Get down and dirty in the garden
Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.
It's been almost a month since I've written. What a change in the weather and the gardens since late March when I last wrote and took pictures. It's warmed up considerably; we've had plenty of rain and, best of all, the gardens are flourishing. In the interim, I had a wonderful trip to California for a wedding and a vacation on the Monterey peninsula where I visited secret gardens enclosed by adobe walls behind historic adobe houses. I saw lots of rosemary and lavender, among many other herbs and drought-tolerant plants. I took lots of pictures, and I'll share them in another blog.
Meanwhile, it seems like the gardens here at The Herb Cottage really popped while I was gone.
From the foreground: blooming chamomile, blooming cilantro, soon to produce coriander seed. Little pinkie rose on the right. The grayish trunk on the left is a vitex tree, and the green with a splash of magenta to the lower left of the shot is lamb's quarters, which I wrote about last year. It reseeded and is showing new growth with large leaves in bright colors.
This is a closer shot of the chamomile flowers in the foreground with the blooming cilantro in the background. I'm leaving some of the chamomile flowers on the plant so it'll reseed for next season.
I have had to take out a few plants that did not come back after the freeze. I lost my henna plant, which I'm sad about, but I have seeds and plans to plant this week or next. The tall lemon eucalyptus is coming back from the roots, but the top is dead.
Here you can see the cracked bark at the base of the lemon eucalyptus tree with new shoots coming out of the base.
This tree will have to be removed professionally due to its proximity to power lines, other trees and the house. (Did I hear someone mumble something about poor planning on my part...? You'd be right, but in my defense, I thought the tree would freeze back every year and would never grow so tall. Then, when it started growing, I was so fascinated by it, I threw caution to the wind and let it go. Time to pay the piper, now, as they say!) I am thrilled it's coming back, though, and plan to keep it as a shrub rather than a single trunk tree, and keep it pruned to about 6 feet or so.
The oregano, rosemary, roses, thyme, cilantro and parsley are huge and some are going to seed already. The parsley is over 3 feet tall and is ready to flower. I'll leave it so I can collect seed from this flavorful, vigorous variety of flat-leaved Italian parsley. The oregano is about to flower, which I'm quite excited about. Last year I made an oregano flower hydrosol with my little tabletop distiller—it was lovely. I'm looking forward to doing that again this year.
This photo is of tall parsley plants with my little pinkie rose in the background.
The thyme plants have really filled in, giving lots of leaves for good cooking and tea. The lemon thyme, my personal favorite, is especially thick and full. I hope, since they're so well established now, that they'll survive the summer, which is the most difficult time of year for them in my area. If you live farther north, west or east in Texas, you probably have better results than I do in the summer with thyme. Thyme suffers due to the humidity in my location. I have them in raised areas for good drainage, so that should help. I will also mulch again with gravel or even rock, which aids in keeping the immediate environment a little drier for them.
This photo is of my lemon thyme with violets and chives behind them.
My big tractor tire bed is overflowing with yarrow, on the left—another candidate for hydrosol—rosemary and oregano.
I just love this time of year when the growth is new and lush, the days are warm but not too hot and we can enjoy the weather without it being a test of resolve.
This is a photo of my habek mint (Mentha longiflora) and bible mint. This is one of the true Middle East varieties used for the authentic "Tabbouli" of bulgar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, plenty of parsley and mint, cool vegetables and maybe even sunflower seeds. It is 2 inches tall, is very narrow, and its bluish-green leaves have a completely different look from other mints.
I hope your herb gardens are flourishing and that you're using your herbs in teas, for grilling and to make you happy.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
—Marcus Tullius Cicero