I always thought it impossible for any plant to overpower mint. Sticky willy, however, seems to be up to the challenge.
I grow mint in a bed almost to itself, the only companion being oregano, which is also a crowd-out-everything-else sort of plant.
At least, oregano used to be the only companion. Over the past few years, as my weeding has grown lax, ferns and May apples have moved in, along with less desirables — sticky willy, chickweed, a sprig or two of privet hedge and least desirable of all, poison ivy.
I am battling all the invaders now, though I know as the vegetable garden takes more and more of my time, and as the weather grows hot, I will again decide mint can put up its own fight. And it will. I’m putting my money on it eventually outrunning even chickweed and sticky willy.
As for other herbs I grow, not all are as hardy as mint. Sweet basil, for example, one of Dick’s and my favorites, is a tender plant that requires warm weather for growth.
I’ve just become courageous enough to put this year’s plants out in the herb bed. I hope blackberry winter will be mild — assuming we haven’t already had it lumped into some of these cold spells that have plagued us in late April.
Fresh sprigs of basil with sliced tomatoes or added to tomato pie are a summer essential, and dried basil crumbled into pots of vegetable soup or chili or stirred into meatloaf or a pasta dish give a touch of summer to winter meals. I try to have plenty of both stages of basil on hand.
Thyme is another essential. Though not as invasive as mint and oregano, it is nevertheless easy to grow. It occupies a spot in my herb bed between the chives and culinary sage and seems to get along well with its neighbors. The sage wants to spread a little more than do chives or thyme, its sturdy stems reaching out into any available space. But a little judicious pruning keeps it in check.
Dick is not fond of another occupant of the herb bed, rosemary, which is one of my favorite aromas. I content myself with rubbing against the rosemary bush as I work in the bed, and I use rosemary sparingly in any dishes that seem to call for it.
Luckily, we both agree that lavender is one of the best scents we grow on the hilltop. Dried lavender tucked in the linen closet or placed in a drawer with clothing or fresh lavender in a bud vase or slipped into a larger arrangement makes the whole world smell better.
Growing herbs is not the only low-labor aspect of gardening. Raising perennial flowering plants ranks near the top for reward received in exchange for work put in. Right now irises are a prime example. A few weeks ago the old-fashioned purple iris, our state flower, was in full bloom in beds all around the yard. Those have faded, but yellow, bronze, deep purple and several varieties with various colored petals are providing a riot of color.
I can scarcely get enough of looking at them. Each day I circle the gardens, pausing to look and look and then to look some more. The camera on my phone is rapidly filling up with iris photographs. My family has learned to expect at least one text a day with a picture of an iris. I’m grateful for the ease of shooting and sending. If family and friends can’t come see the flowers, I can share the blooms in some small way.
I include clematis, one plant with flowers of pale blue and one plant of deep maroon, in the daily photographs. The vines climb their respective trellises and offer blossoms the size of saucers, all with no effort on my part except to be sure the trellises are sturdy.
Another labor-free treat is also opening its bright blooms — the red poppies that grow along the outside of the garden fence and among the herbs. One October afternoon a number of years ago I scattered poppy seed. Ever since the poppies have reseeded themselves and come up each spring, sometimes far from where I originally planted them. We’ve even found them blooming in the fields where we’ve hauled the spent plants.
Herbs and other perennials make being at home this spring a real joy. I’ll try not to complain too much when I have to do some real labor in the garden.