The Herb Garden in July

Saturday, July 25, 2015 - by Timothy Fraser

It is now July, and the Herb Garden is laden with aromatic foliage and many of our naughty children are in flower.

Even more so than the Rose Garden, this small enclosed room houses many historic and mythological plants – many predating the oldest of the Old Roses – and some dating back to the days of Ancient Greece and Biblical times.

A great sun lover is Artemisia abrotanum ‘Southernwood’, also known romantically as Lads Love and Old Man – names with a great deal more charm, I think. This herb is thought to get its name from Artemis or Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon. Others believe that it is in honour of Artemisia, botanist and medical researcher and sister of King Mausolus around 353 BC. Lads Love is a delightful plant which exudes the scent of fresh pine. It thrives in full sun and in dry, poor soil – it is best not to subject it to a rich, moist soil particularly in winter.

Shimmering silvery artemisia contrasts with spiny teasels in the herb garden

Make your way round the winding paths of the Herb Garden at this time of year and you will not fail to notice Borago officinalis, Borage. The blue form is growing well here and looking good in the Herb Garden. Next year, I am planning to grow the white form in the White Garden.

The origins of the name, Borage, are somewhat obscure. The French word ‘bourrache’ is derived from the Latin meaning ‘rough hair’ which perfectly describes the texture of the herb’s foliage. The crowning glory of Borage is its pure blue flowers, which so charmed Louis XIV that he had it planted en masse in his gardens at Versailles. The ancient Greeks and Romans were also known to grow this herb – regarding it as both comforting and having the power to impart courage.

Borage in the herb garden - displaying its exquisite blue flowers in the early morning light. It is a lover of poor, stony soil in sun or shade.

Pliny the ancient Greek herbalist reported that “it maketh a man merry and joyfull” and John Gerard, the acclaimed herbalist, was thus to quote of the herb “Ego, Borago. Gaudia semper ago” (I, Borage. Bring alwaies courage). The bright, pure blue borage flowers were floated in the stirrup cups of the Crusaders. American Settlers were known to carry borage seeds on their long adventures, as in 1631, known as Burradge, it has been found in a seed order of one of these pioneers.

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