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A beginner’s collection of herbs

Twelve good perennial culinary species

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) (6 ft/2 m). Tall and shortlived. Stems can be crystallized for cake decoration.

Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) (20ft/6m). Evergreen shrub. Can be damaged by frost in bad winters. Will clip well to control size. Used in casseroles and puddings.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Herbaceous. Onion-like leaves and mauve flowers. Delicate onion flavour.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (5-6 ft/1.5-1.75 m). Herbaceous. Feathery leaves, yellow flowers. Bronze-leaved form available. Good with fish.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) (2 ft 6 in./750 mm). Herbaceous. Strong lemon flavour. Golden and variegated forms available. Useful in stuffings and seasonings.

Lovage (Levisticum officinalis) (6 ft/1.75 m, and taller). Herbaceous. Leaves look and smell like celery. Yellow flowers. Stems, shoots, leaves and roots used.

Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgarem) (18 in./450 mm). Herbaceous. Lilac, pink or white flowers, green, golden or gold variegated leaves.

Mint (Mentha) (12-18 in./300-450 mm). Herbaceous. Many forms and variations of flavour available, some with variegated leaves.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Evergreen shrub, grows tall but can be clipped. Blue, lavender or white flowers. Upright and prostrate varieties also available. Young plants slightly tender. Good with fish and lamb.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) (2 ft 6in./750mm). Evergreen shrub. Lilac flowers. Grey, purple, gold variegated and tricoloured varieties obtainable. Used in stuffings for pork and game.

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) (2 ft/600 mm). Slightly tender, spreads if happy. Excellent with poultry.

Thyme (Thymus) (prostrate, 10 in./250 mm). Evergreen shrub. Many forms available both for culinary and decorative purposes, some with variegated or golden leaves, some with lemon flavour and scent. Prostrate varieties good for edging, ground cover and planting between paving. Used in stuffings for poultry.

Five for aromatic and ornamental use

Cotton lavender (Santolina incana) (2 ft/600 mm). Evergreen shrub. Silvery aromatic leaves, yellow button flowers. Cut hard back after flowering.

Golden feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium Aureum’) (12 in./300 mm). Evergreen, herbaceous perennial. Daisy flowers, strongly scented. Golden chrysanthemum-like leaves.

Lavender (Lavendula) (18-36 in./450-900 mm). Evergreen shrub. Grey or grey-green leaves, pink, white, blue or violet flowers.

Rue (Ruta graveolens) (2 ft/600 mm). Evergreen shrub. Strongly scented leaves, yellow flowers. Slightly tender. ‘Jackman s Blue’ has bluer, less filigree leaves.

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) (3 ft/900 mm). Deciduous shrub. Feathery green leaves smell like pine disinfectant!

Five to sow every year

Sweet Basil (Ocymum basilicum) (18 in./450 mm). Half-hardy annual. Likes a hot spot. More compact and purple-leaved forms also obtainable. Used with eggs, tomatoes and salad.

Borage (Borago officinalis) (2 ft 6 in./750 mm). Hardy annual. Coarse hairy leaves, blue flowers. Tastes and smells of cucumber. Used in summer drinks and salads.

Caraway (Carum cam) (12 in./300 mm) Hardy biennial. Leaves, seeds, roots all used for flavouring.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) 12 in./300 mm). Hardy annual. Leaves used in cooking, seeds in pickles and with vegetables.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) (12 in./300 mm). Hardy biennial. Stems, roots and leaves all used for flavouring sauces and stuffings.

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