To create a really sumptuous and relaxing outdoor area where you can dine and unwind, as well as sun loungers, garden furniture, fire pits and BBQs, you’ll require the perfect blend of aromatic, delicious and attractive plants to enhance your entertaining area.
Herbs are such super plants to grow. They’re attractive, fragrant, often good for bees and butterflies, and if you grow the right varieties, they’ll elevate your BBQ food, summer salads and other culinary creations to another level. Growing your own herbs can save a lot of money over the summer in comparison to supermarket prices for fresh herbs. Of course your home-grown herbs will be fresher than those from the supermarket, and you also have the opportunity to grow varieties of herbs that you cannot buy at the shops.
Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus, also known as red veined sorrel, is a very attractive herb, which makes a welcome addition to the ornamental garden, as well as to the kitchen. The attractive, veined leaves are best eaten young and have a sharp, lemony flavour.
Rumex scutatus, also known as buckler leafed sorrel, is less eye catching, it forms a diminutive, compact plant, with soft textured, small, green leaves that provide an intense lemon zing without the sour notes that are associated with sorrel. Both of these herbs are easy to grow from seed, which you can sow in a semi-shaded spot, directly where they are to grow, either in containers, or in your garden this month. Pick sorrel leaves regularly, cutting the whole plant back to the ground each time you pick, to encourage lots of fresh new growth; avoid letting your plants flower or seed – the leaves will be tough and not as flavourful once flower production starts, in which case, simply sow some more seeds.
Rosemary isn’t fully hardy and doesn’t make it through every single winter outdoors in the UK, but you can get great value from any rosemary plants purchased this month, as you’ll have the whole summer and autumn to enjoy them. Strong, straight, stems of Rosemary make ideal BBQ skewers! If you’re tempted by this idea for your next BBQ, choose a variety of rosemary that has a naturally upright growth habit, such as Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’.
Persicaria odorata, commonly known as Vietnamese coriander, is a tender herb, used in Asian cooking. It’s a fast growing; invasive plant that’s easily grown in a large container in a sunny spot, where it will provide you with strongly pepper-coriander flavoured leaves all summer. It can be overwintered as a houseplant if you wish.
For more years than I care to remember I have been growing the palest yellow or creamy white alpine strawberries. Chiltern seeds sell strawberry ‘Yellow Wonder’ (Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflorens’) which is as good a variety as any you’ll find. I sow new seed each year, as the plants have usually deteriorated by the following year. These alpine strawberries are very petite, pretty plants; they’re easily popped into containers, raised beds, baskets, or the front of the border, where their dainty flowers will add a certain charm. The small creamy-white strawberries are ripe and ready to eat when they have elongated and softened, not only do birds not always realise this; they and the rest of the strawberry hunters both large and small, will be on the look out for the familiar red fruits, leaving you to enjoy your own intensely sweet strawberries – which taste better than any sweets you could buy!
Redcurrants are great to grow either in your garden or at your allotment. Even if you only grow one redcurrant plant you can achieve a large, usable harvest of exquisite, jewel like, red fruits that have a sweet yet tart flavour. You’ll be searching the recipe books, as redcurrants are far heavier cropping than whitecurrants or pinkcurrants. Redcurrants are not affected by big bud mite, which is so detrimental to blackcurrants, they can be grown in areas where blackcurrants are affected without any problems whatsoever. Redcurrants also do well in semi shaded areas. If you’re looking to purchase a redcurrant, ‘Junifer’ is a good, disease resistant, heavy cropping variety that produces fruits early in the season, and ‘Rovada’ is a good variety for disease resistance and a good harvest later in the season. Both of these varieties are self-fertile and don’t require a pollinator.
Many plants produce edible flowers, which can make a rather cheery addition to salads, oils, butters and other culinary adventures. Lavender is a super addition to any patio or terrace, its scented flowers will attract bees and butterflies, and they can also be added to both savoury and sweet dishes.
Hemerocallis, commonly known as day lilies, produce an abundance of edible flowers, each lasting just a day or two, (hence the common name), through the summer. Choose late flowering varieties such Hemerocallis ‘Red Precious’ or H. ‘Pink Damask’ as to hopefully avoid the egg-laying period of the Hemerocallis gall midge.
Organic gardeners, who don’t spray their roses at all, may like to know that rose petals, as well as being beautiful, are also edible. Please only consider eating your rose petals if you don’t spray your roses!
Roses make a fabulous addition to any outdoor entertaining area. If you’re looking to grow a rose in an area where children play or there’s lots of activity, you might want to include a thornless rose. Rosa ‘A Shropshire Lad’ AGM is an almost thornless, very healthy and disease resistant, climbing English rose, bred by David Austin Roses. Its softly coloured, peach-pink roses have a delicious, fruity tea rose scent. Rosa ‘James Galway’, also bred by David Austin, is an almost thornless climbing rose with pretty pink flowers. This is a disease resistant rose, with an enchanting old rose fragrance that does well even in shade.
This article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
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