Bouquets are lovely in their way as those of flowers may be made from the fragrant, rich range of green-toned foliage found in the herb garden.
Moreover, the scent of herb leaves and blossoms seems to many of us more piquantly individual than the scent of flowers.
It runs from the flower-like sweetness of angelica through the “coolness” of the mints and cucumber-like borage and salad Burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis, to the spicy odor of sweet basil.
The many citric perfumes, such as lemon halm and southern wood, can be added to those more pungently aromatic coriander and old-fashioned horehound perfumes.
These fresh, spicy, and aromatic fragrances, less sweet than flowers, become all the more welcome as the summer heat advances.
The very sight of a bowl of crisp mint or verbena or a tall vase of costmary—dear alike to ancient Egyptians and our own New England Puritans — suggests coolness within midsummer “dog” days.
For a conversation piece, many short-stemmed and fine-leaved herbs such as the times—French, English, curly, golden Valeria, summer savory, sweet woodruff, and sweet marjoram may be grouped attractively together in a low bouquet for a luncheon or tea table.
We may add to them, according to season and our garden resources, sprigs of lavender, hornet, and silver-gray Santolina viridis, which is especially sweet-scented, and even the mints, cut to whatever length we wish.
Then add, perhaps, a runner of small-leaved ground ivy, which is not an ivy at all but Nepeta hederacea that the Vikings once gathered to flavor their mead and the Saxons used in their beer.
The pleasantly blended fragrance of all these herbs drifts out to enchant the food. The ancient Greeks knew this and rubbed their tables with mint leaves before a feast.
If herbs are in flower, then so much the better! Among the earliest and loveliest flowers are the tiny white stars of sweet woodruff.
A little later, we may add the small bright blue stars of horage, a favorite of medieval ladies who tossed them over a salad, floated them in a wine bowl, and embroidered replicas on fine silk.
By midsummer, both purple and white lavender heads will overtop their foliage, and the tiny white flowers of marjoram and summer savory will appear, providing lovely additions to the bowl.
For these low-growing herbs, I like a low, clear, or pale green glass bowl so that the leaves’ delicate and exceedingly varied forms and colors will be seen.
Personally, I prefer this symphony in green alone or with only the herbs’ blossoms, but if a color accent is desired, a few of the smaller, old-fashioned flowers can be used.
A few perky heads of Johnny-jump-ups combine well with herbs, a few pinks, or even a wild rose, and a few of its deeper pink buds may be added.
Many old-fashioned flowers – pinks, pansies, mignonettes, nasturtiums, pot-marigolds, scented geraniums, and the older roses—have been associated with herbs since medieval even earlier times.
Distinguish True Herbs From Flowers
No distinction was made in those days between flower, vegetable, and herb gardens.
Many flowers were planted beside what we called “true” herbs and were used with them in the kitchen, input your medicinal preparations.
The excellent herb garden at Penn’s Manor in Pennsbury, Pennsylvania, shows herbs planted alongside vegetables.
A few herbs also appear beside the old-fashioned flowers in the formal garden.
Many flowers do, of course, blend in fragrance and add a touch of color to herb bouquets.
They should be used sparingly so that the herb scents are not overwhelmed, and their brilliant colors do not blot out the wide variety of green tones and foliage texture.
A few pinks among silvery southernwood or the still more fragile tracery of Silver King artemisia, A. Albula, only sharpens our awareness of the foliage.
A flower spike or two of Martha Washington geraniums sets off horehound. rue or Artemisia Absinthium.
For flower arrangements, several herbs may be used to replace the ubiquitous asparagus fern and even the frequently used baby’s breath.
Fernlike sweet cicely or feathery dill, caraway, and fennel also blend well with the more fragile flowers.
The gray-green of rue or the even paler hues of Santolina and some of the artemisias fill the need for softening greenery with carnations.
The possibilities in the use of herb foliage are limitless. If you use images, you can have cool bouquets.
44659 by Gertrude Barnes Fiertz