A week to go until Mother’s Day. If you’ve been highly organised and already have a gift purchased/ordered then you can stop reading now. If not, here’s a little idea for a simple but effective handmade Mother’s Day gift that children can help with: a grow your own herbal tea planter.
We used a recycled wine box and 3 small plants but any pot or window box planter would work, just adjust the number of plants accordingly.
If your planter doesn’t have drainage holes in the base, these need to be added – I drilled some holes in the base of the wine box. I also lined the box with some old compost bags as I know from experience that wooden planters can start to rot in no time at all. If you do this, don’t forget to snip some drainage holes in the compost bag.
Then onto the plants. There are lots of choices for herbal tea but we narrowed our wish-list down to five.
1. Apple mint Mentha suaveolens
Many types of mint are good for herbal tea – Moroccan mint has a particularly good flavour – but we selected apple mint for its attractive variegated leaves (see photo above).
2. Lemon balm Melissa officinalis
Makes a good herbal tea on its own and is often used as a base for adding other flavours.
3. German chamomile Matricaria recutita
This is on the list because we’ve never grown chamomile and we were curious…
4. Anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum
As the name suggests, this has a licorice flavour, and as an added bonus the blue flowers are attractive to bees.
5. Bronze fennel Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ or ‘Giant Bronze’
Another licorice flavoured herb with attractive feathery leaves. With fennel the seeds, rather than the leaves, are collected for making tea.
On a quick trip to the garden centre we managed to find small plants for three of our wish-list; lemon balm, apple mint and bronze fennel. I later found some seeds for anise hyssop in my seed collection so a small pot of those are in the propagator as we speak. And the chamomile will have to wait for the moment.
All of these herbs will be happy in a sunny spot and will need to be watered frequently as the container is relatively small and the compost likely to dry out. I suspect that we’ll replant them directly into the ground in the garden or allotment at some future point but for now they’re looking pretty on a patio table in the sun. The mint, of course, will have to stay in a pot otherwise it’ll take over the whole garden.
When I’m ready for a cup of tea I’ll harvest about 2 tablespoons of leaves, bruise them gently to release the aromatic oils and then steep in hot water for up to 5 minutes. Trial and error may mean this “recipe” gets adjusted over time.