I have been growing lavender for a few years now. It seems to fit with my gardening principles of most things in the garden having a use. There are very few plants in the garden that can’t be used either medicinally, cosmetically, or aesthetically. I believe in gardens that ‘work for you’, and there is no feeling in the world like getting down on your hands and knees and smelling a new rose, or the first fresh buds of lavender that come into flower.
I try to use all of the herbs and ‘useful’ plants in my daily life. For instance, using lavender heads to scent laundry, roses to make rosewater. Rosemary, sage, lemon balm, mint, thyme, lavender and sweet cicely in the kitchen. This makes gardening important and gives it a sense of being useful as well as pretty.
In the old house i had a large collection of various herbs, which i left to my mother when we moved. I managed to get what i could split and transferred, and now i have the fun task of finding more unusual yet useful herbs. I have been reading a very interesting book by Stephanie Donaldson called ‘The Shaker Garden: Beauty through utility’ which is a fascinating book about the Shakers, their customs, and how it related back to their gardens. Did you know they were the first people to sell seeds in small packets to the hobby consumer? Their beliefs meant that they weren’t permitted to grow anything that was in any way beautiful, or not useful. Although those thoughts are largely outdated now (i don’t think i’ll go to hell for growing a few cosmos because i find them pretty!), we seem to have lost the drive for purpose in our gardens. Let them not only be beautiful, but give something back to you. Grow a lavender hedge and use it’s blooms for lavender bags, grow rosemary or mint for your Jersey Royals, or plant an apple tree.
But also consider the manner in which you garden. Going organic will mean you have a healthy garden, it’ll be healthier for you to work in, and will encourage natural pest control in the form of thrushes, blackbirds, ladybirds, parasitic wasps etc. Weeds are a pain, but they are also an important food source for wildlife, insects, butterflies, moths and beetles, and the animals that feed off those insects. Keeping a ‘fallow’ patch of ground, maybe even as small as 1sq metre, that you can plant native wild flowers on. Small things like this, can make a huge difference to the survival of rare and native beasties. To get more information, you can go to the BBC’s Breathing Space site and find out more there.
In a few years, you’ll be reaping the rewards of your garden tenfold – and after all, isn’t that what a garden is for?
[Orange Hawksweed ‘Hieracium aurantiacum‘ attracts a plethora of butterflies to our garden and is also pretty in the lawn – and no more rampant than the common dandelion (and i think just as pretty)]