At the back of these borders are tall fennel plants. These have delicate leaves which taste like aniseed. Both leaves and seeds can be used in cooking – delicious with fish and in Mediterranean dishes. Fennel can help relieve digestive problems such as heartburn, bloating and nausea. In winter the stems are cut back but seed heads are left on the ground for birds to enjoy.
To the middle and front of the beds, we have various herbs such as thyme, mint, lemon balm, chives rosemary and sage. Rosemary is thought to boost the immune system, lemon balm to relieve anxiety and fight infection, mint aids digestion and thyme is packed with antioxidants and calms the nervous system. In addition, mint leaves provide valuable food for caterpillars wasps and hoverflies.
There are curry plants (not edible but squeeze the leaves between your fingers for a delicious curry aroma!). There are also several lavenders which are fragrant and attract pollinators – these can help to relieve anxiety depression and insomnia.
Look out for ‘lambs ears' which have large silvery hairy leaves that are soft and velvety to touch (but are not edible). Did you know that wool carder bees guard lambs ear flowers and scrape the ‘wool' off its leaves to line their nests in dead wood?
We have also planted a couple of filberts (hazelnuts) and two tangerine plums in these beds.
Maintaining our gardens
Following the extreme heat of the summer of 2022 we are starting to put mulch on some of the gardens. The mulch used here is recycled waste whelk shells from the food industry - this will both restrict weed growth and reduce the need to water the plants during dry spells as evaporation from the surface will be lower making the gardens easier to maintain in the long term. Mulching also reduces the release of carbon into the atmosphere which occurs when the soil is disturbed.
Only the more formal gardens and woodland areas will be mulched. The wildflower meadow, Great Canal Orchard areas and the peach orchard will not be mulched as that would prevent annual wildflower regeneration. The other gardens will be mulched with horse manure, crushed whelks and recycled mushroom compost.
All compost must be peat free for conservation reasons – peat bogs are internationally important areas for biodiversity and carbon capture, so we will not be using any products associated with peat.