Plants with fragrant leaves

Add that just-picked taste to your meals — even when snow is drifting up against the kitchen window — by growing herbs indoors all year long. You won’t even need special any special equipment as long as you give them plenty of water and sunshine.

How to Grow Herbs

As a general rule of (green) thumb, place your herbs in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun daily. To test the strength of sun, Bonnie Plants suggests that you turn off all lights on a sunny or partly sunny day, and periodically check to see how natural sunlight there is.

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In addition to sunlight, all herbs need to be planted in pots with good drainage. If you’re concerned that the drainage holes will ruin your tabletop or windowsill, use a saucer or liner to catch any excess water. For specifics on watering and sun exposure, follow this guide.

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Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window; it likes lots of sun and warmth.


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It’s a perennial that does best using the container gardening method. Place the pot in an east- or west-facing window, but be sure it does not get crowded. Bay needs air circulation to remain healthy.


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Start chervil seeds in late summer. This herb, also called French parsley, grows well in low light but needs temperatures between 65 degrees and 70 degrees to thrive.


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At the end of growing season, dig up a clump of chives from your garden and replant it in a pot. Leave the pot outside until the leaves die back. In early winter, move the pot to your coolest indoor spot (like your basement) for a few days. Then place it in your brightest window.

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Your best bet is to start with a tip that has been cut from an outdoor oregano plant. Once you’ve then planted that tip in a pot, place it in a south-facing window.

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You can start parsley from seeds or dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the season. Parsley likes full sun, but will grow slowly in an east- or west-facing window.

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Start with a cutting of rosemary and keep it in a moist soilless mix until it roots. It grows best in a south-facing window. Expect your kitchen to smell fresh throughout the cooler seasons thanks to the pungent scent of this herb — it acts like a natural air freshener!


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Take a tip that was cut from an outdoor plant to start an indoor sage plant. It tolerates dry, indoor air well, but it needs the strong sun from a south-facing window.


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A dormant period in late fall or early winter is essential for tarragon to grow indoors. Pot a mature plant from your outdoor garden and leave it outside until the leaves die back. Bring it to your coolest indoor spot for a few days, then place it in a south-facing window for as much sun as possible. Feed well with a liquid fertilizer.

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You can start thyme indoors by either rooting a soft tip that was cut from an outdoor plant or digging up and repotting the entire thing. Thyme likes full sun but will grow in an east- or west-facing window.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Growing Herbs Indoors

Research shows that indoor plants may help brighten your mood, reduce stress and clean the air too. All you need is a sunny window. Growing herbs indoors allows you to enjoy homegrown produce whether you’re short on garden space or just want to add a dash of green to your interior. For newbies, it can also serve as a low-stakes entry into more substantial edible gardening. Whenever you need some, clip a few sprigs to use in a recipe or as a pretty garnish. But before you pot up your first plant, ensure your success by following these surefire strategies.

Related: 6 Foolproof Herbs for Gardening Newbies

1. Pick the Right Plants

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Most herbs can be grown indoors, but those that tend to thrive inside include no-fuss picks like basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. You can start herbs from seed or cuttings (a branch of an existing plant cut at the node and soaked in water until new roots sprout), but will find it much easier-and faster-to begin with seedlings from the garden center.

2. Select a Container with Drainage

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You can plant herbs in virtually any container, so long as it has some type of drainage and something to protect the surface underneath, such as a saucer or round plastic protector (available at garden centers). If you are using nontraditional planters such as mason jars, place a layer of pebbles in the bottom to catch excess moisture. You can use any size container you like provided the plant fits, but realize that the smaller the vessel, the sooner you’ll have to repot.

3. Choose the Sunniest Spot

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Your indoor herb garden will need at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Place plants as close as possible to your brightest window. Avoid setting them in the center of a room or near a window with a northern exposure, neither of which will offer enough light. Growth may be slow and leggy during winter months; consider investing in a grow light or waiting until spring.

