“Gardening with herbs is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.” – Helen Fox
When designing an herb garden there are many different approaches you can take. Herbs can be planted in a formal garden interspersed with flowers, trees, and shrubs or in theme gardens. You can also just plant a patch outside your kitchen door for cooking purposes. Use whatever works best for you and your particular needs.
For gardeners that like projects or who have been gardening for some time and want a challenge, a formal garden is best. A formal herb garden consists of a series of beds interspersed with walk ways. The beds do not have to be identical, but should be balanced and work together. In the 16th century, gardeners designed “knot” herb gardens in which the plants create intricate, geometric patterns within a square or triangle. When designing a knot garden, choose low-growing, compact plants such as thyme, hyssop, and rosemary. Avoid fast-growing invasive herbs such as those from the mint family. They’ll eventually just take over your garden.
Plant herbs in large clay pots to create the classic look of a French culinary garden. Be sure to use plenty of basil, thyme, marjoram, lavender, summer savory, rosemary, sage and fennel. Herbs can be grown by themselves or in groupings, depending upon your preference. Visit the American Botanical Council for more on culinary gardens.
To keep your garden looking great throughout the growing season, consider interspersing your herbs with flowers, shrubs and other plants. That way, something will always be blooming and your garden will continue to impress, even while other plants have passed their prime.
Finally, consider a theme garden. Themes can include kitchen gardens planted with herbs used in cooking (thyme, sage, basil, tarragon, dill) or herb gardens that focus more on scent, including mint, scented geranium, lemon balm and rosemary. Heck, it’s your herb garden! As long as you’re not entering a competition, you can create any kind of theme you want. All that really matters is that you enjoy it.
Many herbs are used as companion plants in vegetable and flower gardens. Companion planting is based on the belief that certain plants, when grown near each other, are mutually beneficial. For example, basil attracts honeybees, which are needed to pollinate tomatoes. Garlic is known to deter many garden pests and may even contribute to the flowering of some plants. Chives are often grown as a border around rose gardens to prevent black spot. Many herbs (dill, yarrow, rosemary, coriander) will also provide a desirable habitat for beneficial insects — predatory and parasitic insects that help to keep pest populations under control. Read more about companion planting with herbs here.
Note: Adequate sunlight — usually six to eight hours daily — helps herbs produce their essential oils which give herbs their fragrance and their taste.