Herb gardens have special appeal. Maybe it's the historic associations of herbs; maybe it's their colour, perfume and mythology. Herbs have culinary, perfume and medicinal applications… some are even said to be aphrodisiacs, so an herb garden should be an essential part of every garden!
Herbs can be grown within an existing garden – you don't need to build a specific herb garden. Many are ideally suited to pot cultivation; others make great decorative plants. Yet a specialised herb garden can provide a decorative element in its own right.
Traditional herb gardens are symmetrical and formal in design. In the simplest terms, you might build two paths, crossing at the centre, with four symmetrical gardens around them. You could use a large urn, sculpture or birdbath as a centrepiece, widening the paving to allow for easy passage for you and your guests.
Paths, and accordingly the garden beds, may also be circular, providing a softer effect.
Complex designs require space and a greater amount of maintenance, so a simple design is quite sensible. Plan your design to scale on a sheet of graph paper, with one centimetre on your paper representing one metre on the ground. Remove weeds or turf from the area and plot out your design by sprinkling flour or lime as an outline.
Do make sure your herb garden is located in full sun and that the soil is well drained. Cultivate the areas to be planted, applying lime and gypsum as required, but compact the soil on the paths, since these need to be able to take the loads of pedestrians and wheelbarrows. Use informal materials for your paths. A simply-patterned brick path is attractive, or you could use a decorative pebble.
Terracotta edging tiles or bricks on angles give a good edge to both the path and the planting area.
If your planting areas are wide, say 900mm or more, you can edge them successfully with low hedges. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is perfect for this, or the Box-leafed Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida), Curry Plant (Santolina chamaecyparissus) or Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead').
You may also like to provide some height in areas of the herb garden. A standard bay tree (Laurus nobilis) is ideal for this. Or you could use large containers placed symmetrically in the garden to reinforce the final design.
There are many herbs you may choose to grow, including perennials and annuals. The flower colours, foliage colour and texture of herbs make them beautiful plants to grow. If your interest is in culinary herbs then I would include:
Coriander (seasonally) Sage
Lemon balm Thyme
All these herbs could be grown in containers and an ideal potting mix for these plants is Debco’s Organic Mix, which is 100%, certified organic by NASSA.