Herbs-The Useful Plants

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:

For Headache Relief: Lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, rosemary, rose petals, mint, thyme, sage, flax seed

For Sleep: Lavender, sweet woodruff, rosemary

For The Bath: Lavender, thyme, lemon balm, pennyroyal, woodruff, dried orange peel and oats

To Deter Moths: cloves, orris root, cinnamon, cedar, woodruff, pennyroyal, germander, catnip, santolina, sage, mint, rose petals, artemisia

For Tea Bags: Raspberry leaves, lemon grass, lemon verbena, dried lemon peel, lemon balm

For Weddings: 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 How To posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.


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15 Responses to Herbs-The Useful Plants

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I did a dedicated herb garden when I first started Greenbow. I hated how it looked. I now incorporate herbs I use into the borders or pots. I learned a lot from that first herb garden. Your Granddaughter looks like an angel playing her violin. No wonder the little Offspring was enchanted. Rosemary doesn’t survive our winters here. It has to be brought in or in my case I just buy a new pot of it each summer. Your craft pictures made with dried flowers and woodland treasures are beautiful. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks for adding your herb experience, Lisa. The violinist is a friend’s daughter, the little guy is my oldest grandson, now 13, hard to believe. We could not overwinter rosemary in our zone 6 garden either, the one featured in the first two photos. We had a large specimen in a pot that was brought into a greenhouse window area in the winter. It does grow outdoors here in zone 7. What a difference one zone makes. You too have a lovely weekend.

  2. michaele says:

    You are such a wonderful source of information and inspiration. I’m feeling all motivated to incorporate more herbs in my beds next spring when plant buying fever consumes me.

    Thanks for that, Micheale. Even if you never use them for eating or anything else, herbs are easy to grow, cheap to purchase and look great worked into any style of garden. Some are even perennial. What’s not to love? HA

  3. Gail says:

    My dear, you are an inspiration! Many of my herbs are in pots but, I do toss cilantro seeds in the beds hoping I get some leaves before they bolt. The flowers are sweet. Rosemary seems happy in our now zone 7 gardens, but, water is still the enemy. I do love Bronze fennel scattered about the garden. The Eastern Swallowtail catts love it. Have a sweet weekend. xxoogail PS I so love borage! It’s the prettiest blue flower.

    Thanks Gail. Herbs are the perfect plant for pots. Cilantro finally got itself going here, I noticed that leaving the seedheads on the plants resulted in germination in the fall. The babies winter over, even under several inches of snow! I love the look of the fennel too, and the butterflies it attracts. Such a good plant.

  4. Leslie says:

    I would have loved to have shopped at Faire Garden…you are so very creative!

    Thanks Leslie. It was fun to make a little money and make room for yet more crafting. It was the doing that I liked best. Busy is best!

  5. Donna B. says:

    Here here! My front yard garden started off as a “cram as much herbs as you can” garden! I love that “Please touch the herbs” plaque! It’s just perfect!
    I grow many of the herbs mentioned – except rosemary. I know a Northern NJ Zone 6 is muuuuch different than a Tennessee – but does your rosemary stay outdoors year round?

    I love the sound of that front garden, Donna, it sounds wonderful. My rosemary stays in the ground all year here and does very well. Sometimes it gets too woody and large, when I don’t keep it pruned. It gets dug up and new little plants are purchased in spring. The topiaries came inside for many years until I got tired of them and left them out to freeze, which they did. A protected, south facing, well drained spot would be your best chance to winter over rosemary. Start with a small pot next spring if you have such a location and good luck!

  6. I am a big fan of herbs. Finally have some lavender in my collection. Most of the herbs I grow –well, all the herbs I grow, are culinary. My favorite unusual ones are Winter Savory and Salad Burnet. Tried borage but I think the bunnies ate it. 😦

    Thanks for joining in here, Janet. I love the Sanguisorba, for ornament. I have never tried to eat it. It does seem to die after blooming, must be biennial, but seedlings did appear. Borage likes it cold, hates the heat. It, like the cilantro germinates in late summer/fall then winters over in the very well drained raised box planter. That is the same place the dahlias overwinter. It is the drainage, I believe.

  7. My Kids Mom says:

    I started with herbs too. I needed to have plants than curious little children could safely taste. One child became a fan of the lemon balm, another of parsley. That second one tasted them all every time he could. And I never had to call poison control because I knew everything I grew was safe.

    That is a great idea, Jill, to have edible plants for the kids to taste. Thanks for adding in here.

  8. Great herb advice. I am convinced that rosemary, nepeta, lavender and thyme deter mosquitoes.

    Thanks Freda. Leaves are pinched and rubbed on bare skin from many of the herbs around here. It does seem to help.

  9. Lavender is a wonderful herb, a healing herb, that I use on my skin daily. I have a lot of allergic reactions to things and I find my pure lavender soap calms things down. I love your garden creations.


    Thanks Eileen. I am so glad you are able to find happiness in the herbal products. They have been used for thousands of years and still offer just what we need.

  10. What a delightful post, Frances! I love herbs! Are those rosemary topiaries in the last picture? Love them!

    Thanks Tatyana, so nice to see you here. Herbs are great for any garden, whether we use them or not. They are easy to grow, cheap to buy and fun. Those are rosemary topiaries that we kept for many years, bringing them into the greenhouse or keeping them behind glass during winter. We finally tired of pampering them and allowed the cold to do its dirty work. Rosemary grows well in the ground here, maybe another will be pruned up. We do like the look of them.

  11. My mother would be so proud of you. My friends teased when I was growing up that we didn’t have a weed problem in our yard because we ate them. Every spring my mother would arm us with a dull kitchen knife and instruct us to go forth and bag the dandelion. She had a tea to serve every complaint and we invited the fairies back to our yard every March. Lavender is my all time favorite, I have several kinds but I prefer the English for tea bread. I think your blog must be one of the most beautiful I have seen and useful. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to more.

    Hi Crystal, thanks and welcome. Your mother sounds like a wonderful and very wise role model! I also love lavender, it is a must have plant. I invite you to peruse the 720 other posts that have already been published on my blog in the last four years!

  12. Oh I really like this post! I love my herb garden and try to freeze and dry plenty to use during the Winter months. Such great information on which herbs to use for what!!

    Hi Alicia, thanks and welcome. Herbs have it all, don’t they? Easy to grow and beautiful, edible and useful in many ways.

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  14. Patricia says:

    I am enjoying all your posts, old a new, as a new reader. I am especially interested in lavender, and basically all herbs. I just recently started growing parsley and basil. Basic herbs, and used in cooking frequently. One evening I went out to my parsley only to find it devoured by 6 green catepillars with black stripes and yellow dots. Black Swallowtail butterflies would be coming soon, but now my parsley was gone! It has begun growing back, so I am relieved. I am finding it very difficult finding good quality herbs, starter size for my garden. Do you have a supplier you use? I am looking for someone. I live in Central New Jersey.

    Hi Patricia, thanks so much for those kind words and welcome. The old posts are full of good information, I am tickled when someone discovers them. Wonderful about your swallowtails, but I understand about the loss of such a useful herb as parsley. My herbs are either self sown volunteers or purchased at the local nursery, Mouse Creek. Where you live should have places that sell herbs grown locally. Perhaps a google search, or attend local plant sales to find the best source for you. Happy herb hunting!

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