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New Herb Garden

April 20 2008 at 8:51 PM
from IP address


I'm a new member and am setting up a new herb and vegetable garden in Seaford Sussex, following a chance meeting with Emma Overton at Fishbourne Roman Palace last year who got me interested in herbs.

The garden is being created from scratch in an old garden which had become very overgrown behind a shop in one of the oldest buildings in the town.

Is there anyone local to me who may be able to offer a bit of advice? Or some plants?

So far got Lavender, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Tansy, Lungwort, Mint, Garlic Chives,Pot Marjoram, Sage, Basil, Thyme.

I'm growing lots of veg too, and I've put in some modern composters and a digester which will even take bones and meat!

The plan is to have an open day for a charity and I've already secured some sponsorship and quite a bit of interest.

What would an urban cottage garden have had in it around 1850? Any ideas?


Hoggy the hedgehog (Head of pest control)

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Debs Cook

Re: New Herb Garden

April 21 2008, 9:33 AM 

Hi John

Nice to see a new face on here, I hope you'll become a regular! Feel free to share photos of the gardens development, and of Hoggy, we have a couple of hedgehogs in our garden that we've called 'Blondie' and 'Spike' they help keep down the slugs as do the resident frogs in the pond, one of which is called 'Jude' after a frog loving friend.

I'm not an historical herb garden expert, but from what I've read and from my travels around gardens I can say that from you list all would be okay, my only reservation is garlic chives as I'm not sure when they were introduced in the UK but someone who knows more about historical herbs like Linda may be able to help on that one?

1850 falls into the Victorian era as far as gardens are concerned, as the Victorians are famed for being great plantsman you'll have more choice than if you were creating a medieval garden. I'd recommend watching the victorian garden programmes that used to be on the BBC, when they're repeated on UK TV Gardens, although that doesn't happen often. You can buy the programmes on DVD via Amazon etc but they can be expensive.

Cottage gardens as you may know were a wonderful tapestry of flowers, veggies, herbs and fruit, just about anything could be grown in a cottage garden and the style was very informal. The list of herbs that I know were grown in Victorian gardens includes:- Lemon balm, sage, honeysuckle, jasmine, angelica, apple, cherry, pear, columbine, hyssop, marshmallow, rosemary, ladies mantle, meadowsweet, oregano, mint, lavender, thyme, pinks, bay, basil, fennel, marigolds, marjoram, myrtle, roses, rue, violets, wallflowers, scented geraniums, parsley, heartsease, pennyroyal, horseradish, poppy, clover, rhubarb, sorrel, vervain, chicory, dandelion, cowslip, lungwort, motherwort, valerian, withchazel, yarrow, chamomile, agrimony, borage, betony, dahlia (the roots of which were eaten at one time), foxglove, chervil, goldenrod, caraway, hops, mugwort, mandrake, st johns wort, tansy, lemon verbena, elecampane, dill, chives, white horehound, lambs ear (the bandage plant), florentina iris (orris root), germander (good as an alternative edging plant in place of box, but no longer ascribed medicinal uses), feverfew, bergamot, and dill.

There are many others but that should give you some more ideas at least, hopefully someone will be along later that has a little more knowledge in this field. It of course also depends what you want to do with the herbs, no point growing vervain if you're wanting a cooks supply of herbs, and mandrake is a good curiosity plant but not recommended if you have young children visiting the garden. Please do keep us updated with the development of your new herb garden and on what herbs you decide to grow.


This message has been edited by DebsCook from IP address on Apr 21, 2008 9:35 AM

Sarah Head

Re: New Herb Garden

April 21 2008, 12:03 PM 

Hi John

I'm not a cottage garden expert, but I found a few sites you might find useful. I suspect you will need to decide whether you want a cottage garden as inspired by Victorian sentimental artists (the ones you see on chocolate boxes with delightful, barefoot children) or real ones which were vital if the twelve/thirteen inhabitants of the household (think 10 children, 2 parents and one aged relative)if everyone was to stay alive and remain fit and healthy.

I was talking to my father recently about the farm labourers cottage we lived in for my first six years. He joined together a one up one down cottage (the farm labourer's) with the farm manager's house which was two up, two down. No bathroom (he put one in) and the privy was in the garden. He said the previous occupant of the farm labourer's cottage had had ten children.

Everything in your garden should have a purpose and usefulness, so it should either be edible or medicinal or be useful in making or preserving something. Flowers might be grown to sell in the market rather than to brighten and freshen the houses. Mind you, if your garden is behind a shop, the owners might have been a step up from a subsistence worker.

