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by Kathie Hoyer – February 4, 2021

Herb gardening has always been known as the “entry drug” for a garden addiction because herbs are so easy to grow. In addition they provide fragrance, utility, beauty and an open invitation to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Making an herb garden is also a great way to learn how to design an outdoor space that is pleasing and simple to care for. Experimenting with these very forgiving plants can help beginners pinpoint their preferences and hone their skills before moving on to bigger projects. In the meantime, there will always be plentiful harvests for cooking, crafts, healing concoctions and teas (as well as more potent beverages!).

With this in mind, we recently presented another Bowood virtual class: Planning Your Herb Garden. With special consideration for the beginning gardener, Drew provided information and advice on which plants to choose and the basics of starting from seed, transplanting, providing appropriate care (snip often!) and harvesting tips. He also hinted about enticing recipes and projects to come – stay connected for more of his upcoming classes on herbs and herb gardening – one for each of the seasons!

For those of you unable to attend the virtual class, here’s an excerpt from his handout on design to whet your appetite for creating your own herbal space for respite and recreation. If you’d like to know more, don’t hesitate to come in or call for advice – we’re always happy to talk (at length!) about plants, especially herbs.

Herb Garden Design 101
SHAPE: Determines much of the character of your herb garden. The outline or shape of the garden defines its form and can simplify or complicate a design. In general, the human eye tries to simplify what it sees, reducing large masses into familiar shapes. Even when planning a formal garden, replicating geometric shapes will provide structure and purpose to the overall aesthetic.
REPETITION: Repeating form and color unify the herb garden’s aesthetic regardless of plant diversity. The repetition of similar shapes, textures, or colors creates rhythm and purpose.
EDGINGS/ENCLOSURES: Unify and contain the garden. Edging materials include bricks, rocks, slate, or wood and there are endless patterns and angles that can be incorporated to match your garden’s aesthetics. Enclose larger gardens with fences or natural hedges.
ILLUSIONS OF DEPTH & SIZE: Incorporating techniques used in both artistic and interior design within your garden is an easy way to spruce up any garden space. Use color to accentuate size: cool colors recede while warm colors come to the front. Placing larger plants or plants with larger foliage or blooms towards the back of the garden will draw the eye to unexpected corners.
PLANT SPACING: Most herbs in the Midwest grow to mature size relatively quickly so be sure to space them adequately.
GARDEN PATHS: Incorporate garden paths to assure that you can reach every plant within the garden. Don’t forget about steppingstones or walking planks! Standard pathway widths are typically 2 – 3 feet wide. Material choices include brick, mulch, or gravel. Match your materials to the overall feel of your garden’s style to really make it sing.
GARDENS WITH A PURPOSE: Plan your herb garden with a theme or mission in mind. This could include one of the many herb garden palates including Mediterranean, Provencal, or Italian, or a broader purpose/ideology such as medicinal, pollinator, or magical/folk herb gardens.