Fill your garden with flowering herbs and you won't only have a beautiful and fragrant retreat but one that's a source of health and nutrition as well.
Herbs are prized mainly for their healing properties and the flavour they impart to food, although it is their flowers and fragrance that contribute most to our sense of wellbeing.
Because of their drought tolerant properties, herbs fit particularly well into low maintenance gardens and are compatible with indigenous gardens. Group herbs with plants that only need watering once a week. They need between four to six hours sun a day, a well composted soil with good drainage.
Bees and butterflies are particularly attracted to flowering herbs and there are also many herbs that repel insects, making them excellent companion plants.
Tips for designing a flowering herb garden:
- To make a statement plant herb varieties in groups of three, five or more plants together instead of putting individual plants in the bed.
- Colours affect our mood and have an effect on our emotional and physical behaviour. Hot colours are energising and creative. Blue, mauve, lilac and even pale lemon colours calm us. Choose the colours that most appeal to you.
- Fragrance has the power to make us feel good too. Choose plants with scented foliage that is brushed against or trodden upon as you walk. Plants with fragrant leaves include basil, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, mint, citronella geranium, lawn chamomile and pennyroyal.
- Texture is the third element that makes a garden such a multi-sensory experience. Dog grass, lamb's ears (Stachys), artichokes, Artemisia, bronze fennel and Russian sage (Perovskia) are some of the distinctive texture plants.
- Companion planting is part of the ethos of a herb garden. Nothing is sprayed for pests and taller plants shelter and shade tender plants. Plant material is used as mulch or compost. The diversity of the plants attracts butterflies and birds.
- Having a quiet space for contemplation is an important part of spiritual and emotional health. Use herbs with foliage in shades of silver, green and white. White is not only the colour of purity but the colour of completeness as it incorporates all the colours in the spectrum.
Here are some flowering herbs recommended that make a delightful garden show.
Pink flowering herbs
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – attractive border plant with fine, feathery leaves and heads of white flowers in spring and summer. Likes full sun and grows easily in most types of soil, which should be kept moist at all times.
- Purple Cone Flower/ Echinacea (Rudbeckia purpurea) – good, medium/ tall bedding plant that produces pink flowers in summer and dies down in winter. Needs sun and well-composted soil.
- Bergamot /Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) - tall grower for the back of beds. May need staking. Flowers in late summer and stems should be cut back to ground level after flowering.
- Dark Opal Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Cinnamon Basil , and Basil ‘Red Rubin' all have pink flowers. The Dark Opal and Red Ruben are striking border or edging plants with dark purple foliage. Basil grows best in morning sun and prefers regular watering.
- Scented geraniums (Pelargonium) – the scented foliage and delicate pink flowers make this an attractive garden shrub. The rose scented geranium is a tall grower. Grows in sun and is not fussy about soil, except that it must be well drained.
Yellow, red and orange flowering herbs
- Cotton Lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus) has dainty silver and tiny puffs of yellow flowers. It is extremely ornamental and lovely as a small bordering or accentuating hedge.
- Fennel and Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) creates a feathery but impenetrable backdrop. In summer the bronze foliage is accentuated by lacy yellow flowers. It likes a sunny position and well-drained soil.
- Bulbinella (Bulbine frutescens) – is a sun loving, drought tolerant, easy growing edging/border plant with spikes of yellow flowers. It can be planted where little else will grow.
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – a hardy annual with bright yellow, red and orange blooms, it grows easily in all kinds of soil in a sunny position. Don't fertilise otherwise the leaves develop at the expense of the flowers.
- Calendula officinalis has beautiful bright orange or yellow daisy like flowers in winter with slightly hairy long green leaves. The flowers petals can be added to salads or used medicinally to relieve fungal infections.
- Pineapple sage ( Salvia elegans ) is a fast growing shrub with fiery red flowers and pineapple scented flowers.
Mauve/purple flowering herbs
- Lavender is the best known purple flowering herb . One of the best garden lavenders is the Margaret Roberts Lavendula intermedia because it flowers non-stop and never gets woody. It can be trimmed after flowering. Lavandula stoechas produces magnificent flowers in spring while French lavender ( Lavandula dentata ) flowers throughout the year with eye catching flower spikes. If not trimmed it can get woody.
- Fern leaf lavenders (Lavandula multifida) are not strictly lavenders as their foliage is not aromatic. However the lacy fernlike leaves and long stems with bright blue soft flower spikes make this a very attractive garden plant.
- Perennial basil (Ocimum basilicum spp) provides a spectacular garden show as it grows into a substantial bush with spikes of lilac flowers all summer. The very aromatic leaves are small and mottled green.
- Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is a hardy perennial that grows in sun or partial shade. It can be untidy so its best planted close together en masse. Has pale mauve flowers and silvery foliage.
- Chives ( Allium schoenoprasum ) are bulb forming plants with tubular green leaves and globular heads of pale pink to purple flowers. A fantastic combination plant with roses.
- Russian Sage (Perovskia) is a tall and bushy silver leafed shrub that produces a profusion of mauve flower spikes. In full flower it provides a haze of colour. It is water wise and the silvery foliage makes it an excellent feature plant.
Blue flowering herbs
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a bushy perennial shrub with strongly aromatic dark green foliage and tiny blue flowers in summer. A particularly attractive variety is ‘Tuscan Blue' which is an upright growing shrub.
- Borage ( Borago officinalis ) has small bright blue flowers and an informal growth habit. It is water wise, easily growing in poor soil in a sunny spot.
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) - its spikes of intense blue flowers and bushy, compact growth make this a good border plant in a mixed flowerbed or as a low growing hedge.
- Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) – the daisy like blooms of this biennial make it an excellent border plant. It likes full sun and well-drained soil.
- Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – the bright green leaves and delicate spikes of white flowers add height to a border. Grows best in morning sun and prefers regular watering.
- German Chamomile ( Matricaria recutita ) is a low growing plant with fine green leaves and lovely white daisy type flowers with a deep yellow centre. It likes well drained soil.
- Lemon verbena ( Aloysia triphylla) is a large bushy shrub with very aromatic lemon scented leaves and sprays of delicate white flowers in summer. It is frost tender but if cut back should resprout.