Half a Hundred Herbs Week 44 – Santolina

santolinaThis is santolina, also known as cotton lavender, one of the stock plants from which I took cuttings to create the knot garden.

knot garden julyThe small plants have bulked up and do a good job of forming the south and east boundaries – in fact they’ve needed clipping twice already, unlike the hyssops which have done pretty well, but have been a little less enthusiastic – also I haven’t wanted to trim them too hard, because they are going to start flowering soon, and I don’t want to miss that.

The grey feathery stems and leaves make it a good plant for dry conditions (ha!) and it has a powdery musty sophisticated smell that is repellent to moths, and can be included in pot pourris for a bit of earthy depth. It produces bright button-like yellow flowers, if you let it, which hover-flies like.

I thought I knew all about santolina, but last weekend I went to see the Plants with Purpose and Appletreeman nursery, and there was a quiz to identify herbs from the leaves. And there was green santolina, which looked almost like the leaves of some cypress-type conifer, with a powerful scent which had a more resiny edge. I had no idea what it was, and guessed English mace in desperation. It was to be honest, a more interesting plant than the grey one, and I bet it would be more effective at repelling moths!

The nursery, which is in Bankfoot near Perth- you have to park on the main road and walk up a pretty steep track to get there – grew from a garden that isn’t much more than a large domestic garden (not more more, I think, than twice the size of mine), yet it is full of herbs and vegetables of all kinds, fruit and nut trees, bees, chickens, ducks and geese. Margaret and Andrew Lear are friendly and helpful, and profoundly knowledgeable. I bought four plants – a hearts-ease, which I will encourage to set seed, a purple loosestrife to grow beside the pond (bees and butterflies love it) a tree spinach – it is fully edible but we bought it because its leaves, a deep green splashed with magenta, are so pretty – and a tea tree. I’m gob-smacked at this – I never thought you could grow tea tree in Scotland, but you can. Margaret assures me that if you keep it in the greenhouse until it is about three years old, and about three feet high, it should be fine. Watch this space!

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