Tread upon my Chamomile


Though the chamomile, the more it is trodden upon, the faster it grows; yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.’ Shakespeare, King Henry IV part 1

The romance of a large chamomile lawn releasing its fresh, green apple fragrance as it is walked on, is  part of my fantasy herb garden…then I think about all the upkeep keeping the weeds out of it and the wreck it would become as my dogs rip through it,  there it stays in the fantasy garden.    (Don’t we all have our garden bucket list?)

In reality, I planted chamomile in the stairs that lead to my upper garden. It has become more than just fragrant steps, it is gardening therapy. A few times a month in its growing season, I get out my sheep shears and have a bit of aromatherapy as I tidy up the steps. The fragrance is heavy in the air as it is snipped back down to a few inches. This is a garden chore where gloves simply won’t do, I love the scent and oily feel of the essential oil as it lingers on my hands.  It is said that chamomile grows faster the more it is stepped on, it also looks nicer when regularly trimmed like lawn grass. I do like the steps a bit shaggy  but the plants  really fill in much thicker when I keep it clipped.

More about this multipurpose herb

Botanical Name:

Chamaemelum nobile

Common Name: chamomile, ground apple

Culture: Zone 4.  Herbaceous perennial.  Full sun to part shade. Grows up to 12 inches tall and spreads by creeping rhizomes.  Best in well draining soil.

The plants will fill in better with regular watering and shearing.

Ornamental Value:

Chamomile has fern-like leaf shapes and small white daisy flowers. The most prized use in the landscape is as a substitute for lawn grasses. It spreads easily and fills in tightly when trimmed or lightly mowed on a regular basis. C. nobile ‘Treneague’ is a non-flowering variety best for use as green pathways and lawns.  The ornamental value of chamomile has been treasured for centuries as a verdant living carpet or garden bench that releases a tart green apple aroma when crushed.   Plant the double showy flowers of C. nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ as a groundcover under rose bushes. Chamomile is said to have a symbiotic relationship to promote healthy roses. Strong infusions of chamomile flowers and leaves used as compost tea are said to activate compost piles.

Traditional or historical herb use:

The botanical name is derived from Greek meaning “apples on the ground” describing its fragrance when walked upon. The precious oil extracted from the flowers is a bluish color, once distilled it contains azulene, an aromatic fatty substance that promotes rapid healing of skin. Its reputation has become very popular in modern-day for anti-aging and wrinkle treatments. Tea taken before bedtime will promote sleep and dispel nightmares.

(excerpt from- Herbs By Design, a guide to landscaping with herbs- coming soon)

In Love with Lavender

a drift of color greets guests to the front door as it spills along a walkway.

Every season about this time, I feature an article in my newspaper column on growing lavender. The subject and fascination with this plant makes it one of my most requested herb talks. There is a romantic allure to the purple haze of blossoms in the garden this time of year. The festivals begin in mid-July and fragrance fills the air on a hot summer day as the essential oils are released.  The charm is not only about growing it in the garden.  The legend, lore and history of lavender can be just as enchanting as growing it.

I once heard it termed as the Swiss army knife of herbs and that is an apt description. It does just about everything a herb should do. The use of lavender buds and essential oil  dates back thousands of years.  It has recorded uses for over 2500 years, from medicine to cooking; it has stood the test of time. Many herbs go in and out of favor as their attributes are found to either not work or to be too powerful to be safe.  Lavender has never gone out of favor and is as popular as ever.  The essential oils are in all parts of lavender from roots to leaves, but the flowers are the only part that oil is distilled from. The aromatic oil of lavender has powerful natural ingredients that are prized in perfume but also for medicinal qualities.  The principal components of the oils depend on where it is grown but include properties that are antibiotic, antiseptic, skin renewing and healing, calmative, pain relief, insect repellant and nerve tonic. Culpepper’s historical herbal gives testament to many “interesting” healing properties including sluggish maladies, strengthening of the stomach, a gargle against toothache and to reduce the trembling and passions of the heart.

The name lavender is derived from the Latin lavare which means “to wash”.  It was used extensively in history by Romans as perfume for the bath. In areas of Europe and the middle east where it was native and plentiful is was used as a strewing herb; harvested stems were strewn across the floors of home and churches to cleanse and repel flies and mosquitoes.

English lavender and its cultivars are the most common grown in our gardens and of note; English lavender did not originate in England but was a plant introduction as it spread its way into France, Italy and Spain.  The first notation of lavender cultivated in England was in 1568, and has since become synonymous with English gardens. An air of Victorian melodrama comes with lavender lore as it was used as an aromatic spirit to prevent fainting spells and swooning.

Capture the use of lavender and its legendary attributes:

(Use caution on sensitive skin and test for allergies first!)

  On your next camping trip take a bottle of lavender essential oil: Dab it on bug bites for itch relief, dab on minor burns for fast healing and soothe a headache with one drop of oil on each temple and gently massage for 15 minutes.

 Mist sunburned skin with a cooling lavender water mist: To make a mist, simmer ½ cup of fresh lavender buds in 4 ounces of purified water for at least 15 minutes. (Do not boil, just simmer). Allow to cool, add 10 drops of lavender essential oil (found in health food stores). Place in a glass bottle with mister spray top. Shake well before use and mist on sunburned or itchy skin.

Fill a fabric sachet with dried lavender buds and place the car as an air freshener. The added aromatherapy properties have a calming effect for tense times in rush hour traffic.


(Recipes from the second in the series of Creative Garden Guides- “In Love with Lavender” by Susan Goetz

Booklets may be purchased by post or online. For more information

Herbs on ice

Back again. As spring came in…like a lion, the blog sat with no new words but many ideas rolling around on my to-do list.

Lets get going again. It is mid-summer and the garden is over abundant with color and fragrance and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

One of my favorite things is when the herbs start begging for attention. Pick me! Pick me!  A perfect way to capture the flavor of fresh herbs is to freeze them into ice cubes. Simple, easy and perfect for dropping into sauces, soups and drinks. The herbal flavor melts  into your recipe. Oregano, basil, chives, mints, thyme all your favorite herbs can be frozen at their freshest.

On a recent visit to the local Ace hardware, I found these sweet little ice-cube trays shaped liked leaves and hold the perfect measure of herbs.

How about a teaspoon of spearmint to chill out a Mojito or

a lavender kick to a glass of lemonade.

Lavender and Mint Cubes

Cut fresh spearmint, place one leaf in an ice cube space.  Cut fresh lavender ‘Hidcote’ and gently strip the buds off of the stems. Add them on top of the mint leaf. Fill with water. Freeze. After frozen, pop out and place into freezer storage bag for next use.

Try this too! Rub on overheated skin or burns to cool down as the healing power of herbs works their magic.


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