Les Herbes

We have a new herb garden.

Ta Daa!!


The last one just wasn’t working, principally because it lay on the other side of the picket fence, in the shade of the two large shrubs. One was a forsythia, not sure about the other.



Time to get the winch out..



Yes, there was a delay between idea and execution. The surrounding trees had come into full leaf!

And not only the trees. The whole area was starting to look pretty overgrown.



Much better.


Eventually the greenhouse will move. The fruit cage too come to that. But for now I want to plant a low hedge to disguise the breeze block base that the greenhouse sits on. My first inclination is lavender. It would look good with the gravel and herbs and give me a Mediterranean feel. But there is reticence gleaned from experience. I have never been successful with lavender in this garden, perhaps it is just too wet. Should I risk it, prune it strictly according to instructions and perhaps add some grit to loosen up the soil? Or just try something else?

The hedge would need to be evergreen, easily maintained at between 50 and 60 cms in height, ideally flowering and fragrant. Any ideas?



Olive tree on the gravel. Latest victim of the secateurs.


The column of unruly vegetation in front of the greenhouse was supposed to come out as well. Then the clematis opened. And then a wren went and built a nest deep within.





2018-04-01T18:58:14+00:00May 27th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Charles Lock May 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    What about a mock orange hedge? It flowers, smells nice and it is evergreen and you could keep it pruned to 50cms. I think they are choisya but you would need to have a look at the types. Mid you if you can grow olives you should be able to grow lavendar, all my numverous relations who live in and around dartmoor grow lavender. Suggest a ton of grit and a bit of abuse…

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      The olive tree has struggled for years so I can’t really claim to growing it! I’ve given it a serious prune this year and put it out in full sun to see if that will fix it. Needless to say, never had any olives. Thanks for the tip on the choisya, I will look it up.

  2. Jacqueline May 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Our garden isn’t very hospitable to lavender and I love it.The trouble with lavender is that it always goes woody and, they often don’t last very long. What about a box hedge ? They are evergreen, look good and only need to be pruned to the height that you want AND are just perfect for a potager. Just a thought !!
    Your new herb garden looks brilliant …….I keep mine in pots by the kitchen door but, they don’t do that well there as it’s a bit shady ….. North facing gardens are a pain !!!! It looks as if you took out a couple of ferns ? Did you replant them ?

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      I have the same problem with lavender, even when I think I’ve pruned it properly. Box was Mike’s suggestion too. I put half a dozen of the best ferns down by the river, but generally I’ve given up replanting them because there are just so many already!

  3. Mark and Gaz May 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    What about kitchen bay and/or sage as the hedging, as they’re herbs themselves too? We love the setting of your garden Jessica!!

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      That’s a good thought. Would the sage stay evergreen? The one I rescued from the other side of the picket fence lost its leaves over winter, but then it didn’t exactly have the best conditions.
      The surrounding trees are lovely but as you can imagine, cast a LOT of shade.

  4. Anna May 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Oh your new herb area looks spendid Jessica. Are those basil plants on the right hand side? I think that the “unruly vegetation” is being put to good use and it will keep for the winter to do list.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna, yes, basil. Basil that is getting the thumbs up from the slugs at the moment.. after I went to all the trouble of growing them from seed too.

  5. Christina May 27, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    If the ground id wet the lavender will always be a problem Jessica. Rosemary would cope slightly better but what about Sarcococca. Lovely frangrance in winter.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      So much depends on the weather with this bed. It gets quite a lot of sun, so in some years it could be dry enough in others not. I wish our climate was more predictable! I love Sarcococca, but it might need more shade.

  6. Jennifer May 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Your garden is so beautiful. I love raised beds. I have one in my backyard and it’s so easy to tend at the raised height. I would say that you need dry for lavender. I’m not an expert but I know that it grows very well here where I live, in the desert, with minimal watering. I love having it, though; it’s pretty and it smells great, especially when we do get some rain.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      I wish I could grow lavender successfully, I also love the smell of it and if I had enough would try drying it too. Don’t we always want what we cannot have!

