Herbs have been cultivated since the birth of agriculture – as food, medicines and even dyes. In medieval England, herb gardens or physic gardens were an important feature of monasteries, where monks would grow plants to help heal the sick. Herbs also formed part of the earliest Botanic Gardens, founded to study the science of plants in 16th- and 17th-century Europe.
At The Real Flower Company we often include herbs in our arrangements – not only for their interesting textures but also for their aroma, which complements the glorious fragrance of our English roses. Scent is very important in our bouquets and the idea of growing English roses with their scent gene intact – as nature intended – to ensure they not only look but also smell their best was one of the chief motivations of our founder Rosebie Morton when she set up the company. We asked Rosebie to tell us more about the story behind the herbs she grows and their uses…
What were some of the first herbs you grew on the farm?
"I started with Salvias (Sage) because both the purple and green varieties contribute so much to a bouquet in terms of their leaf shape, texture and scent – as well as the wonder of their flowers. Tricolor, with its green leaves fringed in pink, cream and purple and its purple stems, is very rarely used but I love it in an arrangement. Traditionally, Sage was thought to help with digestive problems and memory loss – as well as being popular for its distinctive earthy flavour, of course."
What are your favourite herbs for floristry?
"That’s so difficult to answer because there are so many herbs that really enhance a bouquet by contributing both scent and texture. Purple Basil, with its rich, almost black colour and beautiful flowers, to say nothing of its scent, would have to be one of my top choices."
Do you have a favourite herb in terms of scent?
"Another difficult question to answer – but I think my favourite has to be Scented Pelargonium, often known as a Geranium, especially Attar of Roses with its flamboyant leaves, delicate pink flowers and uplifting scent."
Tell us more about the varieties of mint you grow.
"Mint was thought by the Greeks to confer strength and is still used to treat digestive problems and to relieve chest pains. We grow about eight different types of mint on our South Downs farm, ranging from Apple Mint with its lovely rich-coloured leaf and fresh aroma to Chocolate Mint, which is nearly black with an incredible scent. Shut your eyes and inhale, and you could imagine yourself eating a delicious dark mint chocolate! We also grow Giant Mint, which has huge fluffy leaves, and Silver Mint, which has a soft downy leaf and is very popular with florists. Variegated Mint, with bright green leaves fringed with cream, is stunning – it really lifts a bouquet. Pineapple Mint, as you might imagine, has an extraordinary scent. Then we also have Spearmint, and finally, Basil Mint, which both looks and smells remarkably like Basil!"
Which herbs are in bloom on the farm right now?
"The Sages are all in bloom, with their beautiful spears of purple or blue flowers complementing the texture of their foliage. We also have Salvia horminum or Clary Sage in pink and purple, used in aromatherapy to encourage relaxation and calm. Plus Attar of Roses and Pink Capitatum Pelargoniums – I especially love the vibrant candy colour of Pink Capitatum. Camomile, with its daisy-like flowers, is fully out and our Dill, with its mass of tightly packed, umbellifer-like flowers, is going mad at the moment!"
The Real Flower Company’s sister farm, Tambuzi in equatorial Kenya, has also started to grow herbs.
"Yes. Tambuzi grows a beautiful Silver Lavender, with foliage that is good all year round. They also grow Rosemary, Mint and Fennel – though Fennel can be overpowering in a bouquet so it needs to be introduced sparingly!"
For a seasonal treat, our Midsummer’s Dream Bouquet showcases the best of our summer roses arranged with a dynamic selection of summer delights including the best picks from our collection of fragrant herbs. Or why not try our Fresh From The Farm English Flower Box containing the best of that day’s freshly picked flowers, herbs and foliage for you to arrange at home?