Designing A Herb Garden (Part 1) – Many gardeners use containers to grow herbs, whatever the size of their garden. This has many advantages: the containers can be positioned just outside the kitchen door so that they are easily available to the cook; many herbs, such as mint, are invasive in the ground and are better confined to a pot; and a number of herbs are tender and are best brought indoors in winter or sheltered by the walls of the house or covered with protective fleece.
However, to expand your horizons beyond a few pots of culinary herbs and devote a whole patio to growing herbs while creating an attractive garden at the same time, requires more care and study. The secret of successful design in all gardening lies in these things, design is not some esoteric talent given to a few.
Look at the space and how you plan to use it. Does the design work? It is no good lining up ranks of containers to fill a patio if you cannot reach the troughs furthest away from you to prune a climbing rose or weed the plants. If you are planning to devote a whole area to herbs then it is necessary to have a coherent planting plan. Try and get the containers to tell a story, to concentrate on different aspects of herb gardening, scented, medicinal, culinary herbs or herbs from different parts of the world.
The basics of color and form
A garden devoted solely to container herbs has to be planned meticulously to achieve the best possible contrast in color and form. Choose herbs with differently colored leaves, and vary the contents in each containers; include scented herbs and medicinal plants. The design must please the eye and provide a contrast in colors and shape. This means two things:
1. a study of every plant to see whether they will go together;
2. a resolve to be ruthless with any mistakes you make.
Everyone makes mistakes and all gardeners should be prepared to dig up plants, swop them round or, if necessary, throw them away. A container garden has little space and it is most important to use this to the best possible advantage.
Plan a variety of containers
Decide how many containers you are going to plant and lay them all out in position until the groupings seem right. You could devote one container to medicinal herbs and research old herbals to learn exactly how each plant was used in medieval times.
A container of flowering medicinal plants looks lovely in the summer and could include calamint, Californian poppies, arnica, cornflowers, with sweet woodruff as a ground-cover plant – or clumps of pink thrift.