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

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Preparing our Herb Society exhibit for RHS flower show Tatton Park 2015

Following last year’s medal success

We were really pleased when last year’s Herb Society team, led by Barbara & Peter Depledge, won a Silver Gilt medal at RHS Tatton with a design for a 16th century herb garden inspired by Gerard’s Herbal, with our 1636 copy of the book available to view on the stand.

This year the theme is Thyme for Tea

chamomomile teaThis year the Cheshire flower show will be held on 22-26 July. To coincide with our theme celebrating the many garden plants which can be used for tea, we will be selling packs of herbal tea on the stand. Herb Society members will be able to take a pack free of charge, so do come along and say hello!

Medical Herbalist Barbara Wilkinson is organising the exhibit this year, and there are many behind-the-scenes activities that need to be carried out well before show week. This Spring Barbara liaised with the designer Margaret Kewley and herb grower Hooksgreen Herbs about our exhibit, and prepared an information leaflet about the use of herbal teas. More recently, she has been sourcing dried herbs, and growing some cornflowers and other herbs in her own allotment for tea-making. Last week she packed them with the help of local volunteers.

Growing and sourcing herbal teas

Barbara wilkinson cornflower cropped

Cornflower coming into flower at the end of May on Barbara’s allotment

herbal tea harvest

Herbs cut in Barbara’s allotment and ready for drying: nigella, lemon balm and vibrant cornflowers among others

barbara wilkinson wholesale teas cropped

Some of the dried herbs for tea supplied by Panacea and Herbs in a Bottle

medical herbalist barbara wilkinsonBarbara says,

“I hope people will enjoy reading about the garden theme ‘Thyme for Tea’ when they get home and remember their visit to the stand and of course HS members can have the added advantage of tasting their free herbal tea in the peace of their own home.”

She adds,

“…we would appreciate members coming to the stand as we would like their feedback on the display…I hope to have a book they can write in with memories of the show.”

 Herb grower assists with exhibit

herbs growing hooksgreen nursery

Herb plants being grown for the exhibit at Hooksgreen Herbs; arbour delivery arriving for the stand

Packing herbal teas

tatton herbal tea volunteers

Happy volunteers packing herbal tea: (L) Margaret and Caroline; (R) June, Pat and Annie

Join the Herb Society

herb society membership pack

Members joining at Tatton will receive a free jute bag and pair of herb snips as well as the usual benefits such as subscription to Herbs magazine. Currently members joining by direct debit receive fifteen months for the price of twelve

 ***Find out how we got on at the show in the next blog post***

To find out more about Herb Society membership, please open the pdf of our leaflet with prices and benefits (link top right of this page).

Flowering herbs in my garden | Spring

Many herbs in my garden are now in flower

I live on the Sussex coast in a Victorian terraced cottage about a mile from the sea. I have a small town garden and try to squeeze in a few herbs wherever I can. From March onwards you can see a succession of traditional culinary herbs flowering in my garden such as thyme, chives and rosemary. Chamomile, comfrey and violas have their uses too, and I love my jasmine and scented leaf pelargoniums flowering under glass.

front door

Making herb tea

I am not knowledgeable about the medical uses of herbs, but I enjoy flowers and my garden, and use the plants wherever I can. I enjoy making fresh peppermint, lemon balm and chamomile teas. Chamomile flowers are a big favourite of mine with their apple-like fragrance and simple blooms. Once dried, they can be used in a sleep pillow in a similar manner to lavender. In fact my main hobby is using flowers from the garden in craft, and that often means drying them for use later.

harvesting chamomile herb flowers

Harvesting chamomile flowers to make tea – I dry them for use year-round.

Herbs under glass

scented leaf pelargoniums

My friend Mercy is an avid collector of scented leaf pelargoniums so there are always a few overwintering in my lean-to. Sometimes I dry the leaves and flowers for potpourri.

jasmine flowers

Jasmine flowering in my greenhouse – I don’t make use of it in any way other than to enjoy the enveloping fragrance, but I do hear it has a role to play in hormone regulation.

Flowers in my garden

garden flowers violas

Violas are such a cheery plant in early Spring. I press them for art projects or crystallise them to decorate cakes.

early comfrey flowers

This yellow comfrey (traditionally named knit-bone) is one of the earliest herbs in my garden, flowering from early March.

blue comfrey herb

This comfrey Hidcote Blue grows up to five feet tall and greatly improves the quality of my compost when I cut it down after flowering, due to its high nutrient levels.

early rosemary herb flowers

Rosemary flowers: my plant is still small, but I am looking forward to being able to harvest straight twigs for use as skewers on the barbeque.

Herbs later in the year

As I write this in early June, my pots of lavender are just coming into flower. My favourite flower, the ancient stripy rose Rosa mundi has two buds just thinking about opening, with many more behind. Other herbs such as borage and calendula are on their way. So perhaps another post later in the year!

Do you have any herb pics you’d like to share?

Do email them to me at ruth@herbsociety.org.uk and I will share them with other herb enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter.