[Infographic] How to create your urban garden?
Herbs are among us!
Did you know their use is an ancient tradition of European gardening? Benedictine monks used to grow them for medical and phytotherapic purposes. A good example is Swedish bitters, the renowned herbs-based cure-all tonic popularised by Maria Treben. Herbs are used not only in infusions, perfume diffusers, phytotherapy and cosmetology, or in cooking when it comes to seasoning food: herbs are a part and parcel of European green areas and of our habits.
As they can be used in a variety of ways, it comes by itself herbs are grown both in gardens and in vases. It’s been easy to move them from market gardens to yards, as they are seen as a whole nowadays. In fact, the structures, the shapes and the colours of vegetables and edible herbs are highly considered for decorative purposes as well. Flowers are having their revenge, too!
Other than being beautiful, several flowers – such as roses, geraniums and jasmine – can also be eaten and used in food decoration and preparation. Perennials, flowers, vegetables and herbs can not only coexist in the same space and being employed for domestic purposes, but also being used to uniquely decorate our gardens.
Herbs are the best choice for a low-maintenance garden. Bushy, luxuriant and resistant, the memory of their fragrance and aroma is a long-lasting one. Most of the people think these plants only grow in warm and Mediterranean climates, but if only we’d travel across Europe and got to extreme North we’d find out there are several resistant herbs northerners know and cherish.
In fact, the trend of combining herbs with ornamental plants comes from England, the origins of the innovative concept of botanical gardens lie in Holland, and the idea of using “local weeds” as decorative plants is a Scandinavian one. So, from North to South, traditions and trends are welcomed and implemented. Herbs, other than being low-maintenance, don’t need a lot of water. There’s no rule when it comes to positioning, as herbs endure and grow both in full sun and in the shade.
Southern Europe’s iconic herb is rosemary, an evergreen shrub which is extensively used in Mediterranean cuisine. It spontaneously grows in the majority of Greece and on the coastlines of Southern Italy, France and Spain. It can be found at up to 1000 meters above sea level, as it endures frigid winters, snow and brief frosts. It prefers draining, sandy, pebbly and non-stagnant terrains. It is commonly used as an ornamental plant in public and private gardens.
In Southern France’s cuisine, rosemary comes with thyme, basil and oregano – the so-called Herbes de Provence. Widespread all over the Mediterranean area, this mix of herbs is added to basically everything, both fresh and dried, while cooking and after, the same way a Northerner would do with pepper.
As rosemary, oregano belongs to Lamiaceae family, and likewise it is a perennial and spontaneous plant widespread all over Mediterranean area. It grows on all terrains, to the sole condition they are properly drained, and it endures droughts and intense cold. If properly framed in flowerbeds and borders, oregano can get to up 80 cm in height. It perfectly fits in “rocky” and sunny gardens. Its white and mauve flowers embellish, alongside its intense perfume, both botanic gardens and home yards. Provence evokes the image of immense and suggestive fields of lavender. Intensely smelling and of a distinctive lilac and purple colour, lavender plants blends in the fields with spikes and red poppies, giving a surreal sight which has inspired a number of plant designers in the planning of new gardens.
Lavender is appreciated in Germany and Austria as well. It can get up to 2 meters in height, and its high stems brushed by the wind give an extremely relaxing effect. Kastellaun, a small village in South-western Germany, hosts a round labyrinth entirely made out of this herb. Dried lavender flowers are used to scent closets, drawers and rooms, to fill pillows and in the kitchen to embellish and perfume puddings and pies. In the less mild climates of Central Europe, lavender needs absolute exposure to the sun and moderate watering.
On the other hand, chives endures cold weather well. A bulbous and perennial plant, it’s a bushy plant which never exceeds 25 cm in height and it needs to be periodically trimmed as it tends to expand in width. Its leaves are tubular, hollow and widely used in cooking. They dry and fall in winter, but they grow back luxuriantly as soon as spring hits back with no need for special attentions. Its flowers, big and pink, are beautiful and they are as good as purely ornamental ones.
Gardens of Northern Europe take us back to legends and folk traditions. In fact, they attribute magic powers to natural elements. This is especially true for elder, an evergreen plant considered to be a protector of the household in Denmark. The magic flute is told to be made out of its wood, and Swedish women used to kiss this tree to ensure themselves healthy pregnancies. Its shrub-like appearance is suitable for embellishing parks and yards. Its blackberries are thought to have been the very first food of primitive men, prior to the time they started to grow cereals. Its numerous white little flowers, which are strongly scented, are used in phytotherapy and to prepare liqueurs and syrups. Elder is a rural plant, so it doesn’t need any special kind of maintenance and it endures cold and freezing climates. It only needs full sun exposure, at least for a couple of hours a day.
Another shrub-like plant which greatly endures cold the Northerns cherish is bay, the perfect choice for growing hedges.
In Norway and in Finland its leaves are employed in cooking to such an extent they are present in basically every dish: in reindeer sausages, in beef stew and in stews in general.
The herb Swedish love the most and that is widely spread in Denmark and Germany as well is dill. An annual plant, its taste reminds of fennel and anise and it is used in cooking to season fish, eggs, and potatoes, and it’s a must in the preparation of the Scandinavian salmon. It gives a touch of magic to yards and flowerbeds, and its small yellow umbels give a nice springy colour hue.
Di Eleonora De Paolis Foglietta
Eleonora De Paolis Foglietta is a contributor from international network Gushmag. Passionate about nature, gardening and art, she is founder of the Blueeco project. Her favourite quote is “the beauty will save the world”.
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