My Herb Garden
Highclere’s gardens lie to the south-east of the Castle. To reach them you walk along a curving gravel path past an old spreading cedar tree with a metal seat under it. Round the corner you see the charming flint and brick arches of the west wall of the Monk’s Garden. For the last 12 years the gardens have been a much-loved preoccupation for Geordie and myself. We have extended them considerably: developing the White Border begun by my parents-in-law; creating our Wood of Goodwill, the Six Sisters’ Walk and the Rose Arbor in memory of my mother; planting thousands of spring bulbs under my husband’s direction; and our latest project, a garden for Catherine, the 6th Countess.
In amongst this I also decided to create something for those either not wishing to walk so far or easier for those in wheelchairs. My inspiration was our forebears at Highclere who created gardens here in the 13th century. Thus I set out a rectangle herb garden within a beech hedge which is, thank goodness, at long last starting to grow. It takes the form of 4 reasonably sized triangles of box within which are herbs planted for their healing properties. At that time of course, herbs and plants were the only resource available to relieve pain, heal wounds or induce sleep. In fact there are some records from medieval times that show that monks tried to help battle scarred knights recover both in body and spirit by growing herbs for depression for example, something that we have only recently begun to acknowledge the need for again.
The research into what herbs can add to our lives is fascinating. I myself use herbs in cooking as well as tisanes and it is interesting to see how much greater interest there is in some of the old remedies these days. Discussing this with a friend working in a hospital in the Middle East, we came up with the idea of creating a healing garden, (a physic garden), there. It is a unique charity offering help in Jerusalem and Gaza. (www.stjohneyehospital.org) It seems very positive to swop and share knowledge and plans as they progress with landscaping and planting.
Some of the herbs I’ve planted at Highclere such as lavender (which helps promote sleep and rest), rosemary (which is uplifting) and garlic (antibacterial especially for the lungs) will be very familiar. Others may be less so, for example Angelica which, as the name suggests, has heavenly associations. Legend has it that it flowers on May 8th, the feast day of St Michael the Archangel. It was thought to offer protection against various diseases and today is used in essential oils whilst the seed is used as a cooking flavour. It is perhaps particularly appropriate for my herb garden as the original church here at Highclere was named for St Michael the Archangel. Other herbs grown here include Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) which when dried has a sweet smell of hay and honey hence its name. It has been used to scent linen and ward off moths. It was also valued as a sedative and to help varicose veins. In Germany the herb is steeped in wine and drunk to celebrate May Day each year.
We also have Lovage (Levisticum officinale). Traditionally an aphrodisiac, it was grown and used by Greeks and Romans as well as in medieval times. All parts of the plant can be used: the seeds chewed to aid digestion; infusions used to help urinary problems; whilst the leaves have antiseptic qualities. The leaves can be added to salads or soups. Another less usual herb is Bugle (Ajuga reptans) which has astringent properties. The leaves, whether fresh or dried, have been used to treat wounds, throat irritations and mouth ulcers.
The list could go on for some time but I have thoroughly enjoyed putting it together and hope that it will become a lasting legacy to the Castle.
(As ever this blog is to share stories and experiences so please do not consider any of the above as professional advice on any medical matter!)
An excellent project. Well done. Perhaps we will see a whole new herbal remedy section in the gift shop before long ?
Many of the soaps, bath oils etc are based on ideas from the gardens. There are short stories on many of the packets from me! They are made locally for us..
This article was so wonderful. I hope to visit one day. That would be such a joy. Pat from Lutherville, Maryland USA
Learning the many uses of herbs in the past to the present is truly amazing. Thank you for sharing.
Marvellous idea and a nice project for you to get on with !
Oh, is it the garden with the sundial? It was the first garden I wandered into on a foggy morning in April, did not and could not walk to much further. It looks lovely now in summer…and yes, packets of lavender and rosemary should be offered for sale one day at the gift shop! This is a grand idea you have to develop a herb garden, all the best of success. So enjoy your blogs.
The lavenders etc re there – the tisanes are not – yet!
Have you found any of the uses you mentioned to work for you personally?
I have made a tisane from the verbascum leaves (a particular typeof verbascum which has a hairy leaf) and it helped when I had along running niggely cough one winter. I do use garlic – raw garlic -if I again cannot get rid of a winter cough and it is rattling around the lungs. The latter is very antiseptic and very strong. I eat a clove about 4pm when I hope I have no more meetings for the day!!! I love baths with lavender, which is so soothing, I grate ginger for evening teas as it is most excellent for digestion…herbs are part of my life. Lovage and sorrel for soups …
Excellent. That is so good.
What an interesting list of herbs and you say you have more?
What a wonderful legacy you are creating. Well done.
Your reference to medieval Monks and to the ‘Monks Garden’ at Highclere makes me wonder whether any monks were ever ‘in residence’ on the estate?
The photos of your gardens are stunning. And the sundial is spectacular.
