botanical gardens melbourne



I have always wanted a herb garden based on a medieval monastic garden and used to visit the the splendid one at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens every week. It has taken time to establish one here (and the potted bay tree from a little cutting) and it is still undergoing change. 

I didn’t want box surrounding all sides of each bed of herbs as it would have taken up valuable space so I have recently come up with the idea of thick chive borders for the inner sides of each square. Being only planted last autumn they have not yet made their presence felt but when they thicken and flower this spring they will make a ribbon of mauve. We use a lot of chives so this plan should work well.

 Also now I only grow herbs that I use for Mediterranean cooking in the herb garden - common and lemon thyme, garlic chives (mainly for their white flowers in high summer) sage, bay, Italian and English parsley, tarragon, marjoram, winter savoury, chives and the annuals, basil, dill, coriander and chervil. Elsewhere are the potted mints and rhubarb in the shade and sorrel and marigolds planted in the vegetable garden, and of course, rosemary, once in a pot to stop it growing too big but now planted in the vegetable garden precinct in full sun. 

Spring is the time when most herbs are at their best, when they are young and delicate, but I do rely on the stronger flavours of the thymes, savory and marjoram in winter. I love the beauty of borage flowers and leaves and dill flowers so I plant these in spring. If the herb garden was bigger I would certainly include angelica and other medicinal herbs in other brick-pathed squares. We grow sweet basil with the tomatoes in the vegetable garden as it appreciates some shade in summer and the leaves are less tough than those plants grown in the full sun of the herb garden.

I grow sage bushes in the front garden with the old roses as their flowers are quite spectacular when the roses bloom in mid-november. I also have other thymes along the front that spread over the warmed squares of volcanic bluestone that mark our perimeter and also mats of golden marjoram within the garden, a very pretty lime green herb with pink flowers in high summer. Of course lavender, liverwort, society garlic and catnip we have aplenty in different parts of the garden, and a lemon verbena tree, and they are classed as herbs too. 

In all, you could say that I am very keen on growing herbs, mostly because of their association with medieval physic gardens but also because they are aromatic and useful and beautiful and pest free and hardy. In fact, if I had to choose between herbs and roses (may I never have to), I would say herbs.