Aromatic Herb-Garden by E.S. Rodhe


THE garden by meanes of a path shall be devided 
into two equall parts ; the one shall contain the herbes 
and flowers used to make nosegaies and garlands of, as 
March violets, gilloflowers, small paunces, daisies, mari- 
golds, daffodils, Canterburie bells, anemones, mugwort, 
lillies and such like, and it may be called the nosegaie 
garden. The other part shall have all other sweet smelling 
herbes, as sothern wood, wormewood, rosemarie, jesamin, 
balme, mints, penneroyall, hyssop, lavendar, basill, sage, 
rue, tansy, thyme, cammomill, mugwoort, nept, sweet 
balme, all-good, anis, horehound and others such like, and 
they may be called the garden for herbes of a good smell.' 

The very word ' herb-garden ' suggests old-world peace 
and fragrance. It conjures up a vision, as remote and yet 
as familiar as memory, of a secluded pleasaunce full of 
sunlight and delicious scents and radiant with the colours 
and quiet charm of all the lovable old-fashioned plants 
one so rarely sees nowadays. From Saxon days until the 
end of the eighteenth century the herb-garden reigned 
supreme in England, and now that we are reviving so 
much that is old and pleasant, perhaps we shall be wise 
enough to restore the herb-garden with its beautiful 
colours and its fragrance to its former pride of place. 
And what plants have such beautiful and such 'comfortable'
names as the denizens of the herb-garden ? 
Comfrey, bergamot, melilot (how came so humble a 
herb by a name so lovely and so musical ?), marjoram, 
lovage, sweet Cicely, woodruff, mullein — those names 
were not * made.' They grew. The herb-garden is never 
more lovable than in the full blaze of sunlight on a sum- 
mer day, for then it is full of bees and fairies. We live in 
such a hurrying material age that even in our gardens we 
seem to have forgotten the elves and fairies who surely 
have the first claim on them. Their inheritance has been 
wrested from them, but create an old-world herb- 
garden, fill it with thyme, foxgloves, rosemary, lavender, 
marjoram, hyssop, bergamot, horehound and the like, 
and they return as to a familiar haunt. 

I know a herb-garden where the tiny paths are stone- 
flagged (the stones came from a Cistercian monastery), and 
between the stones grow varieties of wild thyme whose 
purplish-mauve tints are beautiful against the weather- 
beaten stones. There is bergamot with its quaint, glorious 
red flowers (I think it is the most beautiful red in the 
garden), masses of it near bushes of horehound ; beyond 
are the mellow tints of marjoram, catmint, sage and balm, 
blending happily with the lovely blues of hyssop, borage, 
succory and flax. There are spaces restful with the soft 
tones of lavender, not only the mauve but also the pearly 
white, which was Queen Henrietta Maria's favourite, 
lad's love, rue, chives, savory, tarragon, dill and lovage, 
and in between bright splashes of colour — marigolds, 
valerian, tansy and the like. Here are the stately elecam- 
pane with its beautiful golden flowers (the herb which 
Helen of Troy is said to have held in her hand when 
carried off by Paris), and angelica (whose virtues are said 
to have been revealed by an angel). As tall as angelica 
are the bushes of fennel with their curiously polished 
stems and feathery tufts of leaves and reminding one of 
the monastic herb-gardens where this herb was grown in 
abundance to eat with fish on fast days. In one corner is 
an elder tree, and one recalls that if one stands near 
Mother Elder at midnight on midsummer's eve one sees 
the King of the Elves and all his train go by. The hedge 
enclosing this peaceful sanctuary is of rosemary, and at 
the end of the broad centre-path is a sundial which looks 
as though it had not only lived with the same family for 
generations but as though it had also been loved by them 
and shared their joys and sorrows. The kindly herbs have 
long since made it welcome and with them it seems to 
have some secret understanding.