  7. wherefivevalleysmeet May 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    I find that any small compact shrub can be made into a small hedge – we have an Escallonia one, and another in Skimmia. Any of the Berberis species can work as well. As Christina mentioned, what about Rosemary, my namesake. You can get one with a lovely deep blue flower and it would compliment the other herbs.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Berberis definitely works.. we inherited some really out of control hedges and I chopped them down really low, about 60cms actually in places. I was amazed when they started to shoot from the old wood and this year I even have flowers.

  8. Joanne May 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Good luck with coming up with a shrub to hide your wall. Is it hard to get to for maintenance purposes?

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      Thankfully this one is easy. The hard bit would be pruning the back.. without breaking the greenhouse glass!

  9. A promising herb garden and it looks as though you can just nip out to pick something in the middle of cooking without getting dirty feet, which is always a bonus. I tried to grow lavender but it just doesn’t like my garden so I’ve finally given up and replaced it with a long sweep of catmint along the path.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      That was exactly the idea Anne, a quick nip out from the kitchen. I usually forget until I look at the recipe. I’ve had to pick herbs in the dark and in the rain before now.

  10. Jane and Lance Hattatt May 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Hello Jessica:

    How exciting to have effected all of these improvements, and more planned. Your new herb garden look very attractive and we are certain will be made much good use of for adding to all manner of different dishes.

    We too should advise against lavender which really does best in full sun and on ground which is on the poor side and free draining. Instead you could try Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna [Christmas or sweet box] which is an evergreen, hardy shrub of suckering habit and which has scented white flowers in winter. It makes an ideal low, informal hedge and should not be confused with Buxus sempervirens [box] used for formal hedging.

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      I am not the greatest cook in the world but I do enjoy using herbs. It’s infuriating to spend a pound or so on a large packet of supermarket herbs only to take out a couple of sprigs and throw the rest away.
      Wet winters seem to be bad news for lavender and we’ve certainly been having our fair share of those. I love Sarcococca. The bed in front of the greenhouse is quite a sunny spot but, having just looked it up, var. digyna can apparently cope with that as long as the soil stays moist!

  11. 1secondhandrose May 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    What a great job, a brilliant result for all your hard work.
    Thank you for your lovely comments Jessica – I really appreciate them.
    Rose H

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rose, and great to see you back!

  12. Em May 27, 2014 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Those pesky birds. Am commenting from Scotland by the way…..good sinal here! X

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      Those birds get everywhere, I found another robin’s nest today too.
      You’ve got better signal there than I have at home… hope you’re having a great time.
      P.S. It’s been raining here.. a lot!

  13. sustainablemum May 27, 2014 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    It’s looking great, it is so pleasing when you can look at old photos and chart your progress. I always forget to take ‘before’ photos!

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      The blog is a great tool for seeing how far you’ve come. Motivational too, sometimes I don’t realise how much we have actually done until I look back.

  14. Sarah May 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Your new herb garden looks good. i hope it is more successful than the last location. The suggestion of a Rosemary hedge sounds good. It is easy to keep in check too. Your wildlife are always there to stop your progess! Sarah x

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you’ve found Rosemary easy to control. I’ve planted one in the new herb garden and was shocked to read it can reach 5 feet tall!

  15. snowbird May 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    How lovely to be powering through the jobs, it’s all coming along beautifully. How about a Christmas box hedge, that could look quite pretty.
    What a lovely place for a wren to nest, they are fab little birds.xxx

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      It is a lovely place for a wren to nest but I’ve a problem now with the woodpeckers. They are always at the feeders because they’ve got chicks themselves. But they’ve already had a go at a Great Tit’s nest and I’m worried they’ll hear the baby wrens.. who have just started chirping.

  16. Marian May 27, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    A dream herb garden! Love the before and after pictures. Much better indeed. Think I’ll ask some of our neighbours to cut down their trees and shrubs so we have more sun in the garden 😉 Wonderful Clematis as well!

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      My main problem with shade has not gone away because it comes from the huge trees around the garden, but I have made small inroads. In an ideal world I’d have more trees down too. We get so little sun in Northern Europe I want to make the most of it that we can.

