Monday, 12 February 2018

in the herb bed

The back garden was glittering with frost this morning, so it's just as well that the Systems Administrator nudged me to go and set the heaters late last night.  I'd thought it wasn't going to freeze, but when I looked again I realised I'd had my laptop switched to the London forecast.  Rural areas are indeed a degree or two colder.

While I waited for the frost to burn off the grass I got on with cutting down the remaining stems of mint and gone-to-seed parsley in the herb bed.  In any case the front garden is a more comfortable place to work first thing on a cold morning, because it catches the morning sun.  It was a very beautiful day, with a brilliant blue sky, and pleasant to be outside in, although cold.  The sun soon began to melt the frost in the gravel, and so I began weeding as well as cutting down, and the upshot was that I spent all day on it.  I thought I might finish, but it got too cold and too dark for hand weeding before I'd quite got to the end.  Still, one more push really will do it.  Now I need to order a bag of gravel to top up the mulch, which has got very thin.

I am in two minds about herb gardens.  Christopher Lloyd detested them.  Herbs on the whole are not architectural plants, and a whole bed of them does look rather weedy and floppy for quite a lot of the year.  I have tried to give ours more presence with the addition of a snazzy diamond patterned paving and cobble path, flanked on both sides with rusted iron tripods, but the clematis I planted to go up the tripods have mostly struggled.  Clematis alpina and C. macropetala are supposed to be able to cope with poorer soil, but obviously not as poor as our herb bed.

There is a flourishing sage bush, which we rarely cook with because the Systems Administrator keeps buying pots of the dried sort.  Every now and again I remind the SA of the sage bush's existence, and the SA says Which is it again? and I explain it is the one with grey leaves, that smell of sage.  The SA seems to have a blind spot when it comes to sage bushes, although completely happy to cook with rosemary out of the garden.

There is a lot of self seeded parsley, which goes to seed rather quickly because it would prefer somewhere richer and damper, but at least it germinates.  Parsley is notoriously tricky to start from bought seed.  There are theories about how you should warm the soil with hot water out of the kettle, but probably you need fresh seed and bought seed is often too old.

There is a lot of mint, which would also prefer somewhere richer, damper and possibly shadier, but grows anyway.  I sometimes cook with it, and have made fresh mint tea.  And there is a lot of oregano.  I am not even sure if it is a variety meant for cooking, but the flowers are immensely attractive to butterflies and bees.  And lemon verbena.  I once tried making a herbal tea from the lemon verbena, but it tasted exactly like a lemon flavoured cough sweet.

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