4. Water-but Not Too Much

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You’ll be surprised by how little water it takes to sustain a small herb. Keep soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. A small watering can or a drizzle under the sink will suffice. If the leaves begin to wilt or turn yellow, scale back the H20.

5. Harvest a Little at a Time

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Harvest a few sprigs with kitchen shears or by pinching leaves off with your fingers. Bonus: Regular cutbacks encourage new growth. Avoid removing more than a quarter of the plant at a time, which will cause distress and could even kill the plant.

Related: Guide to Cooking with Fresh Herbs

6. Transplant When Ready

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Indoor herb plants are not forever. The good news/bad news is that if you do it right, your herbs will eventually outgrow their containers and need more space. If you see roots coming out of the drainage holes, growth seems to have stalled or the plant starts to flop over, it’s time to transplant.

In most climates, perennial herbs such as lavender and mint can be started inside and moved into the ground after the threat of frost has passed. Annual herbs can be moved outdoors through the end of the growing season. When cold weather approaches, you can either bring the pots back indoors or leave them outside, but be sure to take cuttings before the first frost so you can start the whole indoor herb garden process over again.

Both annuals and perennials can be moved into larger pots within your home at any time; just keep them close to a light source.

Indoor Herb Garden Ideas That Don’t Need a Windowsill

Try these clever, stylish indoor herb gardens, perfect for those who can only dream of a big window right over their sink.

1. Chalkboard Wall Planter

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This stunning chalkboard planter from Williams Sonoma lets you grow edible art that looks good and tastes good. If you have a blank wall near a window, tuck your favorite herbs into the 10 cubbies and label to your heart’s content. An added bonus-­watering is easy. Fill the irrigator on top with water and moisture trickles down slowly to keep your plants hydrated. (There’s a tray at the bottom to collect excess.)

2. Grow Anywhere Herb Growbar

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Fake a windowsill with this wall-mounted grow light from Food52 that turns any nook into the sunniest spot in your home.

3. Vintage Milk Crate Herb Garden

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Fill mason jars with your favorite herbs and house them in a vintage milk crate for easy transport from a window-side table to the sink for watering. Add chalk labels to help you remember what’s what. See an easy DIY mason jar herb garden from Better Homes & Gardens.

4. Window Herb Garden

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No windowsill? No problem. These adorable planters developed by blogger Stephanie Rose from Garden Therapy stick directly to the glass. A complete kit takes the guesswork out of selection with six different types of seed, plus a marker so you can write right on the window.

5. Macrame Hanging Herb Garden

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Wendy Robbins from My French Twist created crafty wall-mounted macrame holders for indoor herbs. See the complete instructions to make your own.

Photo by Emily Murphy

Bring your garden inside with 10 of the easiest herbs to grow indoors.

If You’re Going to Grow One Thing, Let it Be Herbs!

Herbs are a fabulous reminder that it doesn’t take much to make a big – and wonderful – difference in everyday living. They’re the dynamos of the garden. Use them in cooking, teas, aromatherapy, homemade skincare products, and as a key element in a pollinator garden. In fact, once you start growing and cooking with fresh herbs you’ll never go back.

So! As you may have heard me say before, if you’re going to grow just one thing, let it be herbs. They will change your life.

Bring cuttings or divisions inside to grow on a sunny windowsill throughout the seasons, or start a fresh batch of herbs in small containers from seeds or starts.

How to Propagate Plants from Cuttings

6 Things to Remember When Planting Seeds

4 Tips for Success

Keep a few basic principles in mind when growing any plant inside or out.

