Mother Earth Living

Growing Big Herbs: Angelica, Borage and Tansy

You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog

I was recalling a favorite article from The Herb Companion today. Ten years ago I was looking for big herbs that would take up space but still add a punch to the herb garden. The January 2000 article Big is Beautiful, by Rob Proctor, has a fabulous chart at the end of the article that gives a tremendous amount of information on big herbs for any region of the country. Here are three big herbs in my herb garden.

1. Angelica

You often hear the phrase “Timing is everything!” I believe that this is true in my herb garden this year. We had such a snowy February, but my herb garden is thriving despite the snow. I should have removed some of the angelicas in March when they were small, e.g. herbal timing. The Herbal Husband said to me “The roots go to China!” as he tried to move some of them a few days ago. What I really want you to see is that many angelicas are a little too much.

More angelica is a bit too much in my herb garden.

More is not better. I am going to work in the next days to remove some especially the ones in the front. Angelica is a biennial, or a short-lived perennial, that likes morning sun and afternoon shade. It also needs more moisture. However, some of these angelicas are in the shade in the morning and the sun in the afternoon! They may not do as well with that combination of sun/shade. This is a shot from last season when they were in bloom.

Blooming angelica makes a statement in the herb garden.

The seeds drop to the ground and help to produce many seedlings for the coming year. If you collect the seeds, you must use them right away. Angelica does not grow from old seed. All parts of this plant are used fresh as tea, in salads, as a flavoring and candied. I read that angelica leaves pair nicely with fresh lemon herbs such as lemon balm, lemon verbena or lemon thyme.

2. Borage

This second big herb only becomes big and a bit of an herbal space hog when fully grown. Borage is very easily started from seed.

Borage seedlings will take over if you let them.

In this photo there are hundreds of seedlings. The recycle bag had a faint smell of cucumber. One of the main reasons to grow borage is for its beautiful edible flowers. They first start pink and then turn blue, which is a color very desired in the garden. There is also a white variety available. You can use the flowers in ice cubes to give your lemonade or iced tea a special look or use them in salads because of their cucumber flavor. Just remember to give this wonderful herb plenty of room to thrive.

Beautiful pink and blue flowers emerge from my large borage plant.

3. Tansy

The third big herb is tansy. Unlike the other herbs, which reseed themselves, tansy is a running herb and can be aggressive if not controlled.

This block of tansy has buried several other herbs.

The Herbal Husband got a portion of this “herbal block” out today and we discovered a fairly healthy, but leggy, oregano and a Russian sage that had been buried. I really became a fan of tansy last season because we found lots of ladybugs living on the tansy leaves. The bees are also fans of the furry yellow button flowers. Tansy leaves repel ants and moths and the flowers are used in everlasting wreaths and arrangements.

These tansy flowers are a haven for bees.

Tansy should not be used in teas, food or medicine because it can be toxic.

Hopefully, you will add a big herb or two in your herb garden to add another level of herbal interest. Sometimes, though, it is too much of a good herbal thing!

  • Published on May 10, 2010
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