressing Temple

As an Herb Society member attending the AGM you will have free entry to the Fair which will include plant stalls, talks and demonstrations, including a firing of a 19th century bread oven and demonstration of traditional bread baking.  The Herb Society will take a stand reflecting the history of the Tudor Herb Garden.  There will be a modest entry charge for those not attending the AGM.
To book your place please email info@herbsociety.org.uk marked for the attention of Nicky our organiser.
We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Herb Society Members’ Day at Dilston Physic Garden

On 8 October 2016

 Do keep this day free for a visit to this relaxing and educational spot near Corbridge, Northumberland. Dilston Physic Garden is a charity with a unique and modern physic garden set up for the public and educational purposes. Individuals, groups, schools, colleges and universities visit to learn about the health benefits and medicines from plants.
The garden is separated into herb beds each with their own specific areas of interest, from woodland to culinary, from a medicinal meadow to the Time Space Zone taking you through medicinal plants of the past and from around the world. At Dilston you will discover plants used in traditional herbalism along with the latest clinical, chemistry and biology information that sits behind the folklore.
For our special members’ day, not only will there be a tour of this fabulous site, but also talks by Ross Menzies and Nicolette Perry about medicinal herbalism and plants for the brain. Places are limited and cost £20 per Herb Society member.
To book your place please email info@herbsociety.org.uk marked for the attention of Nicky our organiser.

 

Local events

There are many more garden festivals and events up and down the country this summer. The Herb Society supports a network of local groups, so do check your local branch to see if they are planning an event. A list of local herb groups is listed in our journal Herbs, which is posted out to all members, or contact us to find out more.

If you are planning an event, or know of one that other herb enthusiasts might be interested in, do please comment below or email ruth@herbsociety.org.uk for a mention on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Book review | A Handful of Herbs by Segall, Pickford and Hammick

A Handful of Herbs

A modern herb book

herb book

When I received this book from the publisher, I was immediately tempted to flick through, drawn in by the lovely photography by Caroline Arber and William Lingwood.

A Handful of Herbs has the subtitle Inspiring ideas for gardening, cooking and decorating your home with herbs.

It is divided into sections on Super Herbs, Gardening with Herbs, Living with Herbs, Cooking with Herbs, and an A-Z of Herbs. There is also a useful list of suppliers at the back, covering herb seeds, live plants and dried herbs, with UK suppliers conveniently separated from those in the US and Canada.

Super Herbs

In this section, Barbara Segall looks in detail at her top twenty herbs, describing their uses and growing requirements. This section would be a good starting point for gardeners looking for inspiration for herbs to grow.

Gardening with Herbs

As well as a basic “How to grow herbs”, garden expert Barbara also discusses using herbs in different contexts such as within a border. In the section on ground cover, the idea of creating a chamomile seat is briefly discussed, and I would personally have loved to have seen photos of this as a possible garden project. Also under ground cover was a useful explanation of which plants will withstand being trodden on if used in a path. Other sections include hedging, containers, and growing a collection of herbs. Only a couple of pages were devoted to the kitchen garden, but they were packed with tips, and individual growing instructions for plants had already been given in other chapters. I found it useful to read about growing herbs indoors, because although it can be very handy to keep a pot or two on the kitchen windowsill, this isn’t always the optimum situation for the plant!

Living with Herbs

DSCF3357

As a bit of a crafter, I particularly enjoyed the Living with Herbs section, which contains tips on using herbs for the home, such as potpourri making and home fragrance. One tip I liked was the idea of using dried herb bundles to light your winter log fire: a waft of summer during the darkest months! There is a wealth of tips in this chapter, such as how to use herbal cleaning products and insect repellents, make herbal table centres, wreaths and garlands, or scented writing paper decorated with pressed herbs. The section also goes briefly into cosmetic products, providing simple recipes for handcream, toner and lip balm among others.

I would have thought that anyone with an interest in herbs would find a few projects they would like to try themselves!

Cooking with herbs

There are 35 recipes in this section. I was particularly taken with the idea of making my own soft herb cheese from yogurt, and will definitely try the quick and easy pasta recipe with pine nuts, rocket and ricotta. Great tips include infusing your hot milk with mint leaves before using to make hot chocolate!

