This herb garden is modeled after the healing gardens common in Middle Ages monasteries.
Apothecary rose (Rosa gallica officinalis). This beloved rose grows 3 to 4 feet tall and bears crimson-magenta blooms in late spring through early summer. The plant can spread by suckers, so prune unwanted growth regularly. One favorite cultivar (R. gallica ‘Versicolor’), known as Rosa Mundi, has blooms of mottled white and pink. Petals once were used in cooking, cosmetics and medicines (to treat sores, coughs, colds, tension and more); rose hips are high in vitamin C.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis). This carefree annual has bright yellow to orange ray flowers, reaches about 18 inches, and blooms prolifically from spring through summer. It is easily propagated by seed. Petals can be used for skin lotions, salves and poultices.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). This hardy perennial or biennial grows 2 to 3 feet, with white daisy-like flowers. The leaves are used to treat migraines and other pain.
Aloe (Aloe vera). There are many other species of Aloe, but because most cannot tolerate frost, the plants usually are grown in pots. Grows to about 2 feet, with attractive, spiky leaves that contain a soothing gel. Apply the gel to skin cuts and burns.
Garlic (Allium sativum). This delicious medicinal herb is a bulb related to onions. Tuck cloves into any spare garden spaces to ensure a plentiful supply. Plant either in fall (for next-summer harvest) or in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked (for fall harvest). Garlic is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and has been shown to lower blood pressure.
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). This sweet-smelling annual grows to about 2½ feet and has aromatic foliage. When taken as tea, its daisy-like blooms aid digestion and promote sleep. Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), a low-growing perennial, can be used in similar ways.
Sage (Salvia officinalis). The common garden sage is a hardy perennial that grows to about 2 feet. Sage tea is used to treat sore throats, colds and mouth ulcers.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). A hardy, upright perennial with large, deep green leaves, comfrey can grow 4 to 5 feet tall. It is used externally for bruises and wounds, but should not be taken internally.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). This hardy perennial reaches about 3 feet in bloom, with tiny whorls of purple flowers atop long stalks. There are many species; choose one suited to your specific climate. Lavender oil (made from distillation) is a potent antibacterial agent. The fragrance of the foliage and flowers is soothing.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). The lemon-scented leaves of this 2-foot perennial make a delicious tea used to treat headaches, indigestion and tension. Spikes of small white blooms appear in early summer; cut back the plants before they set seed. Tolerates partial shade.
Peppermint (Mentha ×piperita). Peppermint grows to about 2 feet and is a hardy perennial. Use its leaves to make a refreshing, tummy-soothing tea. It’s a rigorous grower, so confine it to a pot, or monitor it closely and yank out runners as soon as you spot them.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). Hardy and perennial, echinacea reaches about 2 feet. Its drooping, light purple petals surround a dark cone at the flower’s center. In recent years, many new varieties have expanded the range of available flower colors. Echinacea is used to stimulate the immune system, particularly for preventing or treating colds.
Kathleen Halloran is a freelance writer and editor living and gardening in beautiful Austin, Texas.
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Herb Garden Design Plans: A 21st Century Healing Garden