Monday, 10 June 2013

My Herb Garden - Plants from Richter's.

Finally, here it is - the introduction of Richter's. I have been buying herbs and books from them since the early 80's, so when I decided to add herbs to this blog it naturally followed that I would choose a trusted supplier to link to. Richter's have been in the herb business since 1967 and since their beginning have been committed to organic growing principles. Their first catalogue was published in 1970 and today their catalogue lists every kind of herb known to man (or at least to me). The catalogue is loaded with colour photos and useful information. If cooking is your thing then you should check out their section on gourmet vegetables. You can buy seeds and start your own plants, but since most times only one or two plants are needed its easier and just as economical to simply buy the plants.  I've visited their store in Goodwood and totally enjoyed checking out all the different herbs, gifts and books available.

For this post, I checked out the variety (limited), quality (poor to good), quantity (not well planned) and price of herbs (fair, but homegrown will be way cheaper) sold in the local stores and discovered the following:
Parsley - Italian and Moss Curled - Bunch - $0.97 to $1.47. A bunch is too much since normal use only requires one or two sprigs. That means a lot will probably be thrown out which is never good.  Most of the bunches were starting to wilt.
Dill - Bunch - $1.47 to $1.79 - Again, way to much and starting to wilt.
Thyme, Chives, Mint and Oregano, 40g containers - $1.97 to $2.79. - These herbs looked good in the containers and they didn't come in overly large bunches, but the price for these was quite a bit higher. All four of these herbs are low maintenance, rapidly spreading plants that will grow just about anywhere you place them, inside or out.

Since this blog is about getting the best quality for the least amount of money, then growing herbs is definitely the way to go. Growing your own herbs means you can have whatever kind you want, whenever you want, even those hard to find ones like lemon verbena or lovage. I love stepping out my back door and picking what I need at the last minute. Snipping just-picked parsley over new potatoes or steamed baby carrots, adding a few basil leaves to a mixed salad or a tomato sandwich, throwing a few mint leaves into iced tea, these are all nice little extras available at very little cost. After having used home-grown herbs, store-bought ones will never satisfy again.

Most herbs are easy to grow and attractive enough to be added to flower beds, window boxes, patio planters, hanging planters and in the winter, on the windowsill. Rubbing herb plants releases the aroma so how about planting lavender along the walkway or lemon thyme between the paving stones? They have a lot of other uses in the garden, such as planting chives with roses to keep aphids away or around fruit trees to attract bees for pollination.

This is a picture of my herb garden which is located right outside my back door making it easy for me to pick a sprig or two. Shown at the front are my comfort herbs - Chamomile, Mint (in the planter to keep it in check), Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Kew Red Lavender (new this year), Lemon Verbena, Catnip, Sage, Lovage and Munstead Lavender.

The boxes are raised to table height so I don't have to bend over. The older you get, the more you appreciate this. Birds, attracted by the different scents, keep the area pest-free.

I had planned to take this picture when the apple tree in the background was in full blossom, which would have been gorgeous, but the cold weather and high winds put paid to that idea. You can see the garden divided into comfort herbs at left and culinary at right - although most herbs fit both categories.

My Comfort Herbs include:
Chamomile - Mainly used as a relaxing tea, I find it bland on its own but it mixes well with lemon-verbena or lemon balm, which also have calming properties. Drinking this tea in the evening helps you to unwind after a busy day and go to sleep. Chamomile tea also makes a great hair rinse for blondes.
Candy Mint - This makes a great tea and I drink it quite often to settle a queasy stomach. A few leaves adds sparkle to iced tea. Mint leaves can be added to sleep pillows or to a 'feel good' foot bath.
Lemon Balm - Has a strong lemon scent  - adding the leaves to most any tea adds extra zip. A strong lemon balm tea can be used as a rinse for oily hair. Lemon is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress, lessen headaches and improve memory - add some leaves to the bath water, just lay back and inhale the scent. (Putting the leaves in an old sock keeps them from clogging the drain.)
Lemon Grass - With all herbs, to release the aroma and oils, its necessary to bruise them. Doing this with lemon grass and adding it to the bath helps to soothe tired mucles. Lemon grass tea helps relieve indigestion and upset stomachs.
Kew Red Lavender - This is a new addition to my herb garden. I love the smell of lavender and this plant is said to have intense fragrance which will make this a great addition to a sleep pillow. Lavender is also great to add to the bath to help relieve tension after a stressful day.
Lemon Verbena - The leaves enhance all drinks which call for lemon as an ingredient or garnish. Throw a few lemon verbena leaves into the bath to soothe tired muscles and relax the mind. Hang some stalks in the closet to make it smell nice and keep moths away.
Catnip - Catnip tea (like a mint tea) is good to lessen stress and insomnia and can relieve slight fevers.
Sage - A tea made from sage leaves helps to restore energy and improve memory.
Lovage - This is mostly a culinary herb but it can be added to bath water for a pick-me-up and to increase blood circulation. It makes a comforting broth-like tea which is really nice when its nasty out.
I have huge patches of lovage growing around my yard for culinary use - its a large, attractive perennial that can easily be planted at the back of a flower border or in a corner of the yard. It smells and tastes kind of like a beefy celery (and the Dutch extract Maggi) and can be used to replace meat or bones to make soup stock. Think what that could do for keeping cholesterol in check. Not bad for a plant that keeps producing (and expanding) year after year.
Munstead Lavender - The same uses as Kew Red Lavender.

The Culinary Herbs are: Spicy Globe Basil - my absolute favourite for sprinkling on tomatoes and Greek Basil, a good type to add to tomato soup or other cooked tomato dishes. The other herbs I grow and use all the time include Italian Parsley, Sweet Marjoram, Rosemary, Syrian Oregano, Tarragon, Dill, Chives, Moss Curled Parsley, Thyme. The following herbs - all easy to grow - go well with the foods listed:
Lamb: Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Italian Parsley.
Beef: Rosemary, Thyme, Italian Parsley
Pork: Sage, Thyme, Marjoram
Poultry: Moss Curled Parsley, Sage, Thyme
Seafood: Dill, Tarragon, Moss Curled Parsley
Fines Herbs: Tarragon, Chervil, Chives, Moss Curled Parsley
Bouquet Garni: Chervil, Italian Parsley, Thyme
Poultry Bouquet Garni: Moss Curled Parsley, Thyme, Marjoram, Tarragon
Italian: Basil, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Thyme

We used to have a huge herb and vegetable garden but the upkeep became impossible and with just the two of us it was also no longer necessary. Raised beds like these can be made any size to fit easily into any yard and can keep the gardening enjoyment going for years.

So go ahead, click on the Richter's logo which will take you to their catalogue and just enjoy browsing for a while. Of course, while on the site, feel free to buy.


  1. Fantastic. You have struck a chord with me on this theme Lenie.I love learning about herbal remedies and experimenting with scents and flavours. Unfortunately, that's all I do though, read about what I dream of and love. You are an inspration to me with all you know and actually accomplish with herbs. I will be saving this post. Cheers! Joanna

    1. Thanks Joanna. Really appreciate the feedback.
      Watch for more on herbs in August when I'll talk about harvesting and preserving herbs and how to make an indoor garden so you can enjoy fresh herbs all winter.


I want this blog to be interesting, informative and current. Your comments let me know if I'm on track, so comments are greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Lenie