Have a long think about whether you really want tansy. It is as invasive as mint and doesn't really have a major purpose unless you like the yellow flowers or want to use it for strewing or to bring on delayed menses!

Victorians did like their valerian root tincture as a sleeping draught, cleavers tea for a clear complexion and various herbs for "the vapours" or hysterics which women were prone to (wouldn't you if you were tied into those corsets!).

Here are the websites.
Chocolate box cottage garden

modern not authentic

Very nice…fruit trees around the walls, taken from contemporaneous accounts. Realising family has to be self sufficient.

Modern ideas for landscape gardens

It sounds a wonderful project you are engaged in and I wish you every success. Can I echo Debs plea that you let us have photos as the garden develops.

Best wishes



Re: New Herb Garden

April 21 2008, 1:28 PM 

Thanks Debs and Sarah.

Didn't expect such a lot of info so quickly.

I'll get some photos sorted out and get them on the forum.

There is a big old Bramley apple tree which dominates the garden, and I've planted a modern variant of Cox's orange pippin opposite it to aid cross pollination.(It's an eater called Sunset which is apparently a triploid so should be very useful to get a good crop.) cost £4.99

The apple blossom came out yesterday, and the bluebells are in flower around the base of the trunk. It looks stunning.

I have made two tit boxes from some timber I bought. I made 2 boxes and only used 1 piece of timber which cost less than £5!

One is in the Old apple and another in a holly.

The Ramsons are also in flower beneath the holly and there is red dead nettle beneath the old box hedge which I have partially replanted as it was too tall and straggly.

The old but modern looking aluminium greenhouse has had a refurbishment which cost £3 because a friend gave me some 2ft squre pieces of horticultural glass and I only had to buy the glazing clips. It has not been used for 20 years.

There is lots of wild arum, especially the veined leaved (Italian variety?) and two of the very large plain leaved ones.(Large Lords and Ladies) There are lots of roses but I had to get rid of a few because they had got too big for their roots and started to rot at the base.

The Tansy was an idea from a piece about companion planting as it is meant to help Apple?
I will definately put it in a sunken tub though, as with the mint.

The garden is only a few hundred yards from the sea and it's very exposed on this coast, so I expect that the wild seakale off the beach will attempt to self seed in the new gravel areas nearer the shop. That would be great.

I've got some Aquilega seeds to put in but it's poisonous so not sure where best if garden to open to public on these charity days I've planned?

Also got calendula seeds and another pack of mixed wildflower seeds.

It's going to be great fun because I've never really grown much before, and this is one big challenge.

I love doing my own pickles so I've planted lots of shallots and also garlic and onions. Carrots and first early potatoes are in, and the Charlotte pots went in yesterday. There is also an old elder tree over-hanging what is slowly becoming the brassica plot so I'm looking forward to elderflower and berry recipies.

I've bought most of the tools second hand, especially from the local antique guy who laughs that I'm actually using them for gardening when a lot of his stuff ends up wired to the walls of pubs!!

It's great fun seeing how cheaply it can be done, even though due to space and time problems I've had to buy plants in most cases rather than raising from seed, which has obviously raised the cost somewhat.

There is quite a bit of cotton lavender too, as well as a very old and over grown red grape vine. Phew, if I'd had known what I was taking on...


This message has been edited by SarahHead from IP address on Apr 21, 2008 1:57 PM


Debs Cook

Re: New Herb Garden

April 23 2008, 10:37 AM 

Hi John

The garden you've inherited sounds wonderful and I look forward to the photos, I dream of inheriting a place with old apple trees and bluebell carpets. I have a small urban garden and try to cram as many herbs and flowers in as possible. I first got turned on to the cottage garden style of planting when I watched Geoff Hamilton's cottage gardens. Although recently in my garden I veered away from the cottage feel, especially at the front and the formal structure we chose just doesn't feel right. So this year, the cottage feel is coming back.

We don't have bird boxes, even the bird table is mostly abandoned, that's due to my two lazy cats that lay in wait underneath it waiting for dinner to arrive eek! Simon (my better half) did build a lovely little hedgehog house the year before last that got used by the hogs at winter.

The wild arum (Arum maculatum) often called Cuckoo Pint or Lords and Ladies, I can't help but think of Terry Pratchett's book with the same title whenever I see that plant, they grow near to me in a place called Melbourne. The veined leaf variety is the Italian Cuckoo-Pint (Arum italicum), rather pretty as well, they leaves and berries are toxic, but apparently the roots can be used to make an edible starch floury substance. Although personally I WOULD NOT recommend doing it, anyone that's curious see  http://www.countrylovers.co.uk/wfs/arum.htm 
Speaking of toxic, you said that Columbine (Aquilega vulgaris) is poisonous, its the seeds that are poisonous, although they did used to be used for they parasiticide properties. The flowers can be eaten in salads and as a tea, the folk name is Granny's Bonnets and they've been a real cottage garden plant for a long time, certainly when I picture a cottage garden they're in it. For further information on Aquilega see http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Aquilegia+vulgaris, hope that helps?



