Herb of the week for 18th May
by Lynn Kirkland
Lovely Lemon Verbena
This is one of those herbs which invokes
wonderful memories when people smell the
fragrant leaves of the lemon verbena shrub.
Memories of summers past or visits to
grandmothers who grew this herb flood
in when the older generation release this
fragrance by touching the leaves.
The shrub in the photo is over ten years
old and you can see it develops quite
a gnarly trunk.
The foliage is trimmed regularly by the
herb farm café folk and this keeps
the bush very tidy and with a steady supply
of fresh leaves.
A deciduous shrub, lemon verbena will
loose all its leaves in cold areas. Where
it is growing in a temperate climate it
may retain some greenery over winter.
Lemon verbena is one of the easiest herbs
to dry. Just cut some branches and leave
in a warm and airy place and the leaves
will dry in a day or two. Strip them off
and store them in a paper bag or glass
Use for a refreshing herbal tea or even
place a bowl of leaves in your lounge
and squeeze the leaves to release a burst
of summer fragrance into your room.
While this is one of the easiest herbs
to dry, it can be one of the more difficult
ones to get established. Frost tender
when it is small can make it hard to get
through to its second year. So plant it
in a sunny protected position and once
established it will be quite hardy.
Another trap for young players can be
that when young bushes have lost all their
leaves the bare twigs of a young plant
can look as though the plant has died.
Lemon verbena is one of the last herbs
to burst into leaf in spring and new gardeners
can think their plant has died and discard
Save judgement on this until well into
spring as it may surprise you and come
into leaf later on.
Well worth persevering with as the gorgeous
fragrance and lovely tea that the leaves
provide is well worth getting a plant
established in your herb or fragrant garden
or even in a pot.