The Simple Things
THE MAGIC CIRCLE
A SIMPLE BRICK OR STONE SPIRAL PROVIDES A HAPPY HOME FOR ALL KINDS OF HERBS IN A HANDY ONE- STOP SPOT IN YOUR GARDEN
Beautiful, aromatic and useful, herbs are easy to grow, loved by pollinators and add character to your cooking. Thanks to their naturally tenacious and forgiving nature, herbs will make a home in most gardens, but they do have their quirks. Basil hates to have soggy feet, especially at night, while chervil prefers a moist spot with a little shade, for example. Which is why establishing a herb garden in a border or raised bed with uniform conditions can sometimes work better in theory than in practise.
Herbs will thrive in containers or hanging baskets as very few varieties grow to any great size, and this is one way to adjust the conditions for each type. But to grow a wide variety of herbs you may end up needing dozens of pots, which can take up valuable patio space.
Building a herb spiral in a sunny position is an attractive and practical solution. It’s inspired by permaculture – the idea that we should work in harmony with nature to nurture the ideal conditions for plants to thrive with little intervention. This structure naturally creates several different micro-climates that make it easier to grow plants with different needs in a small space. With a footprint of only around two metres, a spiral is a clever way to grow edibles in a smaller garden, and although constructed from bricks or stone, you don’t need building skills to make it work. Result!
Plants that like full sun and well-drained soil will thrive at the top of the spiral, while the lower levels offer increasingly more shade and moisture. During the day, the bricks or stones of the spiral absorb the heat from the sun and release their warmth through the night, recreating the Mediterranean climate that so many of our favourite herbs enjoy.
Once assembled, plant sun-loving perennial herbs that enjoy free-draining soil at the top, such as rosemary, thyme, sage and fennel, while varieties such as coriander, chervil, stevia, lovage and dill will love the partial shade and moisture of the lower level. Plants from the onion family, such as chives and garlic chives, will thrive in the mid-level, as will tender herbs such as parsley and basil, which crave sunshine but also need a little shade and plenty to drink.
If you want to grow mint, lemon balm or catnip, it’s best to keep them separate in pots otherwise these thuggish herbs will take over – they care little for microclimates and grow with abandon anywhere.