The last few days of balmy weather have allowed the herb geek within me to surface. I have been out in the garden tidying up and poring over my herb books finding out about my new herbs which include a houseleek and a rock hyssop. I am relying on a miniature comfrey and biting stonecrop to save my garden’s day and take over patches of unused ground.
No-one else in my street shares my enthusiasm for these plants. My son reminds me that our front garden looks different to others. He likes neat rows of bright annuals. So in a token effort to reform I promise to plant some marigolds and asters in a few tubs this Easter.
Now unfortunately for my son, I haven’t really conformed. Some people collect stamps, I collect herbs for a hobby and to find out how tough these herbs really are. If they can survive my lack of attention, then they will do nicely in a school garden.
Barwinnock Herbs (www.barwinnock.com) in Ayrshire is the herb geek’s Garden of Eden. This is a place like no other. Firstly it’s situated on a windy moorland roughly 750ft above sea level. Next, they do mail order and when the plants arrive the rootballs are twice the size of the rest of the plant. They are the toughest plants imaginable. Finally their range of stock is huge. There are tens of different varieties of thyme, lavender, rosemary, etc. from which to choose. There is a herb for every event and occasion, including birthdays!
For schools, all this is good news. At Achnasheen Primary, the garden was regularly vandalised by sheep and deer. Erecting a six-foot high fence was not a financial option so instead we planted herbs, most of which survived the occasional bite and the fierce weather (Achnasheen means ‘field of storms’ in Gaelic). Herbs are generally tough and withstand being chucked in the ground and left to get on with growing without much care. Very few pests seem to enjoy their presence.
Furthermore the uses of herbs throughout time makes for interesting reading. For example, many of our common culinary herbs were brought to Britain by the Romans.That’s all for now, folks…I’m out of here! Tomorrow I will search for my fuggle hop, whose task is to rampage up a dull brown fence and to cover the ground where the dandelions rule. I suspect the dog ate it though.