A herb garden is a garden dedicated to the cultivation of cooking, herbal tea, medicinal, aromatic, and/or magical herbs.
During the medieval period, monks and nuns developed specialist medical knowledge and grew the necessary herbs in specialist gardens. Typical plants were rosemary, parsley, sage, marjoram, thyme, mint, rue, angelica, bay, oregano, dill and basil. With the advance of medical and botanical sciences in Renaissance Europe, monastic herb gardens developed into botanical gardens. The section in which herbs were grown became known as a Garden of Simples.
Herb gardens experienced a revival with the work of the British garden historian and horticultural, writer Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (1882–1950).
Herb gardens today
Today, modern herb gardens may be purely functional or can include a blend of functional and ornamental parts. They are usually only used to flavour food in cooking, hereby sometimes also triggering positive medical side-effects. In addition, plants grown within the garden are sometimes also specifically targeted to cure common ilnesses/maladies (eg colds, headaches, anxiety, ...). Especially due to the increase in popularity of alternative medicine, this usage is heavily increasing. Making a medicinal garden however, requires a great number of plants, for each malady one. Finally, herbs grown in herb gardens are also sometimes used to make herbal teas.
Herb gardens may be created which are either rectangular (intermittent and non-intermittent) or circular. The whole (or parts of the design) may also include raised beds or boxes. Also, ornamental plants can be used to make a small hedge to mark the separation between pathway and herb patch. This can be done trough such plants as ligustrum, buxus sempervirens, or even strong herbs as rose hip, ... Usually, the herb garden is constructed so that easy maintenance (e.g. weeding) can be performed.
This generally means that (besides putting in place barriers as plants, stones, ...), certain dimensions are respected. For instance the planting plots within the (rectangular) herb patch are usually no wider than 1m-1,5m, so that all of the patch can be reached from the pathway (for weeding). When an intermittent rectangular pattern is used, pathways are laid (of e.g. 80cm) every 2m (so that the rectangles are 1m by 2m followed by 80cm of pathway). When grass pathways are employed, the path's size is usually set to the lawnmower (e.g. 80cm-1m). When pathways are made from gravel, this is of course not required.
Popular culinary herbs in temperate climates are to a large extent still the same as in the medieval period, aldough some certain new plants have joined them. These include eg borage, horseradish, tarragon, chervil, ...
Popular medicinal herbs in temperate climates are:
- echinacea purpurea, salix alba, ginseng and siberian ginseng (for cold/headaches and increasing resistance)
- valerian, californian poppy, ... (against anxiety)
- fever few (against headaches)
- yarrow, ... (against cuts and bruizes)
- Lemon verbena
- Rose hip
- Hibiscus sabdariffa (to make karkade)
- Stevia (for sweetening)