  1. Locate your sunniest window or area where grow lights can easily be added, such as under existing kitchen cabinets. About how much sun does your sunniest window receive each day? Plants requiring full sun need a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sun a day to thrive, while plants that tolerate part sun need a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of sun a day.
  2. Plant in containers with good drainage. It’s okay to use a decorative planter without drain holes. This will help protect indoor surfaces but plan to plant in containers with drainage that then fit inside your chosen planter. This way water runs freely, plants are never waterlogged, and everyone will be happy.
  3. Work with the best potting soil you can find. An organic potting mix designed for containers that’s high in organic matter and peat-free is ideal.
  4. Begin with a handful of plants like the plants you cook with most. If you find yourself reaching for parsley, grow parsley. If a pinch of fresh cilantro is the flavor you’re after, grow cilantro. Start with 2 to 5 plants while working out your system and remember, you don’t need to grow all the food you eat. Think of your indoor garden as a method for augmenting and inspiring everyday cooking.

10 Easiest Herbs to Grow Indoors

Use the list below as a launchpad. These are the plants that have proven themselves as easy growers. They’re tolerant of growing in confined spaces and varied conditions. My hope is that this list will narrow down your plant selection and provide immediate success and enjoyment.

  • Basil
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
Other Edibles to Consider Growing Indoors
  • Pea shoots & other microgreens
  • Sprouts

Grow Your Own Microgreens

How to Grow Sprouts with DIY Sprouting Jars

Photo by Emily Murphy

Other articles you might enjoy:

Fall Garden Checklist

Grow Your Own Herb Tea Garden

How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

*This article was originally published September 2018

Fragrant plants: fresh ideas for aromatic leaves


Bay (Laurus nobilis) or sweet bay can be used fresh or dried as a culinary herb in bouquets garnis and for drying clothes on topiary or potted specimens or hedges.

Juniper in all its varieties has a spicy, pungent astringent smell reminiscent of gin and tonic. Use the cones and young foliage in potpourri and to light fires.

Rosemary to form low hedges on which to dry clothes and impart a clean fresh deodorising smell. Always use trimmings to light barbecues.

Eucalyptus or gum tree is best grown as a stooled shrub with attractive juvenile foliage in a glorious blue grey. Useful for flower arrangements and potpourri.

Lavender pinnata has aromatic grey-green fern-like foliage with masses of bright blue flowers and a more lemony, spicier smell than more common spiky lavenders. Hyssop has a bitter, minty smell and lovely blue flowers. It makes a good low hedge to surround herb beds when clipped.

Citrus The lustrous dark green leaves of most citrus plants have a zingy smell, especially grapefruit and lime, if you can avoid scale insects and mealy bugs.

Cedar Many coniferous trees have delicious pine-smelling foliage and cones which can be used to light fires and wood that is used to discourage moths.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis), with its fluffy flowers and leaves that smell of eucalyptus when crushed, needs shelter, but should be grown more frequently.

Lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) needs winter shelter, but the leaves when picked or used in a tisane give the freshest lemon fragrance – even better than citrus leaves.


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• Save money on fabric softener and enjoy the smell of fresh aired clothes.


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What Are the Most Fragrant Herbs Used in Aromatherapy?

There’s something about the scent of a fresh sprig of mint or lavender. The fragrance of herbs can have a significant effect on our emotional wellbeing. The uplifting, fresh scent of mint can help improve focus, while the soothing scent of lavender can help alleviate stress and promote a good night of sleep.

Planting an herb garden of the most fragrant herbs will give you an uplifting experience every time you walk near it. Not only do these herbs smell nice, but they all also offer a wider variety of therapeutic benefits. Whether you choose to drink them as a tea, add them to a smoothie, or diffuse their essential oils throughout your home, herbs are an easy, healthy way to boost overall wellness.

Some of the most fragrant herbs are mint, lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, and basil. Whether you’re looking for an herb to boost energy, ease anxiety, relieve pain, or maintain healthy circulation, each of these common herbs brings something to the table.


There are many different varieties of mint. Peppermint, spearmint, catmint, even chocolate, and pineapple mint. Peppermint and spearmint are the most popular types and are often the types of mint you find in herbal tea blends.