A-Z of herbs

In the A-Z section, Barbara Segall has compiled a list of 75 of the most popular herbs, with a paragraph for each on growing tips and their uses. With so many to choose from, even the most experienced gardener is bound to find something new!

herb book

Find out more about this herb book

I found this book overall a good and accessible read. I am an experienced gardener and keen crafter, but found many useful nuggets of information that I will be able to use. I think the high quality gardening advice given here would also make it a handy read for novice gardeners.

A Handful of Herbs by Barbara Segall, Louise Pickford and Rose Hammick is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available from Amazon and all good book shops – the hardback cover price is £12.99. The first few pages can be previewed by following the Amazon link. This book was first published in 2001, and the 2016 edition has been fully revised and updated.

Barbara Segall is editor of the journal Herbs, which is sent out quarterly to Herb Society members. Find out more about the society by downloading the leaflet, top right.

Stevia and the No Added Sugar controversy

Can the herb stevia provide the answer to chemical additives?

Artificial sweeteners and the proposed sugar tax

As I write this, there is a national campaign fronted by Jamie Oliver to tax sugary drinks. This is an admirable battle in the war against childhood obesity, with primary schools and the NHS standing to share £1bn in revenue if the scheme should ever go ahead. However, this is a complex issue and it is possible that artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose may also be damaging to health. The leaves of a herb called stevia might provide the answer.

The limitations of artificial sweeteners

A small study was recently carried out on BBCs Trust Me I’m a Doctor, in which 15 volunteers switched to either saccharin or stevia and had their blood sugar levels and gut bacteria tested before and after. Fasting blood sugar levels were found to be significantly higher for certain people in the group taking saccharin than they were previously. The results of the gut bacteria tests showed that those people who had high blood sugar after taking saccharin all had a similar bacterial composition, whereas stevia consumption seemed to have no effect on blood sugar across all gut bacteria types. This study was itself inspired by a research paper published in the science journal Nature [1]. The article found a link in mice between NAS (non-caloric artificial sweeteners) and glucose intolerance which the team attributed to altered composition of gut bacteria. The BBC team says:

“Although our study, and the one that preceded it, were both on small numbers of people, the consistent results – alongside the results found previously in mice – certainly suggest that saccharin is bad for some people, whilst we have no evidence that stevia is. The people whom saccharin tends to affect seem to be those with a specific gut bacteria composition.”

As most people won’t know their gut bacteria composition, the team’s advice was to avoid saccharin. The team also pointed out that evidence in mice is that aspartame and sucralose may have a similar effect.

There is no other research like this for the effect of stevia at the moment, but in the meantime, the Trust Me team says:

“…if you are looking for a sugar alternative then at the moment, stevia seems most likely to be the best out there. On the back of packaging it is sometimes called ‘steviol glycosides’, which are the sweet-tasting compounds in the Stevia plant.”

It should be noted that both of these studies were small scale, so any findings would have to be explored further before arriving at a full understanding of the effects of artificial sweeteners.

More about the herb stevia

Stevia rebaudiana is a natural herb which can be used as a sweetener and may not work in the same way as artificial additives, so may not have the same drawbacks. It is native to South America and enjoys the humidity there, but can be grown in the UK if treated as a tender perennial. Unsurprisingly one of its common names is sweetleaf!

herb plant stevia

The herb stevia can be grown in the UK as a tender perennial.

Medical Herbalist Barbara Wilkinson says*:

Stevia is a herb I grow for general use as an alternative to sugar with all it’s negative effects. It  has been grown and used for centuries in South America and Japan but has been ignored in the UK until recently. It can be grown here if protected from cold and frost, so treat like someone you love. There is a taste like liquorice if used in excess as the bitter chemicals it contains play with our taste buds. It is non-calorific and doesn’t mess with our blood glucose levels. No wonder Coca cola are now using it as people wake up to the dangers of sugar. Consumers should be aware that manufactured brands of stevia sweetener may contain other ingredients such as erythritol, so grow your own or buy from an organic reputable source.
drying stevia leaves

Use a herb dryer to preserve stevia leaves for use year-round

Risks and benefits of stevia and other sweeteners

In reviewing the literature relating to this topic, it becomes clear that there is still much research to do in this field. Links have been found between artificial sweeteners and obesity, for example Dr Tandel writing a review in 2011 says [2]:

“There is some ongoing controversy over whether artificial sweetener usage poses health risks. A study done in 2005 by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio showed that, rather than promoting weight loss, the use of diet drinks was a marker for increasing weight gain and obesity. Those who consumed diet soda were more likely to gain weight than those who consumed naturally-sweetened soda. Animal studies have convincingly proven that artificial sweeteners cause body weight gain.

