#51 Herb Garden Design PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Mitzi VanSant   
Thursday, 11 February 2010 21:45
A group of plants that have long fascinated me are the herbs. The term herb is derived from herbaceous, which designates any plant that is non-woody. More commonly, an herb is thought of as a plant that is valued for its medicinal qualities, or its flavor or scent. I’ll start this ongoing treatise talking about the design of an herb garden, and then in weeks following, discuss individual plants according to their use (culinary, medicinal, or primarily ornamental) There are too many herbs to describe all in the context of this column, so I will focus on those I have grown myself. However, I will be uploading to my website (in a few weeks) a fairly complete list of those that can be expected to do well in Central and Coastal Texas.

Most herbs are sun lovers. Try to find an area where at least ¾ of the area is in sun for most of the day (5-6 hours).Herbs are usually not heavy feeders, but most require good drainage. A sloped site can offer that drainage, or if your garden is flat and soil is heavy clay, consider raised beds. You should also consider protection from wind; a hedge, wall, or a screen that can support climbing plants will provide a sense of seclusion and help to confine the scent of the aromatic plants. These boundaries may also be helpful in reducing outside noise or screening undesirable views.

If your herb garden is to be primarily a collection of culinary (cooking) herbs, then you may want to locate it close to the house or kitchen. That may also be the case if you want the scent to enter the home. If it is primarily ornamental herbs, you might want to locate it away from the house, and consider it as a retreat from everyday activities.

Next, consider whether you want a formal layout, following geometric patterns, or more informal, in perhaps perennial border style. Remember that you will want to have access to culinary herbs to harvest them. Be sure to include enough pathways to get you close to the plants. If you have chosen one of the more formal layouts, consider stone edged paths of decomposed granite or gravel, which look attractive with that style. Or you may want brick paths in one of the many patterns it affords: running bond, basket weave, herringbone, and others. A formal layout should be oriented either parallel or perpendicular to the house, even if located afar.

If it is a long border, be sure to place some step stones back into the plantings at intervals, so you can both cut and maintain the plants. It would be good to have a path along the back of the border for ease of access, as well. Since that may not be visible, you might be able to save money by simply keeping the ground open and mulching it heavily. If you favor curvilinear beds (over a long, straight border), be sure to keep the curves open. Many homeowners tend to make the bed edge in “squiggles”, which are hard to lay out properly, and even harder to maintain when it’s time to mow the lawn.

Be sure to include a sitting area within the garden, and perhaps set it back into a bed so there is some enclosure around the bench, or chairs. If the garden is partly in shade, that location would be more comfortable in our hot climate. Consider views from that bench, and provide a focal point in the form of a birdbath, sculpture, urn, or perhaps topiary planting across from it.

Finally, when considering the organization of the plants, plan for a sequence of bloom, especially if the flowers are heavily fragrant. Too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. Also take into consideration both flower and foliage color when organizing plants. Then sit back and enjoy a real “garden for the senses”, an herb garden in bloom.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 May 2010 18:57


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