From The Herb Garden: Sunny Gardens

From The Herb Garden

| June/July 1993

The year was 1911. In Great Britain, George V had just assumed the throne following a graceful, lighthearted Edwardian decade. The Great War was not yet on the horizon; the Titanic was soon to be launched. Peace and prosperity reigned. Gertrude Jekyll was approaching the height of her influence as a garden designer, espousing soft color, rhythm, and texture over the showier ­effects of the Victorian floral border. Travel to the Continent was common, stimulating a new appreciation of the fragrant, hardy Mediterranean herbs.

Frances A. Bards­well, an amateur garden writer in the finest sense of the term, joined with two amateur watercolorists, Isabelle Forrest and the Honorable Florence Amherst, to produce a cheerful, practical, enthusiastic volume on herb gardening. Only 3000 copies were printed, each illustrated with delicate color prints inserted by hand.

Join us, in an excerpt from this charming volume, as we step through the gate of an English cottage into a haven of sunny, fragrant, well-tended herbs. And see how little has changed in more than 90 years in the peaceful world of gardening.

To flower and plant and tree, the ­garden is a cloistered refuge from the battle of life.

The Making of the Herb Garden

The one thing most needful for the herb garden is sunshine. Without it, there will be neither virtue nor fragrance; the plants will exist, but will neither be happy themselves nor make us so.

Any good garden soil suffices to satisfy most herbs, but the same soil will not suit all equally well. Some are naturally rock or mountain plants and do not mind how dry the ground is. Others, like the family of mints, love moist places; one or two, like rue and fennel, absolutely thrive in poor soil, while others demand good living. No doubt the old superstition that plants are apt to ­quarrel among themselves, and that some are absolutely antipathetic to others, originated in the first instance in the fact that there are great differences of opinion among them as to the soil in which they like to live. Rue will not grow near basil, it was believed, but rue and the fig tree are in league. Dill, coriander, mallows, and chervil love to be “set or sowne” together, while radish and hyssop are at enmity, and refuse to have anything to do with each other.

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