I must get to Highclare one day and see it all. I am envious of all fellow bloggers who have already visited Highclere Castle and it’s wonderful grounds. However, I very much enjoy reading your blog and everyone’s comments.
By the way, I see that there is a plaque on the sundial’s stand. Is it also of historical significance? (Unfortunately I could not zoom in clearly enjough on your photo in order to read what it says.)
Monks lived here for 800 years… so yes. on the sundial is a quote, in latin – Omnia tempus habent,Tempus nascendi, et tempus moriendi – To everything there is a season, a time to live and a time to die” Ecclesiastes 3
This blog will be noted as one of my “favorites”……I have loved and now have my own herb garden !!!
They are sometimes hard to figure out (as to what grows in your region, and the ones that just don’t seem to thrive)
Your beautiful, thought out garden brought me much inspiration !! It is beyond gorgeous and your information so very helpful & fun !! Thank you….Thank you for always taking time to write this blog…my daughter & I look forward to each and everyone of them.
Thank you again for a wonderful posting. Your articles are most interesting and informative. I can hardly wait until next year when I will be able to experience the gardens first hand. You have been such a blessing to the present and future of the Castle. Your dedication to its amazing past and your generous desire for the public to know of its history and beauty is marvelous. May it survive for centuries more. Thank you so very much. Elizabeth Baltz
I, too, have an herb garden, it is very small in comparison to yours but brings me much pleasure. There is something about herbs that are soothing to the soul, may your beautiful herb garden thrive and bring pleasure to those that see it.
What a delightful post – I too love puttering with herbs, and only wish I had a bigger garden and more sun! One thing I love to do with mixed herbs, particularly the strongly aromatic ones, is to tie a bunch together with thread, bruise them a bit and then run a hot bath over the bashed herb bunch. It fills the bathroom with a lovely herb-y scent, and, (although this may be the power of positive thinking at work), I swear it makes for a more relaxing bath.
I’m reading the Outlander Series and the herbs were the only medicines available. Would be interesting to see which ones are used for depression, never heard of that one. You are very inspiring – keep it up, we need good people like you in the world. Love Love Love your blog
The most accepted and effective (ingested) herb for depression is St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) which is used for mild to moderate depression. As with any alternative medicine it must be used carefully and under medical supervision, as they can have side effects.
Apart from sleep (lavender) and St John’s Wort, part of the monk’s treatment was also to do something different – to garden to work with plants.
As a certified herbalist and contributor to a natural remedy/herbal periodical, I was very pleased to read about your herb garden. It looks beautiful! The history of herbs is indeed a fascinating subject. I also think that it would be a great idea to offer herbal items in the gift shop – especially things like lavender sachets or wands, the latter of which are a creative and attractive way of binding lavender stalks together. I have been very busy harvesting the same here in Oregon for personal use and we have just come to the end of the Lavender Festival where all of the many lavender farms in the area host events. Thank you for sharing about your endeavor!
Herbs are gifts from God. I grow many herbs and use them in cooking. The garden looks wonderful. Do you grow mint? Thanks for sharing your pictures.
I grow lots of different mints…
is the word SWOP the same,as our American word SWAP?
I never thought about it – I think I would use swap as a noun and swop as a verb -fun to mull over various words! Our words were heard and spoken and only later written down in various forms so it is a convention rather than correct.
I live in the desert but still have herbs growing year round. Right now tons of basil, rosemary, thyme are doing well. Nothing like fresh pesto over pasta whenever you want. Will look forward to seeing the Highclere’s grounds in August!
Your herb garden is so lovely! Just looking at the photos is very restful.
I have been trying to expand my understanding of natural remedies and also natural cleaning solutions since as I age I become more and more sensitive to artificial fragrances and other man-made chemicals. I’ve been starting to use essential oils in my daily life, including replacing my hairspray with a nature-based recipe that is simply water, a little sugar, and essential oil (I’m using lemon in my latest batch). I was happy to find that it works great – the hardest part was finding a spray bottle that would work properly!
It was a pleasure to read about the plants you grow and use in your own daily endeavor to stay healthy and happy. It is always a pleasure to find a notification in my inbox of another post from you and Highclere. All the best to you and your family!
The garden is so lovely.
Would the Six Sisters be your family?
They are – I have 5 sisters, Carol! So we have each planted a pair of walnut trees. They lead down to the Rose Arbour in memory of our mother.
Lady Carnarvon..Interesting what natural herbs can do and have done for thousands of years. Do you plan on a book of Highclere herbs perhaps in the future? We would be most interested in reading one. Loved the gardens when we were there last year.Keep up the great work and a book???
Hello Lady Carnarvan
What a beautiful garden! Thanks for the interesting information on herbs. It’s a fascinating and seemingly endless topic. Nice thought to make a garden for those who may not be able to get about so easily, it’s something everyone should be able to enjoy. There’s nothing so pleasant as a stroll through a lovely garden, except a leisurely hack around the estate!
