Creating the Herb Garden and Scented Garden

One of our plans for the nursery is to create a new garden or border every year to inspire our customers and give them ideas of what they can create in their own gardens, especially if they are gardening in the same more challenging conditions as we are. Creating gardens and borders also makes the nursery look nice, more interesting and makes us more of a destination for people to visit. It lets customers see what plants will do in the ground and gives me propagation material.

How it all begins, in winter, planning with coffee

In 2017 we decided to do not one entire new garden but two! Were we mad, most probably, was it worth the hard work along side the nursery work? Yes, now that it's finished. But we did have some motivation, as some of you know, as we were also building a garden we would get married in.

Finalising the plans for the herb garden

I've always had an interest in herbs and their uses and have wanted to get back to growing them and using them for some time. Now seemed the idea opportunity to create a herb garden and what better place to get married than surrounded by all those scents and the bees buzzing. Leading up to the herb garden on the middle terrace we created a scented garden. Using plants with scented flowers and foliage all year round and creating a seating area surrounded by sweet peas, it is a haven for insects and for people to stop and enjoy a moment of relaxation. 

How the middle terrace looked when we bought
 the nursery in June 2015

All good garden designs start with ideas, a measuring tape and a coffee, then the ideas take flight and before you know it you've marked out an entire garden! We were lucky that the middle terrace is relatively flat with a slight rise from west to east. Being level was crucial for the formal design we wanted to create for the herb garden. There was also landscape fabric in situ which had been there for two years so was well bedded down and meant we didn't have to wrestle fabric down on top of weeds and where we cut out the borders there was no weeds apart from the damn creeping thistles.

Marking out the herb garden, October 2016

Herbs in waiting, potted up
and growing in the tunnel over winter

We started working on the gardens in the middle of December 2016, making the most of dry winter weather and maximising the time we had to complete the project. We were very lucky with the weather through January and February, meaning we got well ahead. David started by cutting out the border shapes in the mypex and then cementing in the brick edges. This quickly gave us a real idea of how the gardens would look in reality, exciting! As well as edging the borders with bricks the entire garden is surrounded with a brick edge. David found patience he never knew he had and never wants to lay another brick (don't tell him about the plans I have for a brick path .....)

Adding the gravel really began to bring the gardens together 
February 2017

Once the borders were edged with the bricks it was time to move at least fifteen tonnes of gravel in! Thank goodness for the loan of an electric wheel barrow which made David's life much easier. Poor man, the things you have to do for your wedding, lol. I barrowed in many barrows of our own compost to enrich and open up the very clay soil in the borders. Adding organic matter helps open up the clay soil and will help improve drainage. Herbs don't necessarily need rich soil, indeed they can be happy on poor soil as long as drainage is good. This is something I need to keep an eye on as a lot of water does collect after heavy rain. We may have to put in a drain along the bottom of the banking in the future if it causes a problem for the herbs.

The exciting part for me, getting the first plants in,
Feverfew in the medicinal border March 2017

A happy quirky bird getting plants into the borders March 2017

The herbs began to make their way from the tunnel
 as spring arrived and the weather warmed up

March 2017

I was conscious that we had a very short time this year to make the gardens look established and the borders full in time for our wedding in August. Depending on the variety I planted three, five or seven plants of each variety to fill the borders. Several weeks of sun and heat in May really got the plants off to a good start and a lot of warm and rain after that helped maintain good growth. Any gaps that were still apparent by the beginning of August I filled with annual herbs.

David and Adam preparing the ground for the checkerboard April 2017

The herb garden has four different sections, the four culinary herb borders, two culinary / medicinal borders and two medicinal borders, then the checker board with low growing herbs and finally the white and grey borders with household herbs. Dotted around the gardens are a collection of mints in teracotta pots and tender herbs in pots that will need to go into the greenhouse over winter. Over this winter we will get some information boards made that explain the uses of the herbs we are growing and some of their history.

The mints being potted

Creating the checker board and planting it up with low growing and scented herbs May 2017

As well as creating the herb garden we also built the scented garden which leads you from the main track into the nursery up to the herb garden. Sitting below the level of the track in a dip I want visitors to be enveloped in scent all year round as they walk up the path. The path is built from the same slabs as the checker board in the herb garden to give some continuity. This area needed a lot more preparation as it was mostly rough grass and clay soil. There were many wheel barrows of turf removed to behind the office and the same amount of barrows of compost brought back down to dig in. As with all gardening, one of the keys to success is preparation.

Digging over the new scented garden borders
March 2017

Beginning the path through the scented garden April 2017

Planting around the seating area in the scented garden April 2017

The path completed and some plants in on either side
April 2017

Although the scented garden needed more preparation, once that was done it was quite straight forward to plant up the garden with lots of wonderful scented plants. There are trees and shrubs for year round interest, perennials, bulbs, annuals and bienniels so there will be something happening all the time.

