This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

My Photo
Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Herbs in Containers, 4Head Garden of Dreams and a Mystery Rose


It is great to get feed-back from this blog, especially when it comes from someone who is 75 years old and has just found gardening! Welcome Mabel from Richmond, Virginia, United States, to this great hobby and to GardenMessenger. Mabel read the short article about growing herbs in containers on an earlier blog, has set up some containers, and now wants to know what would be best to grow. As she quite rightly says many herbs are quite tall and unwieldy in the open garden and unlikely to be suitable. As I know that there are many other gardeners out there that have a similar interest, what I am about to suggest is fairly general for all. I am not sure about Richmond weather as I have been there once, and that was many years ago, but I imagine the climate is much the same as for the rest of us with quite warm summers and cold winters.

I do not remember much about the weather, but I do recall the great hospitality of the folks of Richmond. I was invited to speak to a group of gardening enthusiasts in the historic Bloemendaal House at the embryo Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. At that time the garden was the dream of an enthusiastic group of local gardeners. Now by all accounts the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has become an important horticultural and botanical centre and unrecognisable from the Bloemendaal Farm property that was originally willed to the city by Grace Arents to establish a botanical garden many years previously. I have family living in Virginia and they tell me the garden is well worth a visit, and a great achievement by the local community, so check out their web-site click here.


To return to Mabel and her question. There are no hard and fast rules about which herbs can, or cannot, be planted in a container, other than the constraint of size. Annual plants are especially amenable and if a mistake is made it can quickly be rectified. With perennial herbs there is a need to be a little more cautious, especially if the container is to be a feature on the patio or by the kitchen door. Initially choose reliable kinds like Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, Mint, Mentha spicata, and Marjoram, Origanum marjorana. A favourite combination is Lavender or Rosemary used as a centrepiece with various species and cultivars of Thyme lending support. This is a reliable and more or less evergreen scented or fragrant pot. Culinary containers can bristle with Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, Parsley and Thyme, or flowering herb containers with Marjoram, Thyme and Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis.

The themes that can be adopted are almost as diverse as the plant combinations that can be contrived. However, bear in mind that while planters are merely a substitute for the open garden for many herbs, they are the only reliable way of cultivating a number of other very desirable types outside in cold or temperate districts. These include Sweet and Bush Basil, Ocimum basilicum and O.minimum, and Anise, Pimpinella anisum, as well as the shrubby Common Myrtle, Myrtus communis. If herbs have to be grown in containers, then take advantage of all the benefits.

An excellent plant nursery

This applies to the window box too. Although giving the gardener more constraints than the container or planter by virtue of its long narrow profile, it does have the benefit of not only being an excellent place in which to grow smaller herbs, especially annuals and biennials, but also a first-class nursery. Even when there is room for herbs in the open garden, still consider the possibilities of the window box as a small propagation unit. Most window boxes, however, have to serve more than a nursery role. For apartment and town house dwellers they are often the only herb garden possible, and under such circumstances it is more satisfactory to purchase ready grown seedlings or rooted cuttings rather than attempt to raise the plants at home. For those who wish to raise their own herbs from seed, it is better to do so on the kitchen window ledge and then transfer the plants to the window box. Trying to use a window box for all the stages of growth is futile and wastes both time and productive space.


The plant combinations that can be used in window boxes are almost as diverse as possible with containers. For the most part small plants should be used because their foliage must not be permitted to grow up and exclude light from the window, while at the same time the small amount of compost available means that only shorter growing subjects are likely to prosper. A window box should be arranged with taller herbs like Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, at each end, while filling the middle of the box with smaller kinds like Thyme, Parsley and Marjoram. The whole soil area can then be covered with a creeping thyme that can be allowed to trail over the edges of the box. All except the fennel can be allowed to flower. Fennel would get too tall and the foliage would fade. Such a box is a colourful, fragrant and useful addition to the garden.

To learn more about herbs and discuss herb gardening join HerbMessenger click here.

Chelsea Show Gardens Preview
During each of the days running up to the Chelsea Flower Show I am previewing a show garden. Although these are often regarded as garden theatre and not as sustainable under normal gardening conditions, they are often full of interesting and innovative ideas which can be taken, at least in part, and used in our gardens at home.

4Head Garden of Dreams

A dreamy, peaceful garden set in secluded, tranquil woodland and protected by a thorny hedge from harsh realities beyond. A small brook emerges from shaded tree roots to meander through a sunlit glade towards a large central pool, which surrounds an island. On the island is a 'living' sculpture, which is a dreaming girl composed of mud, twigs, grasses and plants. The dreaming girl is inspired by the famous Mudmaid from the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The pool is bordered by open meadow, with profuse use of plants selected for the calming properties of their perfume and their subdued colours.


The Mystery Rose
Peter Beales Roses of Norfolk, England, are introducing an as yet unnamed rose at the Chelsea Flower Show. The Mystery Rose, as they are calling it, will remain nameless until the Monday (22nd May) of the show. All that the company are saying is that it will be a surprise for a very well known fashion designer who will be present to receive the rose. It is a climber with large, very fragrant, almost fully double blooms of rich deep pink, bordering on carmine, which are borne in clusters. It is continuous flowering, but if not dead-headed will produce huge, rich orange-red hips, which persist on the plant well into winter. Growth is vigorous and dense and the foliage is very healthy, large and dark green.


26th,27th and 28th May
Montréal Botanical Garden
4101, Sherbrooke East,
H1X 2B2

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

Directory of Gardening Blogs


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter