I love working with and learning about herbs. These humble plants hold the keys to our health, our well being, our appetites and so much more. They are often overlooked and certainly under appreciated…but not by me! Once I complete my Master’s Degree this summer and take a nice long break, I am going to begin a Master’s Degree in herbal medicine to continue my education on herbs and healing.
Most of you remember that I added a culinary and medicinal herb bed a couple of years back. That bed is doing well with the perennial herbs that were planted so I added more, removed some other elements of the garden and I continue to put some annual herbs in that bed each year. I have also taken to adding valuable and useful herb plants in and among the plants in my perennial borders, but I still ran out of room…well what is a boy to do….move to the front yard!
The beds near the street in my front yard have definitely been under utilized and not treated very well. A couple of years ago an unfortunately placed gas main began to leak under my front lawn and ended up killing anything that was placed on that side of the sidewalk as well as much of the grass in that area. Finally, last summer the gas company got around to fixing in, which left the soil and grass in the front beds damaged beyond much repair. I enlarged the beds and added annual flowers to cover the problem for the home and garden tour I participated in but knew I would have to give the front yard a lot more attention this year.
Yesterday we took my annual trip to Companion Plants, the marvelous herb farm in Athens County where I have visited when I started my herb garden. The friendly and helpful folks at Companion Plants were ready to assist me again with the additional herbs I needed and wanted for the new space. I selected some herbs as a gift for a friend who is starting a garden and then went to work on my list…
- Agrimony: this is a fantastic herb for use in tea and it has been used to cleanse the blood, treat fevers, gout, diarrhea, hepatitis, jaundice, worms and sore throats. The leaves are deep green and divided and it also produces lovely yellow flowers.
- I am not sure if the harsh winter or invasive pachysandra killed my Bella Donna plant, but I replaced it. This is not recommended for self medication…I keep it in my garden for the lovely leaves and stunning black berries.
- I bought a couple Calendula plants to add to the seeds dropped by last year’s crop. This sunny flower is also called a pot marigold. I have used this useful flower in soaps and also infused its skin healing properties in astringents and toners for rashes and Roseacea.
- I bought a boneset plant. This is a terrific herb for teas and for poultices. It isn’t the most pleasant tasting, but it has incredible healing properties for broken bones and surgery.
- I bought and planted a couple of Henbane plants. Mostly for tradition’s sake, but also it is beautiful plant. The alkaloids have been processed in modern medicine to relax involuntary muscles, as a pain killer and to relieve nervous irritability. It has a sedative quality and is not recommended for self medication.
- Hyssop. This pretty plant has narrow dark green leaves and dark blue flowers. This is a particularly useful herb as an infusion is used to treat bronchial and lung problems. In addition, the leaves aid in the digestion of fat so it is a good herb to season meat with. This is also the herb that is the primary flavoring in Chartreuse liqueur. The nice thing is that it is also evergreen and reseeds itself.
- Horehound: Anyone familiar with old fashioned cough drops knows the taste of horehound, it is the herbal infusion made into a candy that creates those drops. This is probably the only method that makes the fuzzy stemmed and leaved plant palatable.
- I also bought a bergamot plant. This is a similar plant to the cultivated bee balm, but the flowers vary from white to lilac. This is a great tea plant, the flavor lends itself well to infusion. This is also an undernote in some of the warmer bath oils I make so it will be nice to have some on hand when the plant matures.
- I selected the Dwarf white variety of comfrey. This variety stays more compact and its rampant spreading habit is somewhat curbed. Comfrey is a great skin herb as it contains allantoin, used in many skin and beauty preparations. I use it as one third of my “three C” soap along with chamomile and calendula!
- Finally, I selected a nice motherwort plant. This is one of the more robust plants, one of the first up in spring. It is also a versatile medicinal plant, used to strengthen the heart, regulate menstruation in women as well as treat insomnia, fevers and stomach ache. It was also traditionally used to aid in childbirth.
I brought my prizes home and prepared the beds by adding amendments as the soil in the front of the house is much less cultivated or amended than the soil in the garden in the back of the house. Once the beds were better defined and the amendments were mixed into the soil, I planted my bounty of herbal plants along both sides of my walkway so I and my guests will pass through these beautiful plants on their way to the front door.
I also added some perennial flowers such as asters and salvia to attract bees. I filled in the rest of the space with some colorful annuals until the perennial flowers fill in a bit. I watered well and then topped the beds with my favorite natural cocoa shell mulch and gave the beds another drink. I was rewarded with the heady scent of chocolate all through my front yard.
My new herb bed is well prepared and on its way to provide me with visual beauty, great fragrance and marvelous medicinal and traditional herbs. I am very excited by the results!