This year what I call the “gap time” is occurring this week. Sometimes it happens in the later parts of May. It’s that period after all the spring bulbs put on their show, the next big production by perennials is in the works, and the annuals are not yet big enough to hit the high notes. Some people fill the gap with peonies, columbines and bearded irises. I have a few of each, but not enough to make a show. I like each of those, but their flowers are so fleeting that I can’t make myself give them much space. So my “Six on Saturday” for this week are six herbs that help fill the gap visually. In my view they last a bit longer than the aforementioned perennials, but even if they didn’t they have a usefulness that makes them valued members of the cast. 1) shown above, is chamomile which fills much of the potager’s west interior border. The abundant seedlings grow anywhere, filling in around the rhubarb and roses, but are easily edited out of paths and away from any plants that dislike crowding. I should harvest more of the flowers for tea, but the little white daisies are so dainty and pretty that I let many of them decorate the potager.
2) Thyme is in full bloom right now, offering not only beauty but a bounty for all the bees that visit. Seven different types of bees were working these blooms yesterday. This particular variety is my favorite, “Lemon Mist” which I love for teas and for cooking. It’s blooms are a soft lilac, but thymes come in many bloom colors from pure white through pinks, purples, and into (ugh!) red. And in these viral times, everyone should be growing thyme for its anti-viral properties.
3) Valerian is another favorite. So fragrant and willing to grow in unlikely spaces. These popped up at the shadier in the morning, full sun in the afternoon corner of the Lady Cottage. It is a rampant self-seeder, but pulls and moves fairly easy so I let it go within reason. Again, a good plant for pollinators, and I love to sit on the bench and enjoy the sweet scent. It’s the root that is beneficial for sleep (and aren’t many of us having a bit of trouble sleeping these troubled days?) but the root MUST be DRIED before use. An easy perennial growing 4-5′ in height.
4) Alliums. I’ve planted lots of the expensive bulbs for showy alliums and they always rot over the winter, or freeze. So, I settle for these charming white-flowered chives which come on just as the normal purple-flowered chives are finishing, and help fill my gap. Like their normal cousins, they are self-seeders if not deadheaded, and have a mild garlic flavor rather than onion. Very hardy and easy. 8″
5) Foxglove “Polka Dot Pippa” is a reliable perennial rather than a biennial. Rarely self-seeds but returns year after year. The Polka Dot series has three colors, with “Polly” (a rosy deep apricot) and “Petra” (pink speckled with a cream throat) in addition to my “Pippa” ( soft apricot with a soft gold throat) which I thinks looks grand with my brick. Unfortunately, the company from whom I originally got seed 7 or 8 years ago no longer lists “Pippa.” Digitalis is not an herb for beginners to experiment with medicinally, for the difference between a safe dose and a fatal one is often minute and varies from person to person. However, it is too beautiful a plant not to grow in my garden.
6) Nigella or “Love In A Mist” is welcome in my potager interior border as well. It’s seeds have long been used as a seasoning, but I’d grow it even without any usefulness. Pretty flowers (blue in my potager, white in the Cutting Garden, but also available in “mulberry” which is various shades of rose/pink) followed by purple-streaked pods that dry for fall bouquets. An annual that self-seeds easily, it grows happily in sun or light shade.
That’s my “SOS” for this week. If you’d like to see other takes on this theme, hop over to The Propagator, who hosts this meme.