Herb gardens offer special appeal for beginning gardeners, especially if you have only a small yard or patio for growing them.
"Herbs are easy to grow, thrive in poor soil and don't require much space," says Shirley Hill of James City County.
"They require little care, only an occasional weeding, and require little water," says Hill. "Not only are they attractive, but the colors and scents add another dimension to the garden as well as the kitchen."
You can't beat that recipe for gardening success, can you?
In addition, herbs, which typically come from the hot, dry Mediterranean area of our world, love heat - something we've had in surplus this summer. You can also grow them in large pots, as long as you make sure drainage is good.
Hill is one of several members of the Colonial Triangle of Virginia, Herb Society of America, who invited us to visit their different styles and sizes of herb gardens in James City County.
Her garden is part of a larger English one with an enclosed picket fence that makes it look neat and tidy. The herb section is on a small berm bordered by a wall where she plants scented herbs. Below that wall, she has kitchen herbs.
Her favorites include basil for salads and pestos from spring until late fall. She also likes fragrant rosemary for roasting chicken and other meats. She uses lavender for baking cookies and pound cake.
Genrose Lashinger has one of those gardens that keeps going and growing - she's even bought the vacant property next door so she can expand her plantings.
Many of her herbs - chives, flat-leaf parsley, Greek oregano, bay, rosemary and lemon thyme - grow right outside the back door of her house, close to the kitchen where she can quickly snip them for culinary needs.
"The area is bordered by brick in full sun, which gives them the heat they need," she says.
She also grows herbs as ornamental plants in her yard for making the flower arrangements she enjoys sharing with others.
This year, she's experimenting with a Grosso lavender hedge on one side of her yard. Lavender needs exceptional drainage, so she's planted it on a slight slant, using mulch with sand and gravel mixed in. In that spot, the north wind blows through, helping keep the area fairly dry. So far, she has two plants about 21/2 feet tall and three others coming along.
"It's the first time I have been able to keep lavender alive," she says.
Lashinger, a retired schoolteacher, also volunteers at Mathew Whaley Elementary School in Williamsburg where she teaches kindergartners about the history, culture and uses of herbs. They also learn about better eating habits when they enjoy snacks that are made from those herbs.
Carol Schmidt packs numerous herbs into a small space at the back of her garage, plus she scatters them around the yard in beds and pots.
She grows sugar-like stevia for iced tea, rosemary for lamb and roasted potatoes, chives for mashed and baked potatoes, Munstead lavender for potpourri, sage for pork, dill for salmon and lemon verbena for cookies and tea.
Schmidt makes sure she grows any unruly mints, such as spearmint, in a barrel so it won't take over her garden.
She stands empty 2-liter bottles around the inner perimeter of each barrel - positioning them on a base of gravel in the bottom - to keep the container from weighing too much after she fills it with potting soil.
"Then it's light enough to move around," she says.
She also concocts her own potting soil for all her gardening containers. Her recipe: 1 part cow or chicken manure, 1 part vermiculite, 2 parts potting soil, 2 parts sand (coarse, not fine play sand), 2 parts peat moss and 2 tablespoons dolomitic lime.
"It works," she says. "There's nothing like growing and using fresh stuff from your own garden."
Try some herbs
HERB OF THE YEAR
Oregano is herb of the year by the International Herb Society. To get a 50-page booklet on how to grow and use oregano, including recipes for all types of uses, contact the Tidewater Unit, Herb Society of America at P.O. Box 61442, Virginia Beach, Va. 23466. Visit the Herb Society of America at www.herbsociety.org or the International Herb Society at www.iherb.org.
JOIN A GROUP
Tidewater Unit, Herb Society of America. http://groups.Hampton Roads.com/TidewaterHerbs or 721-2299.
Colonial Triangle of Virginia, Herb Society of Virginia. 564-9580.
TAKE A DAY TRIP
Lavender Fields Farm. Enjoy lavender ice cream and tour greenhouses filled with all types of organic herbs for planting. Garden and landscape classes, herbal teas, dried culinary herbs, handmade soaps and baskets. Farm tours available; patio for luncheons, teas and parties. 11300 Winfrey Road, Glen Allen. (804) 262-7167. www.lavenderfields farm.com
Goodman Herb Gardens. Herb plants for your garden. 27175 Walters Highway, Carrsville area of Isle of Wight County. 562-4391.
National Herb Garden. The 21/2 -acre garden at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. For details on events, visit www.usna.usda.gov.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times