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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The little mediterranean garden

A spot in our front yard is always dry, and the grass does not grow there well. It gets about 5 hours of sun, but that is mainly in the afternoon, when the sun is at its brightest, and most plants that are put there get baked. It drains very well, and is next to the concrete wall holds the lawn back from the sidewalk. Passers by are at just the right height to touch this spot as they move past it, so I figured that I would create a mediteranian garden there.

Now some of the herbs and plants from the mediteranian will not hold up to our cold Kansas winters, but a variety of them will, especially if the area is well drained. I planted thymes and lavenders to allow the passer bys to enjoy the wonderful aromas and textures that these plants produce.

Thyme is a plant known for its mimicry. While most people know of thyme as just the herb that is usually found dried and nearly tasteless in kitchens, in reality it is a group of plants known for their oils. Thyme oils have been used in everything from cooking, to perfume, even as an antiseptic.

The Thymes I have are spreading and cascading over the wall. Their small flowers hum with butterflies and bees in the summer, and the varieties provide a number of variations in the kitchen. First I have culinary or english thyme. This is the thyme that most people have smelled or tasted. I grows about 8 or 9 inches tall and spreads out. It is not a flat plant, but produces a wonderful savory scent. If I put straw over it in the winter to insulate it, I have found that it will provide fresh leave throughout the year. In the spring it is covered in pale purple flowers.

Next I have red creeping thyme, a variety of Mother of Thyme. Mother of Thyme is named that because it is the wild thyme that all others come from. This Thyme creeps along the ground, barely an inch or two high, and has red stems as well as red flowers. The flowers are born on spikes a little higher than the plant itself, and are some of the most pretty of Thyme flowers.

Then I have Lemon Thyme. Lemon Thyme grows fairly upright like English Thyme, but has the scent of lemon candy. When used in cooking, it infuses the lemon scent with the woody resinous flavors of thyme to create unique and interesting dishes. I find that it goes especially well with Chicken or Fish.

Next is Elfin Thyme, another low grower. This thyme is interesting because it is barely an inch tall, and spreads as a dense carpet of firmly packed leaves. The plant springs back when pushed against and has a wonderful texture. It is not as aromatic as other thymes are however. Another unique thing about Elfin Thyme is that it creates small mounds, the elf mounds, in which the elves and pixies hide and live in.

Some other Thymes that I am interested in including in my little area of thyme are orange, lime, and caraway thymes, all name for the aromas that they exude. There are a huge number of thymes out there, and a dry sunny spot is perfect for them. Be sure to read descriptions however, as some are more hardy than others, and all will appreciate a good mulch in the winter.

Behind the Thymes I have lavender plants. I prefer English lavender to Spanish lavender. Spanish Lavender has "bunny ears" or petals above the spikes of flowers. I find that the flowers smell much more resinous and less pleasent than English lavender. I have munstead, provence, and an unnamed variety growing currently. These lavenders provide purple flowers in the summer time, but also have the wonderful lavender arome throughout the whole plant.

If you have more mild winters, it would be possible to grow rosemary and sage as well.

This style of garden is ideal for dry spots, and allows a number of variations to create a wonderful garden of color, aroma, texture, and even flavor.

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