Spearmint can be consumed in the form of a tea, and its leaves are a delightful addition to fresh salads. You can also add a few fresh leaves to a glass of water or iced tea. When drunk as an herbal tea, spearmint can help ease nausea and reduce symptoms of respiratory illnesses.

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Spearmint essential oil is highly versatile and can be used to speed the healing of wounds, aid the digestive system, ease respiratory symptoms, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, promote healthy circulation, and stimulate the mind. It can also be gently rubbed onto the temples to reduce the pain of headaches.

Try diffusing spearmint essential oil throughout your home, drinking a warm mug of mint tea, or using a personal diffuser like Vibrant MONQ.


Lavender is easily one of the most identifiable herbs, and its calming properties make it one of the most popular. Lavender is often found in herbal tea blends that are meant to promote sleep and relaxation, while lavender essential oil is known for its calming properties. Even smelling a fresh sprig of lavender can promote relaxation.

Lavender essential oil is good for more than just promoting relaxation. This essential oil can also improve cognitive function, ease symptoms of cold and flu, keep skin looking young and healthy, and fight off toxins in the body.

Try drinking a warm mug of chamomile and lavender tea before bedtime, diffuse lavender essential oil throughout your room with a room diffuser, or use it in a personal diffuser like Sleepy MONQ.


Rosemary has a strong, distinct scent and is a wonderful addition to roasts and infused oils. Rosemary is known for its ability to enhance memory, improve digestion, boost mood, and fight off bacterial infections.

Rosemary essential oil can be used to remedy indigestion, alleviate stress, ease headaches and muscle pain, boost the immune system, and support respiratory health.

Mix a few drops of rosemary essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage onto sore muscles or diffuse throughout your home to boost your mood and support your health. You can also take rosemary with you on-the-go with Zen MONQ.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm has a bright, soothing scent, so it’s no surprise that in aromatherapy lemon balm is often used to soothe feelings of stress and anxiety. A warm mug of lemon balm tea can help ease frazzled nerves and combat negative feelings.

Lemon balm essential oil is known for its ability to reduce inflammation, fight infections, improve sleep quality, promote skin health, ease headache pain, and boost mood.

Try diffusing lemon balm essential oil throughout your home or gently rub it onto the temples to ease headache pain. If you’re having trouble sleeping, mix a few drops of lemon balm and lavender essential oils into a spray bottle filled with water and lightly spray on your pillowcase. You can also diffuse this blend throughout your room to promote feelings of peace. Lemon balm can be found in Forest MONQ.


Basil is one of the most widely-used herbs, with its fragrant leaves adding a fresh and delightful flavor to pesto, salad, pizza, and pasta. You can even add a few fresh leaves to a glass of water or iced tea or brew them into a soothing mug of herbal tea.

In aromatherapy, basil essential oil is used to stimulate the nervous system, alleviate stress and anxiety, soothe tense muscles, treat acne, reduce the pain of headaches, and protect against infections.

Diffusing basil essential oil throughout your home can help disinfect the air and give your home a fresh scent. Basil essential oil can also be found in Healthy MONQ. Simply breathe it in whenever you feel like you need a health boost.


Herbs offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits. Keeping fresh herbs around the home and adding them to your favorite recipes can help promote overall wellness, but their essential oil counterparts pack a powerful health punch when used in aromatherapy.

Whether you’re diffusing herbal essential oils throughout your home or breathing them in through a personal aromatherapy diffuser, you can benefit from their therapeutic properties with minimal effort.

A well-planned garden should awaken all of the senses: the sight of colorful flowers; the contrasting touch of luscious shrubbery; the chirp and buzz of creatures hard at work; the flavor of freshly grown fruits and vegetables; and, of course, the scents of the season.

A sudden waft of fragrance can invigorate or relax, can stir emotions or bring back memories. Turn your garden into a symphony of olfactory delights by selecting herbs and other plants based not just on their beauty, but also their smell.