  17. Amy at love made my home May 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Your new herb garden looks lovely and as though it will produce lots of lovely herbs for you. Our lavender hedge grows at least 50% of the time in deep shade, in the damp, gets nothing but a trim after flowering and has been going now for the best part of 10 years. It is planted in English varieties, not the French lavender with the little ears on top. I think that you should give the lavender another go! xx

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      It’s funny isn’t it, how it likes some gardens and some not. As an established hedge it will be more tolerant of conditions that are not quite right. Getting the plants going in the first place is proving to be the tricky bit for me!

      • Amy at love made my home June 2, 2014 at 7:57 pm - Reply

        We planted ours from nothing a few plants at a time – with some more needing to be added at the end sometime when we get to it! It has taken 10 years to get to its current size though! Good luck with it Jessica. xx

        • Jessica June 2, 2014 at 11:56 pm - Reply

          It’s fun to collect plants like that.. I can see more getting added here too. Perhaps it needs me to get more proficient in the kitchen first though.. 🙁

  18. Jayne Hill May 27, 2014 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    Your herbs will love you for getting rid of the shade-casting shrubs.

    Lavender? Forget it – save yourself four years of wasted effort – one year to set it all up, second year to watch it grow, third year to watch it rot and fourth year to dig it out and start again.

    Evergreen, scent and 60cms … you don’t want much (giggle). How about Lonicera nitida which will happily pretend to be box without getting the dreaded blight, cope with soil that’s damp in winter (I have a couple that are growing very well in our wet soil) and not scratch your knees when you bend over it to pick the herbs. Not sure about Sarcococca – I have a couple that are really struggling and I wonder if it’s the wet?

    • Jessica May 27, 2014 at 11:40 pm - Reply

      So far I’m not getting past one winter, let alone four years!
      I know, it’s not the most populous category of plants on the planet. But given that it’s a prime spot, where a utilitarian greenhouse such as this should not be, it would be nice if the hedge ‘did’ something for at least one season. No good at all though if all it does is turn up its roots and die.

      • Jayne Hill May 30, 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

        If you want it to ‘do’ something, what about training a fruiting plant as a low cordon? Personally I can’t stand the craze for torturing apples into ‘step-over’ forms but you already know I am weird and don’t like what everyone else knows is perfectly acceptable!

        Fruit wouldn’t be evergreen but you’d have structure all year, blossom in spring and food in autumn?

        • Jessica May 30, 2014 at 11:38 pm - Reply

          Now then, you may have something there… food for thought 🙂

  19. Linda May 28, 2014 at 1:12 am - Reply

    What did you do with those huge ferns?
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 9:12 am - Reply

      The best ones got relocated into the woodland. Others were more difficult to extract, especially if they are growing up through concrete or in walls. But hey ho, ferns are not something we are short of. The common ones anyway.

  20. nataliescarberry May 28, 2014 at 3:14 am - Reply

    What a splendid new herb garden it is! I so love these little views of your property. I pray you have a great week, Jessica. Hugs, Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Thanks Natalie, you too.

  21. Sigrun May 28, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Great! But the greenhouse at an other place? A lot of work, you are so full of entusiasm.


    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Sometimes the enthusiasm is there but the body and the wallet are less willing. Which is why moving the greenhouse is a longer term job!

  22. elaine May 28, 2014 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Oh what an improvement – well done. I would suggest a rosemary hedge – fragrant, flowers eventually and useful – I have one intermingled with lavender.

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 9:19 am - Reply

      That sounds lovely Elaine!

  23. frayed at the edge May 28, 2014 at 8:33 am - Reply

    I hope you do give lavender another try, as it is a wonderful plant to have in the garden. But what about box hedge – it looks good kept trimmed to be low and thick.

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 9:22 am - Reply

      I was looking at my lavender on my first tour of inspection this morning. It is sending out new shoots and even flowers but is very thin and woody at the bottom. Probably not the best option for disguising something else. It’s such a shame, I love lavender when it’s growing well. Perhaps I will try it in a pot under the eves somewhere.

