Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Joy of Herbs

I was almost too upset to blog today because one of the majestic foxgloves that I hadn't staked snapped in half in the heavy rain.
To avoid a repetition of this horticultural tragedy I've just been out and driven in more stakes than you'd see in a Dracula film. Cursing and hammering in the storm, you'd only have needed Panavision and a thunder soundtrack to mistake me for Vincent Price.
While I recover, let's consider less troublesome plants.

Herbs are grown for their flavour and scent and I always forget the amount of colour they bring to the garden in early summer when annual plants are still finding their feet. Herbs are very good patio plants and most of mine are in pots. In some cases, like mint and sage, this is to stop them running rampant. Most of them are very resilient so they won't suffer if you forget to water them, although mint in pots tends to droop in dry spells. A man who runs a herb farm told me he hadn't watered his plants in 30 years.

From the top: chives, which you can never have enough of. Well, I can't. I'd probably sprinkle them on top of a trifle if I ate trifles.

Then thyme. Can't remember which variety this is but it flowers well.

Finally, sage.
These flowers are very popular with bees although sage honey sounds rather revolting.
We're always told that attracting bees to your garden makes you a hero of environmentalism. But they're the bane of my life. Every time I water or put stakes in they're buzzing round me, resenting my intrusion. They're not usually aggressive but then how overtly aggressive do you need to be if you're swaggering around with a poison-filled hypodermic at the ready? I hate the little bastards.


At 3:52 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Those little bastards are why I don't plant any herbs - they friggin ATTRACT them. I hate bees, wasps, hornets and any and all variation of flying stinging insects. Butterflies - now I like them. Little fluttery no-stinging.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger cello said...

Your mint would make a good substitute for the basil in the bean recipe (boil beans for 5 min max before plunging in cold water and then skinning). I confess to buying basil from the supermarket but then potting it up properly and it lasts all summer if you give it buckets of water. You really need to get basil in your life Willie.

Also very, very easy to grow and delicious are lovage (celery like taste) and fennel (feathery fronds which also give lovely aniseedy seeds that go brilliantly with fried cabbage and onion).

I am intrigued by that lovely white flowering thyme. Quite new to me.

Yes, I bloody hate wasps, but I try to suppress my fear of bees. I do love butterflies, but there are two problems; I am forced to allow a big patch of nettles to survive for the nymphalids to feed on and those bastard cabbage whites decimate(literally) all my brussel sprout and cabbage plants. I find that common oregano cannot be beaten for attracting butterflies. Better even than buddleias.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Lost said...

At least you can get rid of slugs with a pie plate and some beer but bees *shudder* they keep coming back!

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I will get Basil into my life although I've had enough trouble with Tom, Dick and Harry over the years, especially Dick.
I once grew a 6 foot fennel in a pot but gave most of it to my sister because I don't like the taste.
My own cookery bible says boil broad beans for 20 minutes. In the middle is Nigel Slater with 7-8 minutes so I might go for that. (Slater's autobiography is very good - called 'Toast' so James will probably buy it).
I have Oregano but there's nothing common about it. It's called 'True Greek'. And Buddleia.

lost and wyndham: apart from butterflies, an insect-free planet would suit me well. (Yes, I know about their role in the eco-system).
None of the non-chemical slug and snail remedies seem to work so now I throw them into my neighbour's garden (you have to check they're not sitting in it first).

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Wyndham said...

I am surrounded by cat-owners whose four-legged tenants tend to use my garden as the local cesspit so I have been known to head up surreptiously behind the shed and gently lob their cat-shit back over the wall. If I add slugs to that list where will it all end? I may add that every other creature on god's earth is welcome in my garden: except cats and slugs.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slugs? Don't talk to me about slugs. In my previous house there were concealed tunnels from the garden to the underfloor cavity, and the evil green and black bastards would squeeze through the tiny gaps in the floorboards and lurk in the breakfast room waiting to be squelched under an unwary and unshod midnight foot. The miserable, slimy little twunts.

And snails aren't much better. They may look cuter, but they're just slugs with a mortgage. Planted some basil in the herb bed last week. Next morning, not a frigging leaf left. Looked like some anal retentive had gone over it with a pair of nail clippers. Filthy gastropodian twunts.

- Tony -

At 10:52 AM, Blogger JayMaster said...

I too have chives and thyme and they are great for attracting bees. This year I have also planted some wildflowers, including my favourite - pink campions, and Jacobs ladder. The poppies, redcurrant and sea holly are also big bee attractors. I love seeing the bees bumbling around the garden and can’t understand why people are afraid of them.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

Can any of these be grown inside, on a window sill maybe?

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

Correction: every creature on god's earth is welcome into my garden cats, slugs and snails.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

Correction: every creature on god's earth is welcomine into my garden except: cats, slugs and snails.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

I'm sorry, I appear to have got a little excited.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

jay, I don't mind watching the bees but they're always in the way when I'm doing anything to plants, with the potential of turning nasty. Just realised I have some poppies growing so I'll get even more bees now.

pn: I think most herbs can be grown inside on a window sill, some doing better than others. Certainly chives and basil are fine for this.

I think we're all agreed on slugs and snails and don't start me on cats. The dog that got an ASBO, which I mentioned recently, was I think for crapping in people's gardens. I've never understood why cats are allowed to do this as well as digging up plants and killing birds. My father used to throw half-bricks at them but I tend to throw small change so there's lots of bronze coins in my garden if anyone fancies a treasure hunt.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger cello said...

There is a thread about slugs and snails in the Garden section of the Blue Cat forum, where I rather disgracefully compare them to scrotums (scrota?). Although I am fond of scrotums, by and large.

I think getting Basil into your life might be a bad idea, Willie, but basil is another thing entirely. Tom sounds like the best bet.

And I haven't read Nigel Slater's "Toast", but I heard it serialised on R4 and it was fantastic. He is one of the best things about the Observer mag, along with Monty of course.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I might just come and loiter behind the potting shed in James' forum.
Yes, there's nothing wrong with scrotums, small and large. Er, I mean by and large. (Gordon Ramsay talks of nothing else).
I have bought some basil seeds. Bit late for this year but I'll try some on the window sill.


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