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Create Tea Time in your Tea Garden

Grow a delicious cup of tea from your garden.

| April/May 2002

  • Chamomile makes a relaxing tea on its own or accompanied by other herbs such as rose hips, pineapple sage, or raspberry leaf.

  • Lemon verbena stands gracefully in front of bright bee balm in this tea garden.
  • Also, try planting flavorful delights such as lemon balm

  • apple mint, pictured with lavender

  • Photography by Rick Wetherbee
  • Anise hyssop is an upstanding beauty in the garden and in the tea cup.

With its enticing aroma and explosion of flavor, herbal tea has become the beverage of choice in many homes from coast to coast. Served hot or cold, a cup of tea made with herbs from your own garden is tea at its finest.

Herbal teas are a delicious way to enjoy the refreshing flavor of herbs already growing in your own garden. Common culinary herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, and basil are more than just aromatic and ornamental garden plants—they also blend beautifully in tea.

Leaves from blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries make tasty additions. Rose hips—the tangy-sweet fruits of the rose bush—add a wonderful citrus accent. You’ll find the largest, sweetest, fleshiest hips from Rosa rugosa or R. villosa. Even flower petals from your favorite hibiscus or rose can be tossed into the teapot. As for me, I count myself blessed because blackberries, lemon balm, and roses grow wild on my country property and are mine for the taking.

Best Herbs to Grow for Tea

Planning your Tea Garden

Herbs not only make terrific teas, they provide intriguing texture, shape, and color in the garden as well. Tea herbs play nicely in mixed borders and beds or featured together in a theme bed of their own. If your growing space is limited, they can be grown in pots on the patio.

A sunny location is best for most tea herbs. Those that prefer partial sun—mints, bee balm, and lemon balm, for instance—can be grown in the afternoon shade of taller tea herbs such as lemon verbena, fennel, goldenrod, and licorice. An annual mulch of compost applied in spring will provide all the nutrients needed for most herbs. Add complete organic fertilizer or well-aged manure to herbs that prefer a richer soil, such as basil or licorice. Also, group moisture-loving herbs together. The moisture needed for bee balm will likely create an unhappy environment for more drought-tolerant plants such as lavender and rosemary. Above all, never spray herbs that will be used for culinary purposes with any type of pesticide.

Harvesting Tea Herbs

Once new plantings become established, you’ll have a steady supply that you can harvest anytime during the growing season. Ideally, the best time to harvest herbs for peak flavor is on a sunny morning after the dew has dried off the leaves—though I tend to harvest anytime I’m in the mood for a cup of herbal tea.

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