  24. countrysidetales May 28, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Liking the new ‘erb garden 🙂

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 6:40 pm - Reply


  25. Jo May 28, 2014 at 10:52 am - Reply

    The new herb bed looks lovely. I think a lavender hedge would be perfect but it would be such a shame if you got it all planted up and then it wasn’t happy.

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      I also priced it up. The cheapest I could get away with for decent sized plants was 50 quid. Expensive potential mistake.

  26. Cathy May 28, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Evergreen, easily maintained at between 50 and 60 cms in height, ideally flowering and fragrant – not asking much, are you?! After this winter when i have particularly noticed our sarcococca I agree that would be a good contender, with its glossy green leaves all year round. Nice to have space for a dedicated herb border too – I am using herbs more these days so should really grow my own if I can squeeze them in somewhere amongst other things!

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      The removal of the shrubs generated the space. It also gives me more light for the original vegetable raised bed so it’s good news all round.
      Could you put them in a big trough on the terrace outside the sitooterie?

  27. Sol May 28, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I cant grow parsley. It just wont grow!

    now am going to be a little out there and a few certain ones you don’t want to plant as the spread like mad and they will come up in your lawn. But here goes for my idea. what about a living wall of succulents. you could propagate then your self. and then I saw something fantastic the other day and it hits the spot for here. what about using plastic bottles?


    I love this idea

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Very clever idea! Best get drinking..
      I am on to the succulent wall, see next post.
      Parsley? It grows but never seeds. I can never germinate seeds from a packet either. Most frustrating.

  28. jacktowers4 May 28, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

    I was going to suggest Lavender, but reading your comments perhaps it wouldn’t work unless you had plenty of grit mixed in the soil. Rosemary might work though? It’s a bit more robust than Lavender and you can keep it pruned to the height you want.

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      I was thinking of risking it with the grit but Rosemary does sound a safer option.

  29. Chloris May 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Lovely new herb garden. Basil is always such a delicacy for slugs. They are very keen on dill too, mine has all been eaten. I think a Rosemary hedge is the way forward. It wouldn’ t need to cost you anything either, it is so easy from cuttings.

    • Jessica May 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Oh dear. Sounds like I’ve laid out a mollusc banquet. There is dill in there too..

  30. Suzanne May 28, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    It’s looking very nice! I was thinking about your hedge. Now is 60 cm about 3′? Sorry I am not up on metric measurements.
    If so perhaps a daphne? I know it’s a bit between a hedge and a perennial. Not too woody, but they are mostly evergreen in your climate no?
    They are fragrant? If your looking for taller, maybe syringa microphylla, the little leaf lilac? Easy to keep in shape, blooms a good while and sometimes blooms twice. I had heard there’s a dwarf viburnum, but I have not seen it in the trade here. It maybe just wishful thinking though.

    • Jessica May 29, 2014 at 9:51 am - Reply

      It’s just under 2′.
      I have Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ which is a stunner, very fragrant and evergreen here. I don’t know how it would respond to pruning but, mine at least, is very slow growing. We’ll hopefully have moved the greenhouse by then and perhaps I could relocate them elsewhere. Another good thought, thank you Suzanne.

  31. knitsofacto May 29, 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    I can only echo those recommending rosemary, our little rosemary hedge seems to survive everything, even the mister’s botched pruning attempts!

    • Jessica May 29, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      They do seem quite robust plants don’t they. Thanks Annie.

  32. wherethejourneytakesme May 29, 2014 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica – your garden is looking good – we have the same kind of concrete paths as you – must be of the same era! Escallonia makes a good flowering hedge and is fairly hardy and evergreen if you buy the right variety and you can clip it tight like privet or box. Lavender likes drier conditions try growing it in an old earthenware / terracotta bottomless pipe so the roots can eventually grow into the ground but the terracotta heats up well in the summer and keeps the dryness they like if you get my gist. Always trim back after flowering only as far as any green growth to stop it going leggy. It is one of those shrubs that you cannot prune back into old wood as it fails to regrow. Rosemary can be grown in this way – ours is in a 6″ diameter pipe and is huge – if I remember I will post a picture of it on my blog so you can see.

