A true horticultural legend has departed from the theatre of competition recently, the celebrated Jekka McVicar, whose labours have yielded a level of consistent excellence and lasting influence seldom seen in a nursery. She has elected to transform her world-famous organic herb garden into a learning centre for school children and younger gardeners.
Over a quarter of a century has passed since the garden’s inception and, in that time, McVicar has led an illustrious and successful career, receiving over 50 gold medals directly from RHS competitions and contributing to countless others through the supply of plants from her Bristol based nursery.
This conversion has been a long time coming as McVicar officially announced the 2010 Floral Marquee at Chelsea to be her last exhibition, but she will conclude all sales from the farm as of the end of September 2012. Perhaps out of duty to the society whose council of whom she has long been a member, she will focus the efforts of the site now on the creation of a herboretum which will aid the RHS in the documentation and research of some 650 species of herbs that the centre has collected over the years.
‘I’m hugely excited by seeing plants growing to their full size in raised beds – it’ll look fantastic,’ she says. ‘Over the last three decades I’ve built a huge collection of different rosemaries, thymes and oreganos – it’s very rare to see them all together.’
On top of this refurbishment of the nursery’s priorities, Jekka will also be personally running workshops for school children and prospective gardeners in order to pass on the wealth of knowledge she has garnered on the subject. As a result of this new venture, the renovated garden will open and provide unprecedented access to the public as of 2013.
In reflection of this venture we’ve compiled a small list of our own favourite hardy garden herbs that you can easily grow yourself at home:
Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Mint, Fennel, Chives, Oregano, Tarragon, Bay leaves, Lemon Balm
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned three of the staple kitchen herbs: Basil, Parsley or Coriander for good reason, as unfortunately they are not frost hardy. By all means attempt to cultivate these wonderful flavours, but be warned that they will either need to be brought inside to a bright windowsill in winter, or you’ll have to buy fresh plants each year.
By Josh Ellison