An herb garden, complete with gravel walkways was the first real garden created after the youngest child went to school full time in 1988, leaving more free time for a stay at home mom to play in the dirt. (The above photo shows that garden after a couple of years.) Books were purchased and checked out from the library to educate ourselves about the ways of the useful plants, herbs. Using herbs is a centuries old pursuit, dating all the way back to the Shamans of earliest times. Magic and medicine have made use of the natural oils and properties of these leafy plants in addition to their culinary use. Learning how to grow them well was job one for a beginner.
Before there was Fairegarden the blog, there was Faire Garden the garden design/craft business. It started with helping friends plan and plant their gardens along with the making of gifts using materials we had grown ourselves for family and friends. It developed into a very small business with a little, very little, money making entering the equation.
Designing and implementing, with paid labor provided by the kids, took up the warmer months. Crafting was done during the winter months to supplement income and sell the things that we so enjoyed making. Many of the crafts revolved around goodness provided by nature.
In addition to woven lavender wands, click here for a how to, there were muslin bags filled with dried herbs according to lore and aroma value. They were used for bathing, to calm headaches, aid in sleep and to deter moths. Paper tea bags were assembled using lemony flavored herbs. Wedding sachets in satin and lace brought good luck and helped calm a nervous bride.
Headpieces for flower girls in weddings and other festivals were assembled from home grown plantings. Candles, pressed flower pictures and other gifts were popular items. Baskets woven with meaningful herbs added to the reed, grapevine and whatever else could be used that was growing about the property were a favorite project. Above is a shot from offspring Semi’s wedding in 2003, with offspring of offspring MA, the ring bearer, looking in awe at the young violinist wearing an herbal headpiece that we made. It was a magical day.
Growing, gathering, drying and sorting, then storing the fully dried material in large coffee cans with pretty labels helped keep me busy. Diligent research taught the uses for the types of herbs which grew best in the acid soil of a hilltop garden in zone 6 northeast Tennessee. Here are the recipes for what was used and how:
: Lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, rosemary, rose petals, mint, thyme, sage, flax seed
: Lavender, sweet woodruff, rosemary
: Lavender, thyme, lemon balm, pennyroyal, woodruff, dried orange peel and oats
: cloves, orris root, cinnamon, cedar, woodruff, pennyroyal, germander, catnip, santolina, sage, mint, rose petals, artemisia
: Raspberry leaves, lemon grass, lemon verbena, dried lemon peel, lemon balm
: Lavender for protection, love, rest and purification, thyme for wisdom, rosemary for protection, love and memory, chamomile for prosperity, rose petals for love
For now, the herbs growing here are used for culinary preparations and the occasional grabbing of a leaf to rub on exposed skin to deter mosquitoes. Mint for tea, parsley for everything, cilantro during the colder months, chives and garlic chives during the warmer times, a pinch of thyme added to a savory dish, allow cooking to take us back out to the beloved garden. There is no dedicated herb garden, rather the useful plants are scattered within every bed. The ease of growing and the evergreen tendencies of Lavender, Thyme, Sage and Rosemary make them good design citizens. (Just a note: We never use herbs medicinally as a cure for what ails you.)
Creating an herb patch is a good way for beginners to ease into the gardening mindset. A tiny spot by the kitchen door is all it takes to start.
For other posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.