Planting Herbs in Containers
Many people have very little space in their gardens, or may have nothing bigger than a window box. Here are some lovely gift ideas which I hope will increase the popularity of herbal plants, and that can be kept indoors or in a very small space.
An Herbal Window Box
First you must choose your container. You could buy a ready-made unbreakable plastic window box or make a wooden one yourself, depending on the time you have available and the skills you wish to make use of.
A terracotta trough blends in with many styles of house. If you are a skilled potter, you could even make your own. If you make a window box from wood instead, you must treat the wood well with a timber preservative to protect it from the elements.
Most herbs hate waterlogged soil, so good drainage is vital. Make sure your chosen container has plenty of drainage holes drilled through its base, then place about 2 in (5 cm) of broken flowerpots or stones in the bottom as a drainage layer. Fill the trough with richer soil than normal garden earth; proprietary brands of herb potting compost can be bought from most garden centers. An organic mix can also be used, made up of:
4 parts good garden soil
Water the soil well and leave to settle before planting up the container. Assuming that the trough is approximately 24 in (60 cm) long, some creeping themes could be planted at the front to trail over the edges. Other small cuttings from plants such as lavender, rosemary, the scented leaf geraniums, marjoram and parsley all lend themselves well to window boxes.
In many cases the plants have culinary or other uses, so their size will be contained by the frequent trimming of an enthusiastic cook or maker of potpourri. The window box will need some regular maintenance to ensure that all the plants have adequate room, and one overly enthusiastic specimen is not crowding out all the other inhabitants of the box. It will make a lovely present either for someone with no garden or for a keen gardener or cook who would enjoy having these lovely plants close at hand.
Strawberry Pots and Other Containers
There are many other containers that lend themselves well as presents, but I am only mentioning a few of them here. Once you have decided to plant up an attractive container, you can start looking around garden centers, antique shops or even junk shops and jumble sales until inspiration strikes.
Strawberry pots look lovely planted up with attractive herbal foliage poking through each aperture. Smaller plants work besta collection of various colored themes would look stunning or perhaps a selection of different sages. The sage "Tricolour" is a particularly attractive plant and would contrast well with a silver grey and purple sage.
Take care to have a good balance of plants in the container, because a large plant on the left-hand side with a much smaller, lighter plant on the right gives the pot a very uncomfortable, wobbly look. You must keep all the plants a roughly similar size and weight to give an even overall balance.
Making a Miniature Herb Garden
An old chipped sink could be put to excellent use as a small herb garden just outside the back door. Although this idea would not win any prizes as the most easily portable gift of the year, it would certainly be very much appreciated. This is the kind of project that many people intend to tackle but never get around to, but it is well worth the effort. Choose some popular culinary herbs, remembering to avoid mint, as it will swamp all the other plants in a very short time. Tarragon, basil, parsley and nasturtiums would make a good splash of color and would all be useful so near the kitchen. Alternatively, you could choose herbal plants that you know the recipient loves, such as lavenders or flowering herbs, to give a pretty and colorful look to this miniature garden.
A half-barrel can look very effective filled with bushy and trailing herbs. Of course, it is not a very practical present if you are traveling to the recipient's house by train, but assuming you would not find the transport a problem, and you do not choose a large barrel, this is an unusual idea that would be well received.
Indoor Herb Pots
Most people can find a small space on their kitchen window sill for some pots of herbs. By growing them indoors, the season for such tender annuals as basil and summer savory can be extended and, of course, they are always within easy reach whenever they are needed.
An attractive terracotta pot planted up with a single variety of herb would be a lovely gift, or a larger container with a selection of herbs for people with plenty of space. When thinking of a present for a family member or close friend (when you know it will be well received), you could design an indoor herb garden around a kitchen or other suitable window. It must be a sunny and draught-free position and preferably receiving full sun (the herbs will go leggy and pale in deep shade). Even if the window sill space is limited, more room could be found by adding a narrow shelf halfway up the window. This looks decorative as well as being practical.
Many plants that are ideal for indoor herb gardening are very easily and cheaply raised from seed or cuttings, so the major outlay for this gift idea would be your time and effort rather than your money. Try to find a particularly attractive container, as it makes an enormous difference to the final appearance of the gift; a rather dull plastic container with a semi-healthy specimen inside it won't raise more than a half-hearted thank you. On the other hand, a really unusual, perhaps even antique, terracotta container filled with a flourishing clump of vivid green parsley, or whichever herb you decide upon, will be received with true appreciation.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author has a home and garden site with ideas, suggestions and articles for decorating indoors and outdoor at www.bricabrackorner.com