Thursday, December 29, 2005

Differentiating Herb Gardens

Before we discuss the various types of herb gardens, maybe we should look at exactly what an herb is. Herbs are plants that humans can use for non-food purposes. That definition, though, may be a little misleading. Some herbs, such basil and mint, are used as food additives, so while they are in our food and are perfectly safe to eat, they are not food items. Other herbs are valued for medicinal or cleansing properties.

Herb gardens take many forms. They can be large or small, cultivated or wild, indoors or outdoors, or in any shape or size you can imagine. A true herb garden will be a home only for herbs and nothing else. There will be no veggies or flowers getting in the way - only the sweet smell of herbs.

With that said, all herb gardens are not the same. Some gardeners do not have a specific preference. They plant basically any type of herb that appeals to them. Other gardeners, however, pick a theme and work from it for their herb gardens. Here are a few of the most common herbal gardens and a couple of the plants you may find there. Read on. You just may find something that interests you.

An herbal tea garden is definitely a specialty garden. These gardens are home to herbs that you can steep into hot teas. You make these teas the old-fashioned way, by plucking the leaves from the trees and then adding them to boiling water. Chamomile is probably the most common herb in this garden, but you also may find mints and anise hyssop.

While you may not think of herbal plants as beautiful, some of them flower into magnificent specimens. These plants, such as sage and germander, can be culled into a beautiful ornamental herb garden.

An aromatic herb garden is probably one of the most common types of herb gardens out there. These gardens are there to give off the scents of their plants. Lavender, for example, is a healing herb. The smell of lavender is known to most people, but not everyone knows that lavender's scent brings out relaxing feelings in people who sniff them. Having an aromatic herbal garden can give you a place to go to have sanctuary, where you can sit and think about your life and get some calming or uplifting scents, depending on what you need that day. You also can use these herbs for making candles, potpourri, or other items that need good scents. Geraniums (most often considered a flower, but actually an herb) and lemon balm are two common aromatic herb garden residents.

If you are experienced in alternative healing or are learning about it, you can try to plant a medicinal herb garden. Be careful with these gardens as choosing the wrong herbs could cause more harm than good, but rest assured that centuries of learning are caught up in the properties of these herbs. One of the most common medicinal herbs is aloe. Many people use aloe in lotions, but it also can be used to soothe sunburn by itself. You can take off a leaf, split it in two and rub it on the affected areas.

Most people who have herb gardens have some combination of the herb gardens mentioned and also add in some cooking herbs. Some of the most common cooking herbs include sage (also used in ornamental gardens), basil, parsley, and rosemary. You can work on your own herb garden by starting with one of these themes and working your way to a bigger and more fulfilling herb garden in the seasons to come.

As you can see, there are numerous herb gardens from which to choose. Do not worry about learning about all of the herbs. When you are first starting, it is best if you pick one or two herbs and then work on learning how to grow them properly. Because many herbs can be grown year-round or indoors, you can learn to grow several new ones in a year's time. When you are selecting a garden, just be sure that you are selecting one that will suit your maintenance and other needs. Now get going. There are herbs to be planted!

By Julia Mercer

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