Your aromatic garden can be as simple as a few pleasantly scented herb pots by the door, or as intricate as designated zones of complementary fragrances.

Planning Your Aromatic Garden

When designing your scented garden, don’t forget to focus on more than just the smells of the plants – remember to plan according to their color, the time of year they bloom, their size and their individual needs. This way, you will be left with a cohesive, year round garden of stunning colors and delightful aromas.

Place stronger smelling plants like jasmine and roses in a sun spot – this is where you are most likely to relax and soak up some rays, while enjoying the beauty of these blooms.

Most plants will release their aromas better when brushed against, touched or carried by the wind, so keep this is mind when choosing planting positions.

Another good tip is to plant your herbs close to your house. You’ll be able to enjoy their fragrance from the kitchen, and it’s easy to nip outside and retrieve the herb you require when cooking.

Some of the best plants to choose for a truly fragranced garden include:

1. Gardenia

Gardenia are one of the most well-known and loved fragrances in the garden and are always a good choice for both their scent and their beautiful blooms and foliage.

These heat-loving evergreen shrubs don’t do well in cold weather though, so they are best grown in moderate year-round climates, or planted in pots and brought indoors once it starts to get chilly. Gardenias generally prefer partial shade and moist, yet well-drained acidic soil when outside and bright light and humidity when kept inside.

2. Dianthus

There are over 300 varieties of dianthus, including Sweet William, pinks, and carnations. Many types of this genus have flowers with a fragrant, spicy smell similar to cinnamon or clove and most dianthus have pink, red or white flowers with notched petals.

You can source hardy annual, biennial or perennial dianthus varieties. They are most often used in borders or potted displays and should be planted in full sun, with well-drained soil.

3. Sweet Autumn Clematis

This hardy climber grows quickly, and features handsome, deep green leaves and a mass of star-shaped, fragrant white flowers.

The sweet autumn clematis is easy to grow but due to its invasive nature will require regular pruning. Position it in full sun and moist, yet well-drained soil.

4. Nicotiana

Choose one of the 67 species of this plant – in a variety of whites, pinks, reds and pastels – to fill your garden with a strong, sweet fragrance. Because the trumpet-shaped flowers usually open in the evening or night, that’s when the scent will be strongest, so grow them on your patio or wherever you enjoy al fresco evening dining.

Keep in mind they prefer full sun to partial shade and moist soil with good drainage.

5. Oriental Lily

With a powerful scent, and beautiful speckled flower, Oriental lilies come in shades of white, pink and yellow. Growing up to six feet, they often bloom in late summer when most other bulbs have finished.

These true lilies need well-drained soil and six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Luckily, they also grow well in containers, so you can position them to best effect in your garden.

6. Calendula

Calendula not only has a simple beauty, but it is edible, easy to maintain and offers numerous therapeutic uses. Also known as ‘pot marigolds’, these annuals bloom constantly throughout the growing season. The leaves are fragrant, and the flowers have a sweet, resin-like aroma … unlike most other plants traditionally grown for fragrance.

While calendula prefer full sun, they will tolerate light shade in warmer areas.

7. Lavender

This is the quintessential fragranced plant – with a soothing scent, and fantastic blue-violet flowers. In fact, lavender oil is a common ingredient in soaps, shampoos and sachets for scenting clothes thanks to its pleasing aroma. Researchers have even discovered that lavender produces slight calming, soothing and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled.

There are several varieties of lavender so make sure you choose one that’s right for your climate.

8. Jasmine

To enjoy a truly relaxing backyard experience, a jasmine plant or two is a must! has found that the sweet smell of jasmine is as good as valium at calming the nerves…and with none of the side effects! It’s also an important ingredient in the perfume industry, with 83% of all women’s perfumes containing the fragrance.

There are over 300 species of the jasmine plant and, while most prefer hot climates, some varieties can be found in colder regions. Its sweet, musky scent – which grows stronger in the evening – is unmistakable.

