As an adult, I lived in big cities for years, perhaps to balance out a childhood in a small town in central Alaska. I went to Berkeley for law school, San Francisco to take the California Bar, and never really went back to rural life for many years. I traveled a lot and, when I settled down for a while, lived in urban centers like Paris, New York, Anchorage and Washington DC.
My gardens, during that period, were pots of herbs grown on sunny kitchen windowsills. These were my first adult gardens. Even now, I keep the herb garden tradition going by making and gifting herb gardens.
Growing Herbs is Easy, but…
In general, herbs are tough, resilient and tolerant plants. But even though herbs are generally easy to grow, you still need to learn something before you jump in.
I patterned my first herb garden after the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fair, buying little pots of herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – and planting them together. It only took a few weeks before things went downhill. While all of these herbs like sun, only parsley liked the copious amounts of water I was offering and the others rapidly died.
Herb Garden Evolution
I didn’t give up. The next time I tried an herb garden, I bought similar size ceramic pots, one per herb. Then I united all of the little pots of herbs by placing them on a long, narrow rattan tray that was just the right size for six pots. I think I added basil and mint.
This worked better, since I could water the basil, mint and parsley together, but cut back drastically on water for the others. As you may have guessed, the mint quickly took over the whole show. I ended up transferring it to a neighbor’s backyard where it is still thriving decades later.
Gifting Herb Gardens
Now that I have relatively permanent addresses, I keep herbs in outdoor gardens, blending those that like lots of water in with the greens and planting the rosemary, thyme and others that prefer dry, hot climates in with the succulents.
But I still love the concept of making a garden of potted herbs. In fact, it is one of my favorite gifts to make for Christmas: six little herb plants in six little pots. Sometimes, I even paint little nametags on the containers. And I always offer a little card giving instructions for care of each herb.
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