Manicured lawns, fresh produce and a natural open space home to wildlife and planted species alike; the grounds of Boringdon are at the heart of the hotel with a lot more uses than just a place for our guests to sit and enjoy life.
Our resident gardener Anne Thomas-Hunt keeps the grounds immaculate as well as looking after our vegetable patch and herb garden. With new beginnings for the new year, we thought we’d touch base with Anne to find out what’s new with the herb garden at Boringdon and find out her plans for another successful 2020 in the grounds of our enchanted place on the hill.
What types of herbs can we find on our grounds?
We grow many different varieties of herbs at Boringdon including Hardy Evergreen Rosemary, Oregano, Lavender, Bay and Sage. I sow a large number of chives, chamomile and borage in March. These replace any stocks lost during our cold, wet and unpredictable winter.
Are there any special conditions needed for the herbs to grow?
Many herbs originate from the Mediterranean and will therefore flourish in these conditions. Full sun/ light sheltered from cold North/East winds and in free draining gritty soil. Pot grown herbs will need a little
more attention - add horticulture grit to multipurpose compost and the pot must have good drainage and do not over water. Site the pot in a sunny but sheltered position and move if you think plants are struggling.
What is the process from planting the herb, to picking the herb to use in the kitchen?
The process for growing herbs is nice and simple. I liaise with Scott and the other chefs in the kitchen to understand what they use and roughly in what quantities. The permanent hardy crops are already in situ, but I will take some woody cuttings from Sage, Oregano and Rosemary at the end of the summer to propagate our own stocks. The kitchen uses a lot when required and some varieties suffer from their own popularity. I try to manage what is being used and act accordingly.
If someone is looking to start growing their own herb garden at home, what 3 things would you suggest doing?
If someone wanted to start growing their own herbs, I would suggest the following…
1. POT GROWN - Herb planters are a great way to grow a selection of herbs in one large pot. Make sure the pot has good drainage and use a mixture of multipurpose compost and horticulture grit as this allows the soil to be open and allow healthy root development. Cover the compost in a layer of grit, this will help to keep the soil moist and the weeds out. Situate the pot in a sunny sheltered spot and water once the weather begins to warm up. You can add some liquid feed to the planter every couple of weeks or so.
2. PLANTED IN A DECORATIVE BORDER - A great idea to add interest and scent to herbaceous borders. Chose a sunny free draining site, ensure you dig a little horticultural grit when planting. If the pots you buy are a little ‘pot bound’ tease out some of the roots before planting. Hardy evergreen herbs are a great addition, including rosemary, sage and bay. Water in to begin with and monitor how the plants are settling into their new environment. Adding a good layer of mulch or decorative bar to borders will stop the plants from drying out so quickly in hot weather and suppress any weed growth.
3. THINGS TO CONSIDER - Sunny sheltered spot - Free draining gritty/compost - Ensure pot grown plants have enough room to grow and liquid feed during the growing season
Has Scott requested a specific herb that you haven’t been able to plant?
Scott hasn’t made any special requests yet. Personally, I would love to grow some tender herbs which I’m sure the kitchen would use if they were available. Ideally, they need to be grown in a glasshouse in a bed of warm compost where the growing conditions are a little more consistent. These would include chervil, coriander, dill and parsley.
What effect do the seasons have on the herbs?
The weather has become very unpredictable lately and it has become incredibly difficult to plan and manage seed sowing, planting and general maintenance. Our cold wet winters do nothing to help our Mediterranean, sun loving herbs. They will not tolerate sitting in cold wet soil and unless they are well established, they will not survive. Conversely, our long hot summers appear to be getting more prolonged, where we go for weeks at a time without rain. Our soil is naturally clay, and by its very nature holds onto water and bakes hard in the summer.
Is there a herb that can only be found in Devon?
I am not aware of any herbs that just grow in Devon. In West Devon near the Cornish border we benefit from a milder climate, particularly near the coast. This allows our native herbs to grow in abundance in our hedgerows and woods. These include Wild garlic, Fennel, Borage and Stinging Nettles.
What’s the most multi-purpose herb in the grounds?
Herbs generally have many uses including decorative, culinary, aromatic and medical use. Lavender for example might be used a flavouring for biscuits, an essential oil for aromatherapy, a constituent of a soap or hand cream and a perfume in a wardrobe of draw liner. They are also great for attracting bees and butterflies which are vital for the pollination of our basic food staples.
Aims and goals for 2020?
I am very keen to grow some tender culinary herbs including Coriander, Chervil, Basil and Dill. These will need to be sown and grown under glass and I plan to customise some cold frames to try and make this happen. I would also like to expand the number of edible flowers we grow here. Borage, Chives and Nasturtiums are widely used at the moment, but I would also like to include some Viola and Calendula (marigold).