THE MODERN MINT BLOG
In July we were invited to visit Jekka’s Herb Farm and herbetum, a fantastic nursery just North of Bristol run by the wonderful Jekka McVicar.
It is the first time we had met her, although we bought her book ‘Jekka’s Complete Herb Book’ many years ago now (along with over 1 million other people who have a copy….) and it was an absolute pleasure – she is funny, down-to-earth and interested in how she can help you learn more about herbs, a group of plants that don’t always get the air time ornamentals and fruit and vegetables are allowed.
Here is a small selection of the notes we made and the ideas we learnt from our short visit, but rest assured we will be going again one day, as you should to – a tour of the herbarium is worth it for all the strange and exotic herbs you get to taste!
What We Learnt with Jekka McVicar
Oregano compactum is great for butterflies.
Different mint’s will all taste the same if their roots touch.
Stevia is considered a ‘novel’ food because it has not been used/eaten regularly by the food industry for 35 years. This wonder plant, that will provide a sweet and healthy alternative to sugar, becomes vatable when registered as a novelty food… and so doesn’t get grown and sold widely….
Herbs are plants of the people!
In Ayurvedic medicine an ill person was told to sit in the herb garden, the herbs would be in raised beds and then the people could breathe the fragrance in ‘at nose level’…
Tansy cake (made with Tanacetum vulgare) was eaten as a wormer at Lent. It also stops fleas if you rub it on your dog!
Lovage was used as a deodorant to line your leather boots and stop them smelling.
Sorrel can clear your palate (love Sorrel, a much under rated herb in the kitchen…)
People would make a drink of the most prolific herb – so formerly in London, Angelica, which grew along the banks of the Thames, would be made into gin. Juniper was a luxury item rarely used.
Bitter is a taste we don’t have enough of in our diets, but it is good for the liver and should be sought out – even as food producers try to make our fruit and vegetables sweeter!
Members of the Lamiaceae family need to be pruned after flowering – and there are a lot of herbs in this family…. see mint, oregano, hyssop, thyme, basil…
The scent of rosemary is good for your memory.
Lemon balm is good as a stress -reliever….
Celery seed and cider vinegar in hot water will help arthritis.
Filipendula (which is in our Seedballs) makes a great natural painkiller.
Pot marigold is not that tasty, but got its name from being added to the pot food was cooked in… hence the name pot herbs….
The root of Althea officinalis was used as a carbohydrate before potato. Incidentally, ‘officinalis’ gives you a clue to what the plant was used for – as a medicine.
Flax (linseed) should be eaten every day for good health. So get to it!
Our trip to see the herb farm and meet Jekka McVicar was brilliant and we highly recommend going – she is a treasure trove of knowledge and passion, so go, learn!
Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …
Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …
Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022