Tuesday, December 28

Second trawl of the seed catalogues - herbs

We have a couple of herb beds at the plot but also grow herbs in tubs in the garden. This way we can pick some fresh when cooking as well as having a supply to gather from the plot.

I’m really not sure how our herbs will have fared over the past few weeks. Now most of the snow has thawed some have been revealed to be in a very sorry state.
Some such as the rosemary and bay still look very much alive but may be just teasing us into false hope.
Others such as the parsley although still sporting some green are well and truly flattened.
I haven’t given up on any of the perennial herbs just yet as most winters they look as though they are dead only to shoot into life come spring.

Each year though we grow some herbs that we treat as annuals and it was these that I was concentrating on during my second trawl of the seed catalogues.

We haven’t had luck growing basil in the ground and so I sow this successionally in terracotta pots which are kept in our garden greenhouse. Last year as well as the green leaved variety – I also grew some dark purplish leaved varieties. This year I have ordered Purple Basil and Sweet Basil. I grew a purple leaved variety with a greenish tinge to the edge of the leaves last year but it was a free packet of seed from somewhere and I can't find this variety in any catalogues.

I love the taste of coriander (cilantro) but it so quickly bolts and so my attention was drawn to the description of a variety called Leisure which is supposed to have been bred to produce a lot of leaf and bolt much slower so I’ll give that a try.

I’ve also ordered some Greek oregano and I was also going to try Sweet Cicely which is a perennial and supposed to be a natural sweetener. The seed sounds as if they are extremely challenging to germinate so, as I only really want one plant, I’ll try to find it as a small plant.

We sow parsley seeds each year, treating it as a biennial – we grow both flat leaved and curled parsley. Parsley is always useful – the flat leaved is supposed to have a stronger taste and better to use in cooking whereas the curled parsley lends itself to use as a garnish. We have some of each parsley seed left so will try sowing that and if it isn't viable will buy some new.

Other perennial herbs will be replaced if necessary once I am sure they are dead and gone and no doubt I’ll find some other herbs to tempt me during our rounds of the garden centres and nurseries later but for now those will start my collection.



  1. I am eager to see how the cilantro "leisure" grow. Its really true then that parsley is frost hardy. I wonder since parsley and cilantro belongs to the same family, is cilantro too frost-hardy?

  2. Time will tell Diana. It is definitely frost hardy most years but this one was exceptional. It is still green even in a pot! I know it is a parent plant to lots of other herbs but don't know whether it passes on its winter hardiness.

  3. We also grow perennial herbs in a long container and was surprised to see how well they performed after looking dead and neglected in early Spring. They look good, ashamed to say they are seldom used.

  4. I'm hoping that the same is true again this year Alistair after being down to minus 10 etc. for days on end. Herbs do look good too and are good for the bees. You can always say that they are there if you want to use them. Some of ours are more ornamental than useful in cooking.

  5. I'm very much in favour of herbs - they have very good VSR (Value For Space Rating). We use a lot in cooking. Funnily enough the one I have most problem with is parsley. It never seems to thrive in my dry sandy soil, and when I grow it in pots it seems to be attacked by every pest going - especially mealy aphids and carrot root fly.
    Thyme is my favourite herb - so versatile in cooking, and so decorative when you let it flower.

  6. Good luck with the herbs, I'll definitely be growing more next year as they are great value in cooking.

  7. I grew coriander for the first time this year and found that I hated it so I won't be trying that again. I have herb beds both on the allotment and at home and wouldn't be without them. I am like you for the basil and grow it in pots but everything else is pretty much in the ground. I think my weirdest herb is my pineapple sage...it smells lovely but I haven't used any yet as it was newly bought last year as a seedling so I will be looking into what I can do with it this summer!

  8. Parsley is said to be difficult but surprisingly grows well for us - although slow to germinate - we have rows of both types on the plot and let plot neighbours help themselves. We don't appear to have any parsley pests either - famous last words now they'll all home in on our parsley.

    Nothing like popping up to the greenhouse and collecting some fresh herbs

    Coriander seems to be a bit like Marmite Tanys. We have a pineapple sage too - or did - not sure it will survive the ice even in the cold greenhouse. The first year it had some lovely red flowers - no flowers last year though. Must admit I haven't used any in cooking.

  9. So many herbs in your garden! I hope they all keep growing well despite the snow.
    I didn't know cilantro was that hardy. I always considered it a bit weak, it gives me more hope to keep on growing the seedlings.
    I think your rosemary will do great, they are very hardy, mine even has some flowers now.

  10. I'm not sure cilantro (we call it coriander in England) is hardy Fer. The photo that looks a bit like coriander is flat leaved parsley.

  11. I enjoyed your post and am busy rethinking my herb plot as well. I've never managed to bring rosemary through the winter, and have had no luck with cilantro at all, so am interested to hear how the new variety works out. As sweetening herb I had great success with stevia last summer, and am curious to see if it reappears in the spring. And oregano is one of the most successful herbs I have, providing up to three harvests a year for drying and storing. Slugs don't touch it. Happy New Year!

  12. Up until this year I have had no worries about the rosemary Barbara - the bush in the pot in the garden looks fine at the moment but it is a bit more open and less sheltered on our plot as I've still to see what that is like.

  13. Hiya, I grew purple basil in 2009 and it did really well, and if I recall correctly it over wintered in the greenhouse quite well too, with a late summer sowing. For some reason I didn't get round to sowing any this year (Oooh, I mean LAST year! 2010).

    They looked pretty similar to your pic of the purple basil. I got the seeds from a local shop in Norwich that sells a selection of seeds from Suffolk Herbs (actually based in Essex). Maybe they were the ones you had? I expect they have a website.

    The Organic Gardening catalogue also sells purple basil www.organiccatalogue.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=21_49_136&products_id=781
    Hope that helps! Lou

  14. Thanks Lou, I'll have a look - never tried overwintering basil but maybe it's just as well this year - I'll maybe try it next year though


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