We're having lunch with some friends today and Pam had a lovely idea for a little gift for our hostess, the charming and beautiful Zora: a posy of poppies, plus a bunch of fresh herbs from the garden – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And as two of these classic herbs are in bloom now, and the other two just powering along as usual, it's time I celebrated these worthy runners-up in this year's Herb of the Year awards.
The sage is in full bloom now and looking better than ever (click on the photo to make it look bigger). And I mean 'better than ever'. It seems to me that each year this herb is liking its sunny home more and more. In previous years after it finishes flowering it has always looked exhausted, and so I cut it back, and it bounces back. But the year it's just looking great in leaf and the flower show seems better than ever. I can take no credit for this improvement, either. I never feed it and never water it. Whatever falls from the sky waters it, and whatever fertiliser run-off which flows down from nearby plants is all the food it gets.
While I was griping recently about holes in my parsley borders, other sections of the border are belting along in the spring warmth. This looks a bit scrappy just because I keep on cutting off handfuls to use in the kitchen. And it looks a bit dense and lush because I keep on cutting off handfuls to use in the kitchen (get my drift?).
Stately rosemary rises high and has just finished flowering, but apart from that it's looking and smelling wonderful.
I was just lucky, I guess, but the plant I bought at the nursery about 10 years ago is an oily one. You can feel the oil in your hands as you harvest some more, and the scent given off by this rich rosemary oil is heaven. The only trick is never to use too much of it in cooking – it's powerful stuff!
The thyme is in full bloom this morning as well. Fortunately there are some little sections here and there where I can harvest just the leaves for Pam's posy, but most of it is in bloom, and as I've mentioned a few times before here, most of the plant is sitting on top of the pavers, not on top of soil. I guess my pavers are a pretty good substitute for the rocky boulders on sunny Mediterranean hillsides where thyme likes to grow in the wild.
I have virtually given up trying to photograph thyme flowers. They are so tiny that they always look like clouds, rather than flowers. I guess that isn't so bad, as they do look like clouds of colour when you're standing next to them. They have a pinky tinge, but I'm not sure if they have a scent, as the scent of the thyme leaves is what intoxicates you as soon as you come close.
So we're looking forward to this lunch with Zora and her partner Sean. They don't live far away, and so we're catching the bus to see them. If you're on the 423 from Marrickville into Newtown this afternoon and see two passengers cradling bunches of poppies and fragrant herbs, don't worry, it's just a mad old gardener and his gorgeous wife on their way to a lovely barbecue in the spring sunshine.