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A Long Row to Hoe

(A Gardener's Letters )
by Ken Beattie
by Ken Beattie


Ken Beattie has hosted a number of gardening-related programs for WTN.

Ken is currently working with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and is also the author of an informative gardening book series.

July 2, 2006

Dear Sis,

1pt.gif (86 bytes)I heard that you were planning to build a new herb garden next spring. Please be careful when you are designing the layout this winter. Traditionally, herb gardens tend take on a rather stodgy appearance in my opinion. Parallel lines, neatly clipped hedges, herringbone patterned paving stone and the predictable bird bath or sundial dead centre. Let’s take it a step further and use the herbs as design elements rather than individual specimens all lined up like so many toy soldiers.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Ideas, but more so sensations are what I try to capture during a design session. Question like”how is this area to be used... or.... what activities does the family prefer in this portion of the landscape.” Asking yourself, what might seem as practical questions about usage, will pay off in the end. Scraps of paper with thoughts and suggestions from others, clippings from newspaper articles and of course a source of great magazines is always useful. One of the first items of business to establish is the budget. Yuk, I know it sounds so very practical, but it is important Sis. I am not suggesting that you must stick to it.... but it is a guideline.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Herbs that are grown from seed will provide the best value and an abundance of plants. Should you decide to grow your own herb seedlings, it is best to start with Basil, in my opinion, they always seem to give even the most novice gardener a good reward. So let’s consider Basil as our landscape plant.
Basil prefers a lot of sun and will produce the best plants in this situation. Lower light will produce moderate plants, somewhat stretched and they tend to be more susceptible to insect infestations.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I would design Cinnamon Basil if a walkway was one that was used in the evening or after dusk. The heady scent as you brush by is almost sensual on these stately 24 inch tall plants. One doesn’t have to be satisfied with only one variety along the walkway, frankly it looks a bit tedious. Mix in some of the lovely dark purple leafed Basil, either Purple Delight which grows about 12 inches tall and the smaller leafed Globe Basil. A wonderful complement to Basil is Fennel in its many forms. The scent from Fennel is licorice-like with a hint of celery, at least to my nose. The darker foliaged variety is particularly pleasant with darker leafed Basil.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)In the backs of borders you may consider planting Lovage for its striking size and stately structure. I love to mix Lovage with liberal numbers of Valerian and Anise Hyssop in the sunniest boarders I have. The bees overtake this part of the garden and you can almost hear them humming “whistle while you work”. These herbs are perennial in Central Canada and be mindful that Hyssop is rather.... invasive.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Sunny pockets of Feverfew and Evening Primrose look striking with the deep resonance of the annual Heliotropes or English Lavender. Baby’s Breath and White Evening Primrose are also excellent companions. Deep in the rear of this border, consider planting Summer Savory. The azure blue/purple flowers of the Summer Savory are complimented strongly by Blue African Basil and Siam Queen Basil.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Out of room already, nonsense! If all else fails there are thousands of terra cotta containers just manufactured for the pure enjoyment of herb gardeners like you and me. Enjoy this month of design Sis, I know that you’ll have a wonderful finished product.

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