I know nothing about Herbs being a man 🙂 other then lavender & rosemary, but I do love the history around this that goes back 1,000’s of years & we are still using today in medicine, cooking, soaps & bath oils the list is endless..
another 1st class blog Lady Carnarvan
Thank you Paul and I have just had a great meeting with a sculptor and sketched out an idea for a memorial to the airmen. It has been an utterly uplifting afternoon meeting.
Oh Wow I so look forward to seeing your sketch soon on my next visit Lady Carnarvan its becoming real now I’m so excited , We are hard at it with more names to aircraft & the history keeps on coming..
Lady Carnarvan, Herbs are a fascinating subject used for thousands of years to treat
many maladies. Perhaps a new book written by you about your herb garden and
the uses for them?? Would love to read one.Best of luck
Brilliant and Beautiful. Herb gardens are so practical as you point out serve many purposes: medicinal, savory, sensory–both sight and smell and bring smiles and joy to all who gaze upon them. I am fortunate to have a successful herb garden in our CT garden but after trying 7 different variety of lavender have not been successful in growing them in abundance. Dried lavender is so wonderful to carry around in a little pouch in my purse or hand bag as upon opening it a waft of lavender scent floats out. I also make a sleeve of it with gauze fabric and slip it between my bed pillow and pillow cover. After living in London these past 15 months I do so envy how well and abundantly lavender grows here and seemingly with little effort! Well done Lady Carnarvan and thank you for opening up your home to us all when you do (I had the pleasure of visiting in April 🙂 and keeping us informed of your wonderful undertakings through your blogs. Continued success in all your endeavors.
I’m so very thrilled to have found your blog online. Your posts are very interesting, and contain a lot of information. I was pleased to have met you last spring in Nashville, TN following your seminar at the Antique and Garden Show. I had bought tickets to visit Highclere last September, but we had to postpone. We were in London last week, and I finally got to visited your beautiful Highclere last Tuesday. It was very interesting seeing it in person. I’m sad I wasn’t able to enjoy walking around outside and enjoying your gardens. To my misfortune, I chose to wear an orange blouse and cologne that day and was swarmed by little black insects. I wasn’t aware of the insects until they covered my blouse and my husband began swatting at them. The gentleman in the parking area said they were very attracted to bright colors and they were very aggressive that day. I’m hoping to visit again someday, and will absolutely not be wearing orange.
Please share more pictures of your stunning gardens. And if you should ever publish a book on gardening, I’d be eager to own one.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It is so delightful to learn of your herb garden and read about your flowers, as well as the fabulous castle! The herb descriptions and anecdotes are particularly fascinating to me. I spent 7 years keeping journals, photographing, indexing wildflower and herb locations and bloom dates in the 3 million acre Superior National Forest, along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior in the U.S. It is a guidebook for disabled people who are unable to hike the trails, called Wildflower Safaris By Car. I have Lupus and am unable to walk. Thus it was of great interest to me that you mentioned wheelchair accessibility in the garden, as i had given up hope of ever seeing Highclere. Is the castle itself accessible?
Surprisingly a number of the herbs you referenced also grow wild in the brutal winters of this northern wilderness. Some of the wildflowers and herbs described in my book also contain traditional Native American lore and uses which are similar to ones you have mentioned. Wild Ginger, St. John’s Wort, Mints, Ajuga, Leeks, and many others grow wild and profusely. It is fascinating to me that the ancient knowledge of isolated worlds is so similar. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog!
I remain your HUGE fan who would also love to see photobooks of Highclere rooms, grounds, and plantings. 🙂
This is so fantastic!! I love a good herb garden and have tried my best to keep one in my garden but here in the desert southwest of the US it can be a bit inhospitable at times. We do manage to have some herbs thrive though. I don’t know why interest in using these natural remedies has come back into popularity but I really have enjoyed learning more about it.
I wanted to thank you for changing a young boys perspective on life. My family visited in July 2015 on a very cold, windy, rainy day in July 2015. My 12 year old son was somewhat interested in the architecture & history of the house, as well as the people who lived there but he came alive in the herb garden. He snatched my camera & took pictures of every plant & plant marker. He knew some of the common herbs, but was fascinated with learning about the new ones. Dispite the horizontal freezing rain, he insisted we find the flower gardens before leaving & continued his almost obsessive photography session. It was his favorite part of was of our trip to England. This spring he has taken control of our small Texas home garden. Based on his photos from our trip, he has added as many herbs as his allowance will allow. We look forward to him adding herbs to most of our meals & flavoring our Texas tea with a wide variety of mints. We will soon be moving to 10 acres not far away to give more space for our rescued Egyptian Arabian & his herb & flower garden. He has big plans for a big herb garden right next to his Ababian friend. Thank you for sparking a lifelong hobby for at least one young boy.