Debs Cook

Re: New Herb Garden

April 23 2008, 10:45 AM 

I forgot to add that a good source for heritage flower seeds is Thomas Etty he lists flowers that grew in the 15th, 17th, 18th & 19th centuries, and as a lot of them are herbs e.g. Clary, Marigold and Agrimony in the 15th century you can't go wrong. Not sure why there are no 16th century flowers mentioned but maybe there will be one day? I love the fact that they also include the olde worlde names as well as the latin and common names. http://www.thomasetty.co.uk/flowers/index.html I'm using them for some seeds for things for my Tusser Mussie bed, you'll have to see my blog to understand that one, and yes I do mean Tusser and not Tussie lol!


Anthony Lyman-Dixon

Cottage Gardens

April 23 2008, 6:11 PM 

Nothing to beat Roy Genders "Cottage Gardens" book as a source of information on this subject.Can't give you precise title as I don't have it with me here at home, but I am almost certain it's published by Hale. Full of Shakespearean references. He also wrote a book on herbs and I use his "Scented Flora of the World" (Hale 1975) constantly


new herb garden

April 23 2008, 9:35 PM 

Hi John,
your new project sounds very exciting and I am sure you will enjoy setting it up and experimenting with plants. Put me on the visitors list when you open!
Good luck and I am sure it will be a great success with so much advice on offer.Only wish I lived in Sussex!



April 6 2009, 10:30 PM 

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice on my project last year.
The garden was a brilliant, exciting and very tasty experience. Even if I do say so myself...
I would like to post some photos but I'm not sure how to do it?
Any advice?

I am still eating from last years crop of herbs and vegetables and despite no sightings of Hoggy for months leading me to feel certain that he was dead...I found him hibernating a few weeks ago and met him out for his walk while I was coming back from the pub last week! He looks very healthy compared to his emaciated appearance last spring when it was so cold with snow in April and I could see his (or her) sad little footprints in the snow.

The herbs have survived the Winter well, even the oregano which was very exposed in a tub.
I cooked some chicken last night with fresh thyme, rosemary, mint, winter savory, sage, oregano, garlic spring cabbage, leeks and shallots from my garden. I only wish I could describe the flavours. It was lovely.

The Charity opening never came about as the landlord was worried about the insurance and looking into it, I found that the open gardens people recommend special insurance.

None of the birds liked the look of my bird boxes, I'm hoping for better luck this year.

I have converted the main vegetable patch to raised beds to avoid walking on the soil.
It should mean that I will not have to do so much digging, which would be nice.

I'm looking forward to Summer salads like I had last year with lemon balm, Nasturtium leaves and flowers and marigold petals. Yum. Oh and Sweet woodruff in my wine, Te He.

and Hoggy whose good health must be due to his/her fantastic diet...Invertebrates fed on fresh organic herbs!

linda harrold

Re: New Herb Garden

April 7 2009, 7:34 AM 

Hi John,
It is lovely to hear how your project has come to fruition.I'm afraid that my knowledge about uploading pics isn't to good, but I will ask Debs to explain all.I'm looking forward to seeing them and I can bet that a lot of others are as well.
I wonder if you might want to write an article about your garden for either the web site and/ or our journal?
It is a shame that the elf and safety spoilt the potential opening. Is the garden open at all for the general public?
Your story is a really inspiring one and I think you may well spark some others to follow you.
Thank you for sharing this with us all.




Re: New Herb Garden

April 8 2009, 1:48 PM 

Hi John happy.gif

Sorry about the delay in responding to you. I've had no PC for a week and been full of a cold, if you want to upload the photos yourself create an account with Network 54 here http://www.network54.com/ then creat an account at Photobucket http://register.photobucket.com/ from there you'll be able to add photos to the forum.

If this sounds like too much faffing you can email me the photos plus any comments and I'll add them for you to the forum as I already have both accounts. Email me if you need help figuring out how to get the photos from Photbucket into the forum.

Debs happy.gif



April 8 2009, 7:11 PM 

Hi Debs

Thanks for the info.
I'll have a look at Network 54 and Photobucket and sort the posting out soon.
Sorry to hear you have not been well, not working too hard I hope?


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