9. Roses

Another scented garden staple, roses are undeniably beautiful. There are so many roses to choose from, but some of the best in terms of scent include the strongly fragrant ‘Honey Perfume’, the sweet and lemony ‘Heritage’, the rich and sweet ‘Fragrant Plum’, the intense and citrusy ‘Radiant Perfume’, the sweet ‘Louise Odier’ or ‘Madame Plantier’, the perfume-industry favorite ‘Autumn Damask’ and the dramatic ‘Double Delight’.

Before you choose your rose variety, make sure to check out these tips on growing the biggest and most beautiful roses for your garden.

10. Scented Geraniums

A cousin of the geranium, the scented variety don’t bloom as often or as impressively but their fantastic scents make them one of the best plants for an aromatic garden.

These flowers are best placed along hedging, borders, or in your favorite place to sit in the garden – the leaves of these plants need to be touched or brushed in order to release their rich smell.

Choose from a variety of scented geraniums that smell of apple, apricot, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, nutmeg, orange, strawberry, rose and peppermint!

You can grow them in pots, indoors or out, or in the ground. They like lots of sun, and will grow in most soils although they don’t do well with wet feet. Before the first frost of fall, dig up the plants to bring indoors or take cuttings for winter growing.

11. Juniper

Juniper shrubs don’t need to be pruned to maintain their shape, making them a low maintenance option for a boundary hedge. If you want to attract wildlife to your garden, while enjoying a fresh, spicy and pungent fragrance, then consider planting juniper.

The National Wildlife Federation counts juniper shrubs as one of the top 10 plants for wildlife because they provide food, shelter and nesting sites for birds.

You can also use the cones and young foliage in potpourri and to light fires!

12. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is one of the most pleasing and fresh garden scents. Although it’s actually a member of the mint family – with similar looking leaves and small white flowers – it has a distinctly lemony smell, hence its name!

This low maintenance herb will grow in part shade to full sun and in almost any type of soil but they flourish in full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Like its cousin mint, lemon balm is quite invasive, although removing the flowers as soon as they appear will limit this spread.

To keep it as aromatic as possible, don’t fertilize your lemon balm plant.

13. Chamomile

This aromatic herb doesn’t just make a soothing herbal tea, it’s also a pleasure to look at (and smell) in the garden. With small, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers and white petals, both the Roman and German varieties like cool conditions, partial shade and dry soil.

Once established, it requires little effort – chamomile is drought tolerant and fairly immune to most garden pests thanks to its strong yet relaxing scent.

14. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus, with its silvery aromatic leaves and bark which smells like a blend of menthol and sage, is a great addition to any fragranced garden.

It prefers warmer climates – as it hails from Australia – although it thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Those who live in colder regions should grow eucalyptus in patio containers, and move indoors for the winter.

Use sprigs in flower arrangements, or dry the leaves and bark for DIY potpourri. The scent is said to relieve congestion and repel insects.

15. Bay Laurel

Native to the Mediterranean region, bay has a sweet and strong scent with notes of warming nutmeg. Today, it is most well-known as a flavoring for soups and stews but it was once made into wreaths to crown the winners of ancient Greek games.

Bay doesn’t do well in most regions as it is sensitive to frost, but it’s easy to grow in a pot and bring indoors when temperatures dip.

16. Thyme

This small, perennial shrub is both pretty and functional, thanks to its light purple to pink flowers and pleasant, pungent, clover-like flavor and smell. While there are over fifty varieties of thyme, English thyme is used most often in cooking.

Thyme does best in loamy or sandy soil, and in full or partial sun. Because the seeds germinate unevenly, starting with a seedling is a good idea. If you practice companion planting (and here are 12 reasons why you should), be sure to plant your thyme near cabbage.

