In our forefathers’ days one of the most important parts of the garden was devoted to a certain class of plants now collectively known as herbs, and went by the name of the physic garden.
Medicine production and manufacture by private people is however a thing of the past, and at present the few herbs grown in gardens are luxuries rather than necessaries. There are still many plants that are well worth growing for private use for their medicinal qualities in addition to those we grow for ordinary purposes.
The Anise (Pimpinella anisum), of which the seeds are used in medicine and the leaves for seasoning and garnishing, is easily raised on light rich soils, where the situation is moist and warm. The seeds contain aromatic and carminative properties, which make them valuable in cases of flatulence. Their aroma is agreeable and powerful.
The Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is now a naturalized plant in some parts of the hills, and its cultivation. Its roots have been used as a purgative, and the gummy exudations of the stem as an emetic. The flower heads are used as a vegetable, and the plant is a very ornamental one.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), like a mint in appearance, is also naturalized in rich moist spots in the hills, where it grows amazingly. It is seldom used as a medicine, however, a decoction of lemon balm is a very agreeable drink. It has an aromatic flavor, and the leaves when rubbed give off a strong citron scent. It is propagated readily from pieces of the root.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil, and Dwarf Basil), are used for flavoring soup and salads, the young leaves being made use of for this purpose. They are easily raised from seeds sown on light rich soil, and kept well watered.
Caraway (Carum carvi), the seeds of this plant, like those of Anise, are made use of, and their agreeable aromatic flavor is taken advantage of in baking and confectionery. The plant is readily raised from seed sown in ordinary soil.
Celery (Apium graveolens) is well-known as a salad, and as a flavoring agent.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), its medicinal qualities are still accounted high it might be found worthy of more notice than it receives at present. It will grow in any good soil, but requires plenty of water during the hot weather. Both leaves and flowers of the plant are used, but more commonly the flowers only; they are used as bitters when infused under the name of chamomile tea, and are still held in great repute for their tonic and stomachic qualities.
Hyssop has long been spoken of as a fragrant herb. The present plant has long been under cultivation in English gardens. Its general appearance is not unlike the Savory; and its medicinal properties consist of an essential oil of an aromatic flavor which is said to be mildly stimulating. It is easily raised from seeds or cuttings during the autumn or spring, and succeeds in any good garden soil.
Lavender (Lavandula Spica) is grown as an ornamental plant principally. It is probable that it will be grown as long as a scent producing agent.
Marigold (Calendula officinalis) grows freely from seeds in any rich garden soil. The flowers when fully expanded are gathered and used in the flavoring of soups.
Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) can be grown with ease by sowing the seeds where required. It is in common use as a medicine.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a common plant in our gardens, though seldom used for its curative properties.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) was known as the herb of grace, as Rosemary was for remembrance. It is rather scarce as yet in gardens, but is worth attention as an ornament. It has a strong, unpleasant smell, and a totter, acrid taste, and its power as an antispasmodic is said to be undoubted. It can be raised from seeds and cuttings.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a common and popular herb, and has perhaps kept its place in the garden better than any other. It is of easy culture, and is not particular about either soil or situation.
Summer Savory is an annual plant, to be raised from seeds sown at the beginning of winter or in spring on light rich soil. The winter Savory is increased by cuttings planted during the winter in a sheltered border, or if raised from seeds sown in the same way as for the summer kind.
Thyme (Thymus), this useful plant can be grown readily in any garden if slips are put in during the winter season. Like many other herbs it requires to be cut before it is quite ripe to keep for use.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a very handsome plant in the garden, and can be grown without more than ordinary care. It is some times used in cookery, and has a strong pungent odor.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) produces a powerful bitter. It is seldom used as a medicine, although possessed of both tonic and stimulative properties.