Sunday, April 12, 2015

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

After such a long cold winter it is so nice to finally have our outdoor life start up again.  Even if it is work.  I spent yesterday filling pots, counting pots, ordering more pots and running out of potting soil.  Today, after run to the store for more soil, and a trip to the farm for some composted horse manure, I began seeding lettuce in the cold frame. Tim commented as we left Home Depot with out respective items, that I am always buying stuff to grow things: soil, seeds, soil ammendments, and Tim is always buying something to kill things: weed killer, traps, poison....  I also cleaned a perennial bed, and rearranged my herb garden.

In a corner along the walkway from the garden shed to the vegetable garden, I have a grouping of large rocks which shelter my "perennial" herb garden.  The rocks hold heat as long as they can and shelter the herbs from the winter weather.  There are many herbs that grow back well from established roots and seed and may be considered perennial in your climate zone.  Most of those are invasive herbs like mints, Oregano and Lemon Balm, all of which I keep along the back side of a perennial bed, under the tree line where the tree roots starve them of moisture and the limbs limit their sunlight.  They still manage to survive tho not get out of hand too badly.  They sure do ramble.

Spearmint can often be found wild along stream beds

In the rock cluster along my vegetable garden walk way I keep my Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  I know that list sounds unimaginative and that there are a lot of other herbs to be had in a garden, but these are some of the old stand-bys.  We’ve all heard the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fair, and Carly Simon also recorded a nice version of it a couple of years ago.  Have you ever wondered what it meant?  

Sunshine Fair II by Marty Leone pictures exactly the kind of country fair I imagine when I hear the song Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair is a traditional ballad that originated in England and parts of it trace back to as far as 1690.  The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former love to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back.   The herbs in the song symbolize virtues the singer wishes his true love and himself to have, in order to make it possible for her to come back again. 

  • Parsley was said to take away the bitterness of heavy vegetables, and medieval doctors took this in a spiritual sense as well.  We all know Love cannot thrive with bitterness.
  • Sage has been known to symbolize strength for thousands of years
  • Rosemary represents faithfulness, love and remembrance.  The herb also stands for sensibility and prudence. Rosemary is associated with feminine love, because it’s very strong and tough, although it grows slowly
  • Thyme symbolizes courage. At the time this song was written, knights used to wear images of thyme in their shields when they went to combat, which their ladies embroidered in them
Although these herbs may seem commonplace in a garden, there are many unique varieties.  I love variegated leaves and I was able to find several variegated varieties to plant last year. I have green and white Sage whose new leaves are a deep pink or purple, yellow and green Sage, and variegated Thyme

The minuscule leaves of Variegated Thyme are my favorite

Purple or Tri-Color Sage

Variegated Sage
I don't devote much time to herbs, and honestly I do not use them in cooking as much as I should, but in April when you are starved for something green and alive, a collection of bedraggled herbs are a virtual Miracle.  I had made notes last fall as to what I wanted to change about this little grouping, and this was the perfect time to do it when the plants are still dormant and just beginning to awaken.

The Herb Garden Today
 I moved the large Purple Sage which I had transplanted last summer from some large pots that had overwintered to the center, and rescued the small green and yellow Sage from the center and moved it to the edge putting an ample amount of compost beneath it.  The taller parsley, which I hadn't expected to survive at all was moved to the back between a pair of day lillies.

The Parsley not only survived the deer trimming it off, but the coldest February
on record with many nights below -20*F

After our busy day of hauling and shoveling and scooping, we sat in our chaise lounge chairs and watched the birds. Two years ago I put up a blue bird box.  Last year the house wrens got to it first.  I don't begrudge the house wrens their home, but they are such shy little birds that they are merely an idea of a bird on the edge of your peripheral vision and never seen.  Today, Tim said, that obviously the blue birds had gotten the utilities turned on and they were in and out inspecting the place and making plans for the future,  This is the beginning.  From now until Mid-Summer it's all uphill from here.

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