It would be a shame if we all switched to artificial sweeteners only to find that we had made things worse. Most supermarket fizzy drinks already contain NAS as a matter of routine. It does seem sensible to try and reduce our intake of sweet things overall, rather than just switching from sugar to sweetener.

As for stevia, the initial signs look promising for the use of this herb as it seems to work differently, but its effects are less well known than those of saccharin.

To summarise, for a healthy diet, it would seem sensible to reduce sugar intake and avoid artificial sweeteners wherever possible. If you are looking to replace artificial sweeteners, try pure stevia in moderation but be aware that commercial processed brands may contain other ingredients.

We are looking forward to reading further research on this subject!

[1] J. Suez et al, Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota, Nature 514, 181–186 (09 October 2014)

[2] K. R. Tandel, Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits, J. Pharmacol, 2011, 2, 4, 236

*writing in the Herb Society e-newsletter January 2015. The email newsletter is one of many benefits of becoming a Herb Society member. Find out more in our Herb Society membership leaflet.

Image credits Barbara Wilkinson who is a Herb Society trustee.

Save

Scientific evaluation of lavender

Medical use of the popular herb

Following on from the previous article about the cognitive effects of sage and rosemary, it might be interesting to look at scientific evidence for the effects of lavender, as this is arguably Britain’s most popular and useful flowering herb.

scientific testing lavender herb

Lavender has a range of claimed effects, and here we discuss some of these one by one:

  • Lavender is anti-bacterial
  • Lavender is anti-fungal
  • Lavender is anti-parasitic
  • Lavender is relaxing

Other claims that we don’t have time to discuss here are its carminative (smooth muscle relaxing) effects; effectiveness for burns and insect bites; as an anti-viral and insect repellent.

Problems in assessing lavender

Most research into the effects of lavender have been carried out using lavender essential oil, which contains a mixture of many chemicals such as linalool and linalyl acetate. However, the chemical make-up of the oil can vary greatly. Not only might different species of the herb (for example Lavandula angustifolia compared with Lavandula x intermedia) contain different combinations of chemicals, but also the growing conditions may affect which chemicals predominate. The extraction method could also conceivably influence the balance of oil components. To summarise the overall view, Cavanagh and Wilkinson from Charles Sturt University Australia in their scientific review of the biological activity of lavender essential oil wrote,

“Although the data are still inconclusive and often controversial, there does seem to be both scientific and clinical data that support the traditional uses of lavender. However, methodological and oil identification problems have severely hampered the evaluation of the therapeutic significance of much of the research on Lavandula spp. These issues need to be resolved before we have a true picture of the biological activities of lavender essential oil.”[1]

Since writing those words in 2002, Cavanagh and Wilkinson have gone a long way towards elucidating the role of lavender in medicine.

properties lavender herb

Is lavender antifungal?

Yes, Cavanagh, Wilkinson and co-workers found that lavender essential oils could be used against various fungi. For example Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia were effective against Trichophyton mentagrophytes (a fungus associated with skin conditions such as ringworm) and others including Aspergillus nidulans (a fungus commonly used in research). [2]

Lavender essential oil is clearly active against the fungi tested in vitro, but it might be naive to assume a blanket effect for all, and clinical trials have not been carried out.

Is lavender antiparasitic?

Yes again! In their paper on the subject in 2006, the same research team found that Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia essential oils can completely eliminate Trichomonas vaginalis (the most common pathogenic protozoan infection of humans in industrialized countries) and Giardia duodenalis (an intestinal parasite) in vitro when the oil is used at a concentration of 1%. [3]

It should be noted that these trials were again carried out in vitro, and so although the parasites were killed by lavender oil on a petri dish, the suitability of taking lavender orally for this purpose is another question entirely.

Is lavender antibacterial?

