by Abby Lanes
Different Types of Herb Garden Designs
Formal Herb Gardens The formal herb garden designed and grown correctly is arguably the pinnacle of herb gardening! The best examples of these types of gardens are often found around the grounds of stately homes and mansions. They were originally designed to be looked down upon from the top terraces or floors of these grand homes. The main features of such gardens are meticulous and time consuming hedges and topiaries layered in designs reflecting the beauty of the geometric world. In the hands on a true garden artist, wheels, perfect circles and all manner of shapes are modelled and crafted to create breathtaking pieces of living artwork.
Formal herb gardens should consist of finely cut edges and hedges, well defined lines, low walls, and should always include a centrepiece such as a statue, sundial or fountain to create a strong focal point.
Rock Gardens Because they grow well in confined spaces and are more tolerant of fluctuating water levels in their soil, many herbs are ideal candidates for a Rock Garden. This type of garden requires additional work however in the area of pruning and control of your herb plants growth, due to the fact that some of the more vigorous herbs out there can try to take over your garden! You should try and find rocks for your rockery that look natural and also take note of how they stack and lay together in their original environment. The best rockery’s look as though they are naturally there and you have built your house around it! Some herbs that are great for a Rock Garden are Betony, Bugle, Chives, Columbine, Thyme, Lavender, Creeping Rosemary and Yarrow.
Cottage Gardens The concept for a Cottage herb garden sounds like a big mess but really it is a carefully thought out, planned relationship of a mixture of herbs, fruit trees, shrubs and perennials in a delightful blend of colours and textures which looks great all year round.
Topiary Topiaries are the “artist’s herb garden”. Creating topiary demands patience, hard work and almost constant pruning and shaping of your herb plants to create such shapes as pyramids, arches, balls and pillars. In some wonderfully talented gardener’s cases, even buildings and animals appear at the hands of these gifted craftsmen.
There are two main ways to create these structures. Train the plant from an early age by pruning and staking or make the framework of your chosen design out of metal or wire and grow the plant over the structure, pruning it into its new shape over time. Some good herbs to use for these types of gardens are ivy, honeysuckle, mint, bay laurel, cypress, buxus and lavender to name but a few. The key to achieving a good topiary is frequent pruning. It can be all but impossible to return an overgrown topiary back to its original form.
Hedges The concept of hedge herb gardens really deserves its own article due to the many different forms they can take. The key ideals of a hedge herb garden though are to keep them well pruned and manicured, grow the hedge to have a slight taper from top to bottom to allow decent light through to the bottom of the hedge and ensure that the distance between hedging plants is less than half of the intended height of the hedge. It is also a good idea to keep a few extra potted, growing plants of the same type as your hedge to allow for replanting of dead areas of your hedge.
Perennial Border A perennial border is normally made with herbs such as mint, lemon balm, bergamot, fennel, angelica and other like herbs. It is a great concept because in the warmer months when the herbs are in full flight, they spread and fill their garden bed with colour and fragrance. Then when the cooler months set in, they die back to their root systems leaving a bare strip that creates a more spacious appearance.
Xeriscape gardens Xeriscape gardens are perfect for those gardeners facing the tragic burden of water restrictions! A xeriscape is defined as a specifically designed garden containing plants with similar water requirements. Many herbs fall into the category of a low water, drought resistant xeriscape and most culinary herbs can actually be successfully grown in areas only getting a paltry 1cm of water a week!
You can identify herbs that will do well in these conditions by their leaves and also roots. Those herbs with small silvery coloured leaves, long tap root systems and also herbs originating from the hot dry regions of the Mediterranean will all thrive in a xeriscape garden. These gardens are best watered infrequently, but deeply, to encourage deep root growth. A good tip is to not water these plants when they look strong and vigorous. If they do not seem to recover once the heat of the day has gone, then it is time to give them a drink! Great herbs in a xeriscape are Artemisia, Betony, Catnip, Chamomile, Jerusalem, Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme and Yarrow but there are many more.
This brings us to the end of our introduction to some of the most popular types and designs for herb gardens.
Choose one that suits you, your environment and your surroundings or simply create your own! The choice is yours!