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Herbal highs

3 May 2022
Photo: itsabreeze photography/Getty Images

While still herbs, the tallest are also attractive trees adding fragrance, shade and shape to any garden. Words MARILYN WIGHTMAN

Herbal trees can be landscaped and placed in a large garden to form a year-round fragrant planting of the larger growing herbs (they may be trees but they are still herbs). Some are evergreen and
suitable for planting as hedgerows; others are deciduous, so provide a seasonally changing landscape, from a skeletal winter form through to blossom, new leaf and a mass of greenery before leaf fall in autumn.

For smaller gardens, choosing a few herbal trees will lend shape and depth to the landscape. They can be strategically sited to stop the prevailing wind and provide shelter and privacy when planted on perimeters.

Good trimming and shaping will contain their size, providing a backdrop to lower-growing herbs. Most of these herbal trees can be grown in large containers and are suitable for smaller sections.

The fragrant foliage is used to flavour soups and casseroles. Bay is a slow-growing, evergreen tree that is happy growing in containers to keep it small. Given space in the garden, it will get big. Long living, there are 100-year-old bay trees in New Zealand getting over 10m high. Bay is a hardy, cold-tolerant tree.
The leaf is tough, leathery, dark-green, oval shaped and shiny on the top surface, and it has a pungent scent when crushed. Creamy clusters of flowers from spring onwards develop into oval-shaped black berries by autumn. As there are both male and female forms, one of each is needed to produce fruit.

Read the full story in our May issue – on shelves now.
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