Yes – the team in Australia evaluated various lavender essential oils against bacteria including Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, Citrobacter freundii, Proteus vulgaris, Escherichia coli, VRE and Propionibacterium acnes. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the only bacterium in the experiment not found to be susceptible to any lavender essential oil tested. The team tested varieties of Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia as well as other less well known species.

As with the findings for use of lavender as an antifungal, results imply that topical application of lavender oil (for example on an infected wound) is most likely to be the way forward.[4][5] This is not breaking news – lavender was used during the First World War to treat soldiers in the military hospitals.

Relaxing properties of lavender

The relaxing nature of lavender has been well documented, including a trial reported in 2005 in which dental patients were exposed to the fragrance before receiving treatment[6]. Various trials have since been carried out, as discussed in this popular article on the BBC website about lavender.

Allied to lavender’s relaxing properties, clinical trials are currently under way which investigate the role of lavender in treating dementia and Alzheimers. Professor Elaine Perry reports in one such paper [7]:

“all treatments resulted in significant benefit, including (in most instances) reductions in agitation, sleeplessness, wandering and unsociable behaviour.”

Lavender – A good all-rounder

So if lavender is so useful, why does it not appear more often in mainstream medicine? There are various answers to this:

  • Lavender oil contains a chemical called linalool which may be associated with skin sensitisation[8].
  • Lack of clinical testing. This may be partially due to lack of funding. Much drug development is carried out by pharmaceutical companies wishing to patent a novel chemical which they can make a profit on. So developments in the use of lavender are only likely to happen in Government funded research in universities and hospitals.
  • There is a difference between an oil being active on the skin (for example as an antibiotic) and it being active internally. If swallowed, active ingredients may be broken down in the gut; they may fail to travel to where they are needed, or side effects may occur. Luckily with effects on the brain, such as relaxation, inhalation seems to be a feasible delivery method (see previous blog post which touched on the scientific basis for aromatherapy).

Although lavender oil obviously has many benefits, the Herb Society recommends that anyone experiencing medical symptoms or feeling ill should contact their doctor in the first instance. Consult a medical herbalist for guidance regarding medicating with lavender.

[5] Cavanagh, H. M. A. and Wilkinson, J. M. (2005),Lavender essential oil: A review, Healthcare Infection 01/2005; 10(1). DOI: 10.1071/HI05035

[7] Prof. Elaine Perry, Aromatherapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,  J. Quality Res Dementia, Issue 3

[8] Prashar, A., Locke, I. C. and Evans, C. S. (2004), Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Proliferation, 37: 221–229. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2004.00307.x

Cognitive effects of herbs rosemary and sage

Rosemary for Remembrance

There was a lot of interest recently in a programme on the BBC in which rosemary essential oil vapour in a room was shown to improve the memory of test subjects, and that the active ingredients were able to be detected in the subjects’ bloodstreams afterwards. You can read more about this experiment in an article on the BBC website written by Dr Chris Van Tulleken, which was based on scientific research undertaken by Jemma McCready and Dr Mark Moss in the Psychology Department at Northumbria University [1]. They found that

“…performance levels and changes in mood following exposure to the rosemary aroma were related to concentrations of a compound (1,8-cineole) present in the blood. The compound is also found in the essential oil of rosemary and has previously been shown to act on the biochemical systems that underpin memory.

The results showed that participants in the rosemary-scented room performed better on the prospective memory* tasks than the participants in the room with no scent. This was the case for remembering events and remembering to complete tasks at particular times.”

[*Prospective memory means remembering to do something in the future, such as “I must remember to buy some milk”.]

This research not only has an impact for herbalists, but also supports a scientific basis for aromatherapy – see the next heading below.

rosemary herb flowers

Other research on rosemary around the World includes effects of the use of rosemary in food. Studies sponsored by the McCormick Science Institute found that culinary levels of dried rosemary leaf powder were found to have beneficial effects on cognitive skills when testing a small sample of older patients [2].

