Herbs really bring a dish to life when you are cooking. I feel the same way about adding herbs to my jam jar posies or bouquets. The texture and scent they add to a bunch of flowers really lifts them.
I thought of writing something about herbs this week after picking up a little book to read called ‘How to grow herbs’ by Ian Thomas. It was a fascinating read not only about how to grow herbs but also on their many uses through time.
Mint and lemon balm
Two of my favourite herbs I used last year in jam jar posies were apple mint and lemon balm.
Lemon balm is often used in salads and stuffings. I have read historically that it has been used to make a tea to help depression and anxiety or used to help indigestion. It has also been said to aid a good nights sleep and been used in essential oils. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and is thought to symbolise ‘good cheer’.
Mint is also widely used in cooking and is thought to aid digestion and nausea. It is thought to symbolise ‘warmth of feeling’.
I love the scent of mint and lemon balm. I do find they need conditioning well if they are going to last in arrangements. This involves cutting them when it is cool and then giving them a long drink overnight. These herbs can spread rapidly so I have contained them by growing them in pots. I was constantly snipping them for my jam jars so I never did end up getting the stem length for bouquets!
Best known to us for adding flavour to roast lamb, rosemary has a long history of varied uses. It was worn as a bridal wreath dipped in scented water in the Middle Ages at weddings and became a symbol of ‘love’. It was also well known as a symbol of ‘remembrance’ and was once thought to strengthen memory. It was even said to be burnt to purify the air at the time of the plague to help ward off infection.
Last year I planted a couple of ‘Miss Jessops Upright’ rosemary bushes and inherited a good sized mature plant in a pot. I found it to be fairly slow growing but I am hoping it will become more established in the garden this year. It likes a sheltered spot and in windy Scotland the protection of a wall can be helpful.
I like to use rosemary in buttonholes for weddings. It provides scent, texture and a strong background for more delicate flowers at the front. Most importantly to me rosemary is a symbol of ‘remberance’ and there is often someone special on your wedding day you would like to remember.
The marjoram I grow in the garden comes into flower towards the end of our summer. I use it in bouquets and jam jars as it has a good stem length. It is thought to symbolise ‘wedded bliss’ and like rosemary was worn as a wreath by brides in the Middle Ages.
Lavender has many well known uses in products such as soaps, essential oils, cooking and as an aid to sleep. I use it for scent and texture in bouquets, jam jars and buttonholes and I also dry it to add to my real petal confetti. Again it is good for weddings as it is said to be a sign of ‘luck and devotion’.
Last year I planted some new lavender with mixed success. The plants I put in the flower patch thrived. However I lost some in the border where there is wet clay soil. Lavender does not like its roots sitting in water and in hindsight I should never have planted it there!
This year I am going to add to my lavender collection with some new varieties such as ‘Arctic Snow’ and I will find areas of the garden with well drained soil to plant them in.
I grow achillea or yarrow in the flower patch to use in jam jars and bouquets. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love’. Legend says it was used by Achilles to treat the wounds of his soldiers and that is why it got its name. It does like to spread quickly and sends out roots which can start to take over if you are not careful. I am going to give mine another growing season and then lift and divide it next spring to rejuvenate it and control the spread!
Dill is a herb we use to season fish but it also produces lovely yellow/green flowers later on in summer to use in bouquets. I have grown taller varieties which I have found need good staking to protect them from our winds. The Greeks saw dill as a symbol of ‘wealth’ and the Romans thought it brought ‘good fortune’. It is also widely used medicinally.
Bronze fennel is said to symbolise ‘flattery’ and being ‘worthy of praise’. It is widely used in cooking in many countries. After sewing it from seed last year I now have a good established clump in the garden. It is used in cooking and in medicine but I use the flowers at the end of the summer in my arrangements. They have yellow flowers with a distinctive aniseed scent. The foliage is also lovely in jam jar posies but needs conditioning well and I am not sure it would stand up to being out of water in a bouquet.
I planted this fragrant evergreen shrub in the garden last year and hope to use it in my buttonholes. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love, fertility and fidelity’.
Nepta catmint is a shrub I came across last year which has beautiful purple flowers. It is also a plant very much loved by cats who will role around in it. Luckily we don’t own a cat but I will need to keep an eye out for any neighbourhood visitors! I planted a couple of plants in the garden last summer. Some started to establish themselves and I used them in the last few bouquets of the season. Others did not do so well. Determined to have lots more in the flower patch I have been growing new plants from seed. Some I am overwintering just now which I sewed in the autumn and others are just starting to germinate. I will grow them on and plant them out in milder weather.
I love the bright blue flowers of borage which I used in bouquets last year. It is known to self seed so I am hoping I will find lots of it popping up across the garden. It can be used in cooking, herbal medicine and symbolises ‘courage’.
Bay symbolises ‘glory’, however there is not much glory in my wee bay tree plants. I planted them last spring and although they are still alive after over wintering, over the twelve months they just do not seem to have grown. I will watch them this year in the hope they get a little taller and I can use them with my flowers. If not they will be good for cooking with!
Basil and Thyme
These are two herbs very common in cooking which I would like to grow this year to arrange with my flowers. Thyme is meant to symbolise ‘strength and courage’ whilst basil symbolises ‘good wishes’.
I grew feverfew from seed last year and got lots of healthy plants but none of the daisy like flowers. They have survived the winter well so I am hoping I will get some flowers this season. Feverfew has been used in the past to help headaches and arthritis. It is said to symbolise ‘healing and protection’.
I hope you have enjoyed finding out about the herbs I use to arrange with my flowers. This has definitely not been an exhaustive list and there are many others you can try. Have you ever used them in arrangements? If you have which ones do you like?
As a self confessed plantaholic I cannot resist adding to my stock in the garden and trying new varieties. One place I must visit in the spring is the Secret Herb Garden at Damhead near Edinburgh. I have heard they are an excellent place to source herbs and make very good cakes too!