Create a Beautiful Herb Garden With This Flexible Design Plan

Create a Beautiful Herb Garden With This Flexible Design Plan

Formal herb gardens—with their symmetry, knots and interweaving textures—can look intimidating. But to create a simple formal herb garden, all you really need to do is choose a geometric shape, like a circle or a square, divide it into sections of equal size and fill each section with similar or complementary plants. Designing a formal herb garden is easy enough. Just don’t lose sight of the maintenance involved with keeping order in your herb garden. The more precise the lines, the more any wayward plants will stick out like a sore thumb.

A less labor-intensive approach is to give your herb garden the bones of a formal layout and then fill it with exuberant herb plants that can be allowed to mature, fill in and spread without constant supervision.


Choosing Plants for an Herb Garden

When selecting plants for a formal herb garden, consider the growth habits and mature sizes of the plants. Place low creepers, like thyme and chamomile, on opposite path edges to complement each other. Put more aggressive herbs, like mints and lemon balm, in pots either above or below the ground.

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Most herbs used for culinary purposes won’t be allowed to flower early in the season. So focus on texture and foliage color to bring a sense of fullness to your herb garden design.

Make sure all the plants can be accessed, both for harvesting and maintenance, without walking into the beds. The paths should be at least three feet wide for easy walking. Since this is a formal garden, the paths can be paved or mulched to provide the axis for the garden.

The garden design shown here contains 20 different herb plants. Most of these plants will flower at some point in the season, but there is plenty of variety with just the plant shapes and textures. The sprawlers are kept to a minimum, to retain a somewhat formal feel. You can, of course, improvise any way that suits you.

The color scheme is another unifying element that adds to the formality. It makes use of the complementary color combos of purple/yellow and blue/orange. If the orange of the calendula and nasturtiums is too bold for you, you can always substitute one of the paler yellow varieties or the pink variety of calendula.

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The center of a formal herb garden is usually the focal point. Even though there is a formality, the focal point is a chance for you to show your gardening personality. It could be a large herb plant, such as a sweet bay tree or large potted rosemary. Many gardeners like to put a garden ornament in the center of their herb gardens, like a birdbath, either as a bath or as a planter. Another popular feature is placing a sundial in a small center bed and surrounding it with thyme plants. Whimsy is permitted in a formal herb garden.

Below is a list of plants used in this basic garden design (read on for more detail), but remember, the plants you choose to use (and number and variety) will depend on the specifics of your garden.

  1. Lavender bee balm
  2. Thyme
  3. Cilantro
  4. Lavender
  5. Lemon balm
  6. Borage
  7. Tarragon
  8. Nasturtium
  9. Chives
  10. Purple sage
  11. Dill
  12. Lemon thyme
  13. Greek oregano
  14. Bronze fennel
  15. Golden variegated sage
  16. Calendula
  17. Parsley
  18. Basil assortment
  19. Chamomile
  20. Bird bath
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