Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Kitchen Herb Pot

The front bed of my garden has gone wild. Once devoted to herbs, it has been overtaken by the decidedly tasteless wild marjoram, rose yarrow and that grass-that-will-not-be-named. Add to those a curry plant that is looking sickly, a rosemary that is easily 4 feet in diameter and a lavender that resembles a coast cypress and you have a renovation that is daunting.

Faced with a project that could be tackled only on weekends, and only in captured moments between preparing vegetable beds, transplanting and seeding, I found myself coveting a culinary herb pot.

And why not, I asked myself. This would be a simple solution, satisfying need for fresh herbs through the summer and allowing me to proceed with the herb bed renovation at a practical pace. With many of my kitchen herbs in a convenient pot, I could plant a few of the more esoteric or magical herbs and find spots for the perennials I seeded this winter with such reckless abandon (all germinated and accounted for, thank you very much)!

And so it came to pass.

A project like this is a gardener’s dream. I put it together in less than a couple of hours (not counting the leisurely pleasure of herb selection at the local nursery).

If you are looking for a thoroughly gratifying garden project, here follows my recipe for kitchen herb pot. Like all good recipes, it can be modified to suit individual tastes.

1 half whiskey barrel
Garden Bloome Potting Mix
Many herbs of your choice

I selected the following for planting around the edge of the pot (from the top clockwise):
Italian oregano
Caraway thyme
Lime thyme
Garlic chives
Silver thyme
Oregano thyme
Culinary thyme
Lemon thyme

In the center I planted
Tricolor sage
French tarragon
Purple sage
‘Rachel’s Gold’ sage

(In case you are wondering about the conspicuous absence of parsley, chervil and other shade tolerant herbs, well, that is a container story for another day.)

Last night’s dinner marked the official opening of the new kitchen herb pot. I had recently picked a batch of asparagus and had lovely new herbs just a few steps away when, in a bit of serendipity, a recipe for Herbed Asparagus Orecchiette appeared in an email! I snipped sprigs from the lemon, lime, silver and culinary thymes and substituted Italian oregano for marjoram. The dinner experience was a ringing endorsement of the new herb garden annex.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Late bloomer

The daffodils were all pretty much finished when I noticed a pot with three daffodil buds. A friend had given me the bulbs in January and I planted them, not really expecting to see anything from such a late planting.

What a wonderful treat. I don't know the name but the double blossoms are gorgeous, the colors rich and complex. Thanks W.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Promise Kept (Tulipa)

Tulips encourage strong opinions among some gardeners. There are those who shun the hybridized tulips as garish or, worse, lacking character. Others wax poetic about drifts of bright tall tulips and regard the species tulips as insignificant.

I find myself with one foot planted firmly in each camp.

Big Eartha was a winner, the color a silky rose. Not at all a mundane pink, it contrasted beautifully with the bright reds and purples of the Crusaders blend.

Tulipa bakeri, a species tulip I had never grown, was a total success. It showed up early and stayed late, behavior unbecoming in a dinner guest but so welcome in spring flowers.

This tulip was labeled, rather vaguely, 'Species Tulip'. I believe it is Tulipa tarda.

Henry Mitchell, in The Essential Earthman, speaks to the charms of this particular species:

I used to wonder why anyone would fool with T. tarda... First of all, it sometimes grows to six inches instead of two, but mainly this is a fine example of a modest plant whose virtues are never quite captured in print. I first grew it only to try to comprehend why merchants kept selling it. Now I know. It is one of those plants you never want to be without. It is as exuberant and vigorous as it is small. It costs only a few cents, and looks fine against cobblestones.

I would add only this to Mr. Mitchell's observations. The pods provided an interest of their own long after the flowers had faded and the petals were blown away in an April storm.