You have to love this time of year, the nights are shrinking and the light streams into the home and over the garden. Now and then the warm days are punctuated by a distant rumble that throws rocks across the valley. Giants are fighting and there will thunderbolts and small children hiding under their bed sheets before it rolls away. On a nice evening, an evening that is rain free but still chilly, an evening where Little D isn't yelling down the stairs that there's giants under his bed we can crack on with our new project, the herb garden. Our once embarrassing front garden, the butt of many a joke that started with the question, 'So, you're a gardener, eh?' before we finished the punchline with tales of building woes, rubble heaped on rubble, copper piping thrusted into the soil and plaster melting into the dahlias is taking shape. No more builders yard.
Strangely enough, here as at Drovers, it is easier for us to walk through our lounge to get to anything herbal we need. Before we go any further, this is not the nineties and this is not student digs and herbal here means herbs, both culinary and medicinal. Oh, go away. We know what you have just answered. But that's....Yes, we know but for the sake of this article we mean h-e-r-b-s and not the thing that made Dick Dastardly understand Muttley or made Penelope Pitstop constantly cry out for the Anthill Mob. Help! Help! We'll save you, herbs!
This garden then has been planned, for some time. The seeds carefully selected to reflect both the usual culprits found in herb gardens and something unusual, like the false safflower. For the trained eye on the seed list you will notice a lack of rosemary, we have rosemary, we have grown it from cuttings and rosemary doesn't like it up here. Seriously, rosemary hates this altitude, hates us, hates the garden, the neighbours and the wildlife, we regularly plant rosemary and it goes through several distinct stages: (1) where the hell am I? (2) what the hell do you mean this isn't Italy? (3) whose that child and why does it keep yelling at me that I stink? (4) it's cold here, (5) it's too bloody hot, and; (6) sod this for a game of soldiers. It then turns brown, jumps out of the pot, the border or in one case, a hanging basket and dies. This means all our rosemary is in pots, those pots are kept under guard in the glasshouse where they merely go through the stages of: (1) nice in here, ain't it? (2) bloody lovely it is in here, and finally; (3) gorgeous. If they get a whiff of outdoor life they pack up and leave no forwarding address. So, tonight as the wind bussels around we are planting chives - oh my god, do chives love it here and from one pot taken from Drovers we have around fifty pots now, we'd sell it but people who are new to gardening are often suspicious of chives. One person who took a pot from us phoned us up to complain that the grass had odd flowers and stank of onions. Oh well. Ten pots of chives have gone into the herb garden. The great thing about chives is that you can split them as you plant them, if they are a largish clump and we only have clumps here (we must see the doctor) then all you need to is to get your thumb into root ball (take it out of the pot first) and tear it apart. After these freshly planted clumps have flowered, cut them right back to the soil and be amazed at what happens next. We won't tell you, you'll have to do it. Yes, we're being all Dick Dastardly and your Penelope Pitstop, go on, yell for the Anthill Mob, we dare you.
Between them, replicating the old fruit bed in the back garden and yes we know fruit isn't a herb but give us some slack to have a little fun, we have planted mara de bois strawberries. Again, these strawberries have been taken from runners and we have increased our measly six plants to around twenty. The chives will bring in the bees and they stop to pollinate the strawberries. Then we'll take the strawberries, crack open some Pimms and then use some salad burnet, which tastes like cucumbers! We have it all, you thought this border was just culinary, it's alcoholic too. We are planting some oriental poppies too - again, they are legit and we're not going down the drug cartel route though there are some herbs we have growing in the glasshouse that if ingested in great doses would take you to the supermarket and back. The oriental poppies and the burnet are grown from seed. This means we have no idea what colour the poppies are but what the hell, that's the fun of gardening. That and some close attention watering.
We have left enough space between this small gorgeous hedge of herbs and fruit for them to bed down and swell up. There's more planting to come, more seedlings swelling in the glasshouse and more importantly, annual herbs to sow, to grow and to harvest. That's the beauty of getting into your garden during the evening, you can really change how it looks without splashing every penny at it.