Get down and dirty in the garden
You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog http://lemonverbenalady.blogspot.com.
Recently I left The Herbal Husband at home to tend our garden as I took off to vacation in England. My main reason for the visit was to meet Jekka McVicar and visit her herb farm outside Bristol, England. She has read my blog and sent me photos of the herb farm buried in snow after my post on chives in winter last year. She and her husband, Mac, have grown herbs for over 25 years. They started in a small garden in Bristol and had to move because their passion for growing organic herbs outgrew their small garden. They moved to South Gloucestershire in 1987 and started Jekka's Herb Farm. At that time, they were growing 26 varieties of herbs. Now they grow over 600 varieties of herbs.
The farm is not normally open to the public. The herb farm is open during special open days, which are five times throughout the growing season. The farm supplies landscape gardeners, a lot of celebrity chefs, restaurants, hotels and private gardens. Jekka also provides a landscape design service.
Jekka is a multi-talented lady. She is a classically trained musician, but her main focus is organically grown herbs. A quote from her herb catalog states: "I have dedicated my life to learning about herbs and believe me, the lessons never end." I feel the same way. She started the day by talking about her farm and introducing the staff that keeps the business running smoothly. Then she discussed various herbs and what to do with them in the fall season. Of course, she talked about my favorite, lemon verbena. She simply clipped the branches from the plant, held them up and said that drying the leaves was very easy to do and that, once dried, they could be used in tea all winter long. Also, lemon verbena leaves are a wonderful addition to potpourri to give as gifts.
With more than 60 Royal Horticultural Society gold metals to her name, including more than a dozen from the Chelsea Flower Show, Jekka was earned the title of "The Queen of Herbs" given to her by Jamie Oliver. She is very down to earth and gracious for being "The Queen of Herbs." She gave me a new title as well, Lady Verbena! I asked to take a photo with her and she took me into one of her greenhouses to stand in front of an unusual herb, incense plant (Calomeria amaranthoides), which has tiny coral flower bracts in late summer and early autumn. It has aromatic textured leaves and the entire plant is incense scented. It can, however, cause irritation to touch. Remember my encounter with angelica!
Jekka is an herb plant collector as am I. Her herb farm is a testament to her collecting passion. I was very pleased to meet and be inspired by this herbal queen. My English herbal companion and I took a workshop and had lunch with recipes using Jekka's new cookbook and I will fill you in next time we meet.
If you have herb questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.