Wednesday, 03 July 2013 07:09

A Decorative and Useful Herb Featured

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Gardening Diary 3rd July 2013

We are fortunate to have enough space to be able to cultivate a sizeable area dedicated to herbs. As well as being both welcome in the kitchen and a perfumed delight on warm summer evenings, herbs can be very decorative. Indeed we have lots of rosemary and sage also growing in the mixed beds around the garden just for their attractive flowers and leaves. At present, our herb garden is looking especially colourful. Tall stems of flowering dill emerge from a mass of green marjoram leaves which are in turn surrounded by a border of blue flowering sage.

The biggest floral impact comes, however, from a large patch of chamomile. This plant was introduced to the garden a few years ago, and because I bought from a brocante I've never really known for sure that it was a true chamomile. Following a bit of research I now know that we have German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). The other plant that's also known as chamomile is Chamaemelum nobile or Roman chamomile. The latter, which is sometimes called Russian chamomile or English chamomile, is a ground-covering perennial whereas our German chamomile is an annual that grows to about 40 cm. The confusion probably arises since both plants have daisy-like flowers, and both find similar herbal applications.

Today's mass of flowers would not look about of place in the flower beds, and seems to come from about three good-sized plants. German chamomile freely self-seeds, and indeed some sources consider it to be rather invasive. The aromatic leaves are however easily identified, so it shouldn't be difficult to control. Our self-seeded plants seem to prosper at a spacing of about 80 cm, so in future years I'll be looking to thin out any new clumps that appear.

Chamomile has been used for centuries to make a relaxing tea, that also has a plethora for claims for medicinal efficacy. Now that the flowers are so abundant, I'm going to try snipping them and drying on a mesh screen. The dried flowers are then apparently used to make this “wonder drink” that is supposed to aid both digestion and sleep. I'll report back if I notice a difference.

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