17. Rosemary

Smelling rosemary oil has been shown in studies to decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the saliva. It also reduces anxiety, boosts mental clarity and improves learning and memory. When planted in the garden, its distinctive woody fragrance repels mosquitos and other garden pests.

This pungent perennial evergreen shrub, with blue flowers, is ideal for a rock garden or the top of a dry wall. You can also plant near beans, cabbage, carrots, and sage to deter pests. If planting in containers, bring indoors in the winter.

18. Mint

Mint is another incredibly fragrant herb that is instantly recognized by its fresh and zingy scent. Try planting peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint or orange mint in your aromatic garden.

Not only is mint delicious when made into a fresh herbal tea, or used in a variety of savory and sweet dishes, it also has medicinal properties. For example, peppermint essential oil is known to relax, improve concentration, relieve sinuses and cure headaches. The scent from the plant, although milder, can still have similar effects.

19. Basil

Fresh basil has a strong, pungent, peppery and somewhat menthol aroma. For those who are a fan of Italian dishes, this herb is a must in the garden.

Basil plants need full sunlight, plenty of water with excellent drainage, and warmth. In fact, basil is so sensitive to cold that even a light frost will kill it. In order to grow a large plant, you’ll need to harvest often. Once the flowers appear, remove them immediately to preserve the plant’s great flavor.

20. Marjoram

With aromatic leaves and warm flavor, marjoram is another great choice for those who want a fragrant garden and delicious home-cooked meals. Its scent and taste is similar to mild oregano, but sweeter.

Marjoram is best planted in containers, window boxes and garden beds which are positioned in full sun. The herb will grow in most types of soil with little water, but it prefers sandy fast-draining soil. You can also use marjoram as a border to help bring your garden to life by attracting bees, butterflies and other beneficial bugs.

Herbs for Fragrance, Flavour and Decoration

When we think of herbs and spices we usually think of the little jars in the kitchen. Historically speaking, many of these herbs were first used for medicinal rather than culinary purposes.

In the olden days, wise men and women with knowledge of herbs were held in high regard. For example, in Europe there were the Druids, who made herbal concoctions to cure certain ailments. Many of these cures have now been found to have a scientific basis, as these herbs contain active ingredients, although this could not have been known at the time. For instance, people carried bags of herbs to protect them from typhoid, and we now know that the antiseptic oils of certain herbs act as a bactericide.

Herbs have long played a role in religious ceremonies. The holy oil of unction contained myrrh and cinnamon among other things, and aloe was burned as incense. Spices like these were as valuable as gold in their day. It is therefore no surprise that herb traders were very powerful people, and many dramatic events occurred as a consequence of the herb and spice trade.

Subconsciously, man is still inclined to look for the solutions provided by Mother Nature. Almost all healing creams are enriched with aloe vera, and there is a herbal tea to treat most ailments. We are all taken with the mysterious power of herbs, but is this entirely due to their medicinal properties?

Do we solemnly believe in the healing powers of nature? Are we attracted by the enticing scents and decorative qualities of herbs? Or perhaps it is the delicious flavours? It is this versatility that makes herbs so desirable.


Lavender (Lavandula) was used as a medicine by the ancient Greeks and Romans, as the ethereal oils have a calming effect on the central nervous system. It was also thought that bunches of dried lavender could keep diseases like the plague at bay. According to legend, mediaeval glove-makers in the French village of Grasse were protected from the ‘black death’ because the delicate leather they used to make the gloves was scented with lavender oil. The villagers immediately made the link with lavender, and consequently people in the affected areas carried bunches of dried lavender between their clothes.

Lavender is one of the few plants with a preference for dry, sunny conditions and poor soil. It is often planted in groups, in a bed or to frame a border. The evergreen bushes provide structure to the winter garden.

Lavandula Angustifolia is the most common lavender variety in Northern Europe. It is a winter-hardy evergreen perennial, with purplish-blue flower spikes and thin greyish-green leaves with a distinctive fragrance.