Scientific basis for aromatherapy

Clearly the research discussed on the TV programme above shows that fragrance can not only affect your mood, but also your cognitive ability. It supports the growing evidence that fragrance chemicals in the air, even in small concentrations, are detectable in the blood stream and can have a measurable effect, with results having been reported for essential oils such as lavender as long as twenty years ago [3]. It has been suggested that inhaled molecules have an increased opportunity to enter the brain by bypassing the blood-brain barrier, which normally restricts movement of chemicals into this organ [4]. A review on the scientific basis for aromatherapy was recently published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine [5] and contains many useful references.

Cognitive effects of sage

The effect of herbs on the brain seems to be a topic of interest for the BBC, because a year ago they published a similar article by TV Doctor Michael Mosely regarding the herb sage in which he quotes a scientific review paper assessing pharmacological properties of Salvia on memory [6] which he summarised as “extracts of sage can enhance cognitive performance and it is safe”.

The paper states that sage taken orally looks promising for the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, but more detailed standardised clinical trials are needed.

So it appears the common name of this plant actually has a sound basis in science. The dictionary definition of sage is “wise and judicious”, but a brief search revealed no reference to a historic link between the two. If you know of a link, do get in touch!

Herbs Rosemary and Sage may inhibit the breakdown of neurotransmitters

rosemary memory herb

It is suggested that rosemary and sage may have an effect because they contain cholinesterase inhibitors. Acetylcholine is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, which acts as a neurotransmitter (a substance which transfers an impulse between nerve cells). Cholinesterase is an enzyme in the brain which breaks down acetylcholine, and the herbs discussed may contain a chemical which prevents this happening. Some people with memory problems have been found to have low levels of acetylcholine in the brain.

However, more research is needed into this pathway, and Dr Mark Moss and team point out that any cognitive effect is likely to be a complex one.

[1] Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma, Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012 Jun; 2(3): 103–113

[2] Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population, J. Med. Food, 14(0), 2011, 1-

[3] Fragrance compounds and essential oils with sedative effects upon inhalation,  J. Pharm. Sci. Vol. 82, Issue 6, 1993, Pages 660-664

[4] Bypassing the Blood-Brain Barrier to Deliver Therapeutic Agents to the Brain and Spinal Cord, Drug Development & Delivery Vol. 2 No. 5 July/August 2002

[5] Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Volume 5, Issue 8, August 2015, Pages 601–611

[6] Systematic review of clinical trials assessing pharmacological properties of Salvia species on memory, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, CNS Neurosci Ther. 2014 Jun;20(6):485-95

Herb Society AGM 2015

Ryton Organic Garden in the sunshine

The Herb Society was very lucky with the weather for this years AGM which was held at Garden Organic near Coventry.

Herb Society day out in pictures

Thank you very much to Nicky Westwood, Penny Asquith-Evans and and Gwenneth Heyking for sharing their lovely pictures of the day! Click on images to enlarge.

Successful garden tour, talk and AGM

Events co-ordinator Nicky Westwood reports:

Despite the recent poor weather, the sun shone on the Herb Society AGM on Saturday 26th September. There were 29 attendees in all, and they were greeted by a range of teas, coffees and herbal teas – even local honey as a sweetener! With full attendance the AGM started at 11.30. We were sad to see Barbara and Peter Depledge leave us after all their hard work and success. Malcolm Dickson was formally elected as Chairman, and took us through the agenda. Some questions were raised about the location of the Society, the library and the managing of local groups. When the business of the day was over, members settled into a very nourishing lunch of various wraps, fries, and raw slaw with orange dressing. We finished with a mouth watering selection of cakes. Toby Buckland, our President, had driven all the way up from Devon. He gave an interesting and varied talk on the plants he has grown, rounding off with anecdotes and histories, including Pliny’s view of rocket! Everyone chipped in and asked questions. Afterwards we were taken by one of the gardeners around the Organic Gardens – which are beautiful and tranquil, with interesting and unexpected features, such as the Cuban garden and tropical greenhouse. Toby dug the first sod of the new herb garden, to our applause and laughter. There was still a buzz in the air when we all picked up our goodie bags (jute Herb Society shopping bags stuffed with good things) and left. End of an excellent day.

Thanks Nicky for organising a great event, and thank you to James and all at Ryton for hosting it! And thanks to herbfarmacy.co.uk and daisyshop.co.uk for contributing products to fill the gift bags.

Find out more about Garden Organic by reading a previous post about a Herb Society committee visit to Ryton which took place earlier this year.