I love my herb garden. It’s right outside my kitchen door, so I have easy access to it. It started years ago as a tiny plot along the wall, with parsley, oregano, basil, and chives, and it’s grown into a respectable plot with a brick path down the middle.
But over the last year, it’s become overgrown with grass and weeds. The weeds are easy enough, but the grass digs in and it’s impossible to get it all out. Also, the rosemary had become overgrown, the parsley had been destroyed by the power company replacing the telephone pole in the middle of the garden (don’t ask), and most everything else was just looking ratty. It was time to take it down.
Wallace Stevens uses a garden in his poetry as a symbol of reality: the universe is chaos, and out of that chaos we organize what we can into what pleases us to call reality. This reality is our garden, and a creative person is one who looks for a way out of that gardem, for more chaos. And occasionally, it is necessary to raze the whole thing and start over.
In our real real world, it is necessary to raze the whole thing and start over. I saved the chives, one of the cilantro plants that had sprung up, and the oregano, although it might have been better to start over with that. I sprayed the whole thing with Round-Up™, tilled it up, busted up the soil, spread some mushroom compost over it, tilled it again, and let it sit.
Yesterday, looking for firewood for tonight’s meeting (I was quite unsuccessful, so any Lichtenbergians reading this: bring firewood!), I was at Wal-Mart, and loath though I am to patronize the place, I impulsively bought most of the herbs I need. They did not have English/common thyme and couple of other things, but I was able to get most of it.
I dithered about getting the plants in the ground, because the clouds were so dark, but again, I could not resist my impulses, and I dug in the dirt. My herb garden is replanted. I keep walking out just to look at it. I love my herb garden.
I love my herb garden because there’s nothing like being able to do any recipe that calls for fresh basil or dill or chives and just walking out the door with my scissors and coming back in with actual fresh basil or dill or chives. I love it because when there are no recipes, just you and the salmon or chicken or soup, it frees you to do whatever is possible. Roasted potato wedges? Just plop some chives, oregano, basil, and thyme in there. Salmon? Whip up a sauce with lime and dill. Playing with a vinaigrette? What’s your pleasure?
I have a couple of cookbooks and gardening books devoted just to herbs, most of which I don’t refer to any longer since I’ve become “expert” in the subject. Perhaps I should set those free.
So what all is in my herb garden? Chives, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, dill, cilantro, sage, basil, parsley, arugula, and rosemary. I used to try for lavender, but it just wouldn’t grow; it’s too hot here. (The tarragon is “Texas tarragon”; the French variety withers in our heat.) The arugula is new this year, and I suspect it’s going to meet a similar fate. I may plant some bee balm, and if I can find lemon verbena, it’s in there like a flash.
I tried lemon grass, and it grew well, but I used it so little that it wasn’t worth the enormous amount of space it came to take up. Likewise lovage, although I’d love to have some of that again. Mints are seductive, but they do run rampant. I actually planted some last summer, but the garden was so strangled with grass by the time I got home from Valdosta that even the mint couldnt’ survive.
I keep looking at fennel, but I don’t use it enough to warrant planting it. I’m curious about borage, calendula, and savory. Publix had a potted herb called culantro, which seems to be a big-leaved substitute for cilantro. I keep wondering whether garlic or horseradish would work in the garden. There’s always catnip…
Time to go out and look at my garden again.