A view across the scented garden seating area
 and the herb garden April 2017

Once the borders were complete, the paths in, the hard landscaping finished, the planting done, we concentrated on the finishing touches such as the sweet pea boxes, the huge planters for the hedge,  the pond and stairs connecting to the wild life garden. The pond is made from a preformed pond sunk into the ground and topped with an edging of bricks. It was lying around in amongst all the stuff when we bought the nursery, so another bit of excellent recycling. We've added in a wee fountain (the sound of moving water in a garden is essential), a water lily and three gold fish called Hengist, Horsa and Vortigern (David is studying Old English in his spare time) See here for more info on these Saxons.

I love the sound of moving water in a garden April 2017

David looking for his fish June 2017

The hedge planters are built and the last of the gravel is in June 2017

The big box planters at the end of the herb garden have a copper beech hedge planted in them, this offers a wind break, screen and a division between the herb garden and whatever we plan for beyond this garden. Putting the hedging in such tall planters instantly gave us a taller screen, though it does still need to thicken up. I love copper beech and I am pleased with the colour combination between hedge and planters.

Looking back down the length of the completed herb garden, so pleased with it June 2017

A selection of herbs in the garden June 2017

Almost ready, the steps to the wildlife garden are in, the sweet peas are growing,
the plants are filling out July 2017, a month to go!

A week before the wedding and we have rabbits in the garden!
Hense the crates which will be removed on the morning of the wedding  August 2017

The scented garden and herb garden August 2017

I love Monardas, one of my fav plants, so there are six varieties in the scented garden and
why not with their glorious scented flowers and foliage,
the bees love them too August 2017

So there we are, a garden nine months in the making, the cause of a lot of laughter, tears, tantrums and stamping of feet but huge satisfaction as I see my ideas come to life and David completes a project much much bigger than anything he's ever done before. There are not many people who can say they have built their own wedding venue, and for a fraction of the cost of many wedding venues for hire and very personal.

We love it and we'd love you to see it too, the gardens are now open to the public when the nursery is open, come and enjoy a scented walk, learn about the herbs and relax on a bench surrounded by the buzzing of insects and the scent of herbs and plants. Be inspired and create something similar in your own garden. You don't have to do the whole garden, but many parts of the gardens can be broken into smaller area for smaller gardens. We have most of the plants you see for sale too, all propagated by myself here in the nursery.

I will be putting a planting list on the website over the winter on the nursery border planting list page

As for the wedding, despite the good old Scottish weather it was a perfect day and the rain held off until the very end of the ceremony. We were surrounded by the love and support of family and friends who loved the gardens and the unique wedding we created.

Planting List for the herb garden

Culinary Beds
Achillea ageratum
Allium proliferum (tree onion)
Allium fistulosum
Allium tuberosum
Allium chives
Apium graveolens (smallage)
Artimisia absinthium
Meum athamanticum (Baldmoney / Spignel)
Vaccinium myrtillus (Blaeberry)
Lovage scotica
Origanum onites
Origanum vulgaris
Salvia officinalis
Salvia off Purpurea
parsley curled         
Smyrium olusatrum (alexanders)
Thymus 'Bressingham Pink'
Winter savoury

Culinary / Medicinal Beds
Agastache foen (anise hyssop)
Juniperus communis
Lavander angustifolia
Lemon balm
Lemon Balm ‘All gold’

Medicinal Borders
Alchemilla vulgaris
Althaea officinalis
Aquilegia vulgaris
Artemisia pontica
Hellebore nigre
Nepeta fassenii
Sanuisorba major
Stachys officinalis
Tanacetum balsamita ssp balsamita (alecost)
Sanguinaria Canadensis
Verbascum thasis

Filipendula ulmaria
Good king henry
Horse raddish
Myrhus odorata
Papaver somniferum
Tanacetum vulgare (tansy)
Valerian officinalis

Alchemilla alpina
Antennaria dioica
Chamamelum Tregeague
Helianthemum nummularium 
Lysimachia nummularia
Mentha pulegium
Origanum ‘Aureum’
Origanum ‘Country Cream’
Origanum majorana
Potentilla erecta
Rhodiola rosea
Thymus ‘Aureum’
Thymus Herba bonara
Thymus Bressingham ‘Pink’
Thymus x citriodorus
Thymus pulegioides
Thymus citradorus
Thymus serphyllum albus
Thymus vulgaris

White and Grey Borders
Ammi visnagi
Artemisia abrotanum (Southerwood)
Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
Asperula tinctoria 
Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride'
Gallium  / asperula odorata
Helichrysum curry (plant)
Malva moschata alba
Santolina chamaecypais
Santolina rosmarinifolius

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  1. Congratulations for both your wedding and the beautiful garden - what a task you set yourselves!


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