    • Jessica May 30, 2014 at 11:33 pm - Reply

      It’s more like concrete slabs here. Our predecessor even left us his cement mixer, lest we might want to add more. They will do for now. I like your idea with the terracotta pipes, inspired!

      • wherethejourneytakesme June 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

        Oh the joys of concrete – we keep uncovering a few unidentifyable concrete slabs – I know just what you mean! We have a slab we call the slipway – though too far from the beach to launch a boat and a 30 foot long 4 foot high solid concrete wall which runs down the side of part of the stream bank supposedly to prevent a flood – being restricted the water has just found a new route …underneath it!!

        • Jessica June 1, 2014 at 10:34 pm - Reply

          The slipway is an ideal name for the one that runs down the side of our lawn! It used to go to the cess pit, but now that’s filled in it goes nowhere.

  33. Ali May 30, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I was thinking rosemary too – but get a dwarf version. It loves it even in my too damp for lavender patch, but mine always grows like a rocket. It is currently thwarting the postman’s efforts to reach my front door without getting wet.

    • Jessica May 30, 2014 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      That’s a good tip Ali, thank you. The variety I currently have in the herb bed is a five footer.. I was wondering how I was ever going to control it.

  34. casa mariposa May 31, 2014 at 3:11 am - Reply

    I have no idea what to recommend. Our rosemary died when we hit -2F this winter but I think your climate is milder than ours. Tall daylilies would be nice, too.

    • Jessica May 31, 2014 at 10:10 am - Reply

      14F (-10C) is the lowest I’ve seen it go here, but the weather is so unpredictable these days who knows! If the rosemary died as a result of low temperature then much of my garden would go with it.

  35. Helene May 31, 2014 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Your new herb garden looks great, well done!
    As for a hedge, you can’t get any better than Sarcococca confusa, it has the most incredibly scented flowers – although it flowers in the winter and early spring, but even so, when there aren’t much else around to sniff at, it is sending out the most incredible scent. And the rest of the year it is a bush with dark green glossy leaves. A row in front of the greenhouse would be great. You can prune it as you want if they get too tall, but they grow quite slowly.

    • Jessica May 31, 2014 at 10:15 am - Reply

      I am really set on the idea of a Sarcococca hedge now. I’m a bit concerned that it would fry in the very sunny spot in front of the greenhouse, with the glass behind, but I can think of all sorts of places around the garden they could go. I hope they strike well as cuttings!

  36. islandthreads May 31, 2014 at 5:03 am - Reply

    Jessica it’s nice to see a longer view, a bit more of your garden and things in context with each other, hmm lavender and the wet look ……..
    I can’t suggest anything but from experience I would go for what with thrive in you garden climate rather than what you would like, I do not mean that unkindly, I would love delphiniums but lupin thrive and delphiniums die, so I have lupin, I’m slightly amused you are taking out established shrubs and I am desperately trying to get almost anything to become established, Frances

    • Jessica May 31, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

      I think you’re right about the lavender Frances, and going with what will work.
      I don’t take out shrubs, or trees, lightly. Apart from anything else it’s hard work!! But this garden has become so overgrown and sometimes there’s little choice. Where they were they were shading the veggie plot behind and I was finding it difficult to get things to grow.
      The one thing I do have in my favour is that it is very sheltered here. I don’t have to worry too much about wind.

  37. Janet/Plantaliscious June 2, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    That’s an exciting bit of progress Jessica! Love the herb bed, and what a difference removing those shrubs made, hard work but worth it to get the extra sun. As for fragrant and evergreen hedging, sarcocca could make winter trips to the greenhouse much more pleasant, although with good drainage rosemary copes well will Welsh wet. Happy herb picking!

    • Jessica June 3, 2014 at 12:03 am - Reply

      It’s looking like my most immediate problem will be slugs. For some reason I thought they’d leave the herbs alone, but the delicate tender leaves of things like basil and coriander appear too hard to resist. The mollusc population must be exploding this year.

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