As a passionate gardener, the sight of the fresh green buds pushing through the earth and the first blossoms opening is always a revelation to me in Spring. This is the time of year to get ‘hands on’ and start growing your own aromatics. It is great fun to sift through seed packets (either online or in a gardening center) and choose something that sparks your imagination. Herbs are very inspirational plants to grow as they super easy to propagate from seed and they also mature very quickly. They thrive in pots or window boxes, so are ideal for planting in small urban spaces as well as in larger rural gardens. Of course, once they are fully grown, they are also very useful to have about the home for a wide range of purposes: for cooking and seasoning; floating in cocktails; as well as for making home-made aromatic 'well-being’ treats ... such as picking a fresh bundle of lemon balm, tying it in a posy then attaching it beneath the hot tap while running a bath … the light lemony, fragrance is delicious! You can enhance the effect by adding a few drops of the same or a complimentary essential oil to the bath water too. Lavender, rosemary, marjoram, sage, fennel, dlll and lemon balm (melissa) are all simple to grow at home while their applications are endless! Where will you look for your inspiration this Spring? Here is an except from my gardening diary, Green Valley Garden blog spot about visiting two exceptional herb gardens in April, which gave me some bright ideas about how to create my own three acre aromatic garden plot in Wales.

'In the middle of April I visited Capel Manor College (just off the M25) to the north of London with a gardening friend. It is a large site dedicated to the training of gardeners and florists with an emphasis on experimental horticulture. Wandering around the thirty acre extensive grounds on a hot sunny day was an eye opening experience for me as I was not previously aware of their fund of knowledge based on ongoing field trials. The large number of model gardens which are constantly on show were also inspiring to see, not so much for their high quality of presentation, but because to my mind they showed how themed buildings and gardens were married together. For example, there was a small Mediterranean style cottage with ochre washed walls and a gravel garden (largely based on grasses and lavender) which was arranged just like a stage set - since the actual building was actually only about a metre in width so as to just show the facade. Different types of walls and structures were constantly contrasted with different styles of planting including formal topiary, water gardens and borders. One of my favorite of the show gardens was a relatively simply design of herbs based on bronze fennel, purple sage, architectural soft green artichoke specimens and mounds of herbaceous geranium. It made me think I would like to include artichoke plants in my own garden not only for their food value but also for their lovely structure...

Visiting Kew Gardens right at the end of this month has inspired me to focus more on aromatic plants in Green Valley. There is a beautiful small garden at Kew called the 'Nosegay Garden' which is tucked away beyond all the main attractions, such as the vast greenhouses full of tropical plants, the avenues of rhododendrons and swathes of flowering blossom which look so spectacular at this time of year. Here, herbs and medicinal plants are arranged around an oblong plot with a sunken garden at the center; while around the edge, weeping yellow chains of laburnum flowers are trained over a pergola. The intimate atmosphere of this hidden garden seemed somehow exquisite amidst the grandeur of the other attractions, with its humble plants such as sage, thyme, lavender and soapwort together with more statuesque plants such as angelica and artichoke emerging from symmetrical narrow beds.'