Herbs and Herb Gardens

The Kennels herb garden
High summer at ‘The Kennels’, in the herb garden not long after it was first established.

In my days off since last blogging, and writing the Dobies February e-newsletter, I have been travelling – indulging in one of my passions: herbs. Down to the Goodwood Estate near Chichester, discovering a fascinating little herb garden, and a little of its history. Even in Winter, the magic is there; bare earth, mulched and cosseted, plants sleeping in geometric beds: just a hint of the culinary pleasures to come, once Summer arrives. And then imagine the plucking and snipping, the chefs taking only a few short steps from ‘The Kennels’, across the road and into a sun-kissed walled garden, returning with handfuls of fresh leaves to chop and garnish, releasing their saviour and fragrance in delectable dishes.

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Venturing back into the garden

Spring onions thriving under a cloche

Spring onions thriving under a cloche

Last weekend I finally ventured back into the garden as we had the first dry weekend after the cold weather. It does look quite desolate in parts but there are signs of hope. One or two spring bulbs are beginning to poke out of the soil and, unlike last year, all of our delicate perennials have been safely protected with fleece.

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Ornamental Gardens – thoughts and plans

Sudeley Castle

I guess not many blog readers have a garden the size of Sudeley Castle (where this photo was taken), but visits to ‘stately plots’ provide both inspiration and ideas

As I sit by the fire contemplating this week’s post, the full moon shines through a gap in the wooden shutters, yet I am dreaming of hot summer days and the joy of working in my ornamental garden. The scent of roses, bees and butterflies in our ‘cutting patch’, and a productive potager filled with salads and herbs. For the moment, the vegetable plot is forgotten, or at least pushed to one side as reality surfaces; for I realise I have not yet ordered flower seeds for this year. Our summer ‘annuals’ border is always a visual delight, continually alive with bees; though sadly less honeybees, and so the humble bumble is increasingly important for pollination.

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Potatoes – grow, cook, eat

new potato crop

first of the new potato crop (taken June 2010)

The ubiquitous potato is a staple of most people’s diet, and has been ever since the sea-faring Sir Francis Drake introduced them to our shores in the 1580s – and he did not think much of them as a food!  Yet they are packed with goodness. Although a year-round crop (whether freshly dug or stored), it will however be some months before we will be digging this season’s new potatoes and eating them, plain-boiled or – even more delicious – topped with freshly-chopped parsley and lashings of butter.

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Garden Planning and Crop Rotation

taking notesout in the garden taking stock: new plans and tasks that need attention (the first in my case must be the shed)

January is such a good time to evaluate your garden. What could be better than stepping out with a clipboard, making sketches and notes and even – an aspect that always thrills me – creating a new plot. In my case, this always means reclaiming, for last year I spent more time writing about the different mini-gardens within our acre plot than actually working in them! Experienced gardeners will no doubt have everything under control (though you can’t plan the weather), but if you are new to the ‘keen and dedicated gardening community’ you may appreciate a few tips.

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