Both the flowers and the leaves of lavender can be used in many different ways. However, for the best effect these should be picked at different times. The flowers should be picked just after they have opened and the leaves before the flowering period.

Both flowers and leaves can be used in salads, dressings and desserts with ice-cream or fruit. They can also be added to wine, vinegar and aspic, although this use is less common.
The flavour of the leaves goes very well with lamb, whereas the flowers can be sugared and used in cakes. However, both leaves and flowers should be used sparingly.

Lavender is also famous for its aromatic properties. The flowers can be dried on a tray or hung upside down in bunches. The dried flowers can then be made into lavender bags for placing in the linen drawer or airing cupboard. This not only gives a pleasant smell, it also deters moths!

Finally this herb is a source of ethereal oil, which has healing properties and relieves stings, burns and cuts. It also deters flies and gnats. A few drops of lavender oil on the pillow or a cup of lavender flower tea helps to give a good night’s sleep.

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

Research has shown that thyme has a powerful antiseptic effect, killing bacilli in just forty seconds. The Egyptians discovered this many centuries ago, and used thyme to embalm their dead. The ancient Greeks burned the herb as an aromatic incense. The Greek word ‘thumon’ means to burn a sacrifice.

Thyme has many more properties. It acts as a tonic and a stimulant, and is therefore recommended for breathing problems, poor blood circulation and poor digestion. A thyme infusion provides relief for headaches, nervousness, coughs and flu.

In cooking, thyme should be used sparingly as the flavour can be rather overpowering. Thyme goes well with sausages, meat dishes, wine stews, tomatoes, salads and cooked fish. A mixture of thyme and savory is an excellent alternative to pepper.

Last but not least, thyme is a delightfully fragrant garden and balcony plant that flowers all summer long. The bush reaches a height of around 30 cm. It is an attractive ground cover with bushy growth, becoming even denser if cut regularly. It has slender, evergreen leaves and little purple flowers. Thyme is an undemanding, low-maintenance plant that grows in any soil, likes sun and warmth and does not need much water. Bakker offers the excellent variety Thymus Serpyllum, which forms a lush green carpet in the garden.

Herbs for cooking

Of course, herbs are also prized for their culinary qualities. Here are some of the herbs that are most commonly used in the kitchen.


the cool, pungent taste of mint is unmistakable. Mint contains the powerful aromatic substance menthol, which has an exquisite smell. Mint tastes excellent in combination with lamb.


the shiny green leaves have a strong aroma and can be used either fresh or dried. Freshly cut leaves can be frozen in small quantities. The flowers should be cut off. This gives the plant a bushier growth and improves the flavour of the leaves, which have a slightly bitter taste. A combination of rosemary, sage and basil forms a good basis for salads, vegetable soup and pasta sauce.


sage is used mainly in sauces and in dishes with fatty ingredients such as pork, mutton or duck. It also tastes good with oily fish, and in herb vinegar and herb oil.


this is another versatile herb. In cooking a distinction is made between the leaves and the flowers. The flowers can be added to salads, or mixed with sugar and cream and stirred through puréed fruit for a delicious treat. The leaves are tasty with meat dishes and roast potatoes. They also form an essential ingredient in tomato sauce for pasta.


this herb has a mild onion flavour. It is rich in vitamins A and B and especially C. The herb loses some of its strength if the flowers are left on the plant. The finely chopped leaves are tasty in salads, ragouts, sauces and dressings, although the flavour is lost during cooking. Dried chives also have less flavour than fresh. Chives can be frozen in a plastic bag.

There are many, many more herbs that can be used to turn a simple meal into a culinary delight. For instance, we have garden cress, dill, parsley, yellow mustard and savory. Each herb has its own very distinctive character.

Herbs are essential ingredients in today’s kitchens. The nicest thing about herbs is that they can be grown almost anywhere – in pots on the balcony, on the kitchen table, in a herb garden or simply between ornamental plants in the border.

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