Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • Half a Hundred Herbs – the culinary patch

    herbs in the new culinary patch
    all planted up

    The new herbs are in – sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, winter savory and lemon thyme. They are too small to make much impact yet, but they seem to be settling in well, and the current good weather is certainly helping. The chives are flourishing, lemon balm is coming through, and the sorrel plants are beginning to recover from their rough handling. All the seeds I sowed two weeks ago are up, apart from parsley (well, it does have to go seven times down to hell before it comes up) and mollucella laevis, which isn’t doing a thing.

    The knot garden is beginning to green up, but nothing shows up on a photograph yet, so I’ll wait a week or two and try again. Some of the other herbs are doing well –

    pots below the culinary patch
    mint, tarragon and chives

    Pots which were in the greenhouse now have lots of new shoots.

    violet, two blooms
    flourishing violet plant

    \the violets in the stock bed seem to like the richer soil here.

    primroses and wind anemones
    primroses and wind anemones

    I’ve had my first flowers on the wind anemones under the birch tree. The next step will be to sow seeds outside – chervil, marigolds, poppies. Rain is forecast over the weekend, so that will be a job for tomorrow.

    The frogspawn has gone from the full stop stage to the comma, as the tadpoles grow, and the hedges are full of sparrows and blackbirds building nests. I can hear starlings, great tits, wrens and chaffinches singing most days, and yesterday for the first time this year, I heard skylarks.  They must be in the fields at the end of the village, but their song pours into my garden like rain. Fabulous.


  • Half a Hundred Herbs – chamomile cuttings

    chamomile lawn3The chamomile lawn looks like this just now, a little bit battered, and very small. But considering it was only one plant when I got it, I don’t feel too bad about it. There are tulips coming through, and some madonna lilies, which apparently like to have their roots shaded, so I hope they will be happy here, and actually flower, for a change. I’ve cut back all the dead growth, but found that a lot of it was runners, like strawberry runners, with baby chamomile plants appearing at the nodes, so I’ve potted them up, as you see here.chamomile sets2Some of them look a bit fragile, but it’s plants for free, so any success will be a bonus! The lawn will be mulched with compost, to feed it, but also to improve the soil structure. We didn’t have too wet a winter, but the last month has left the garden cold, heavy and sodden.

    How bad this was I didn’t realise until I started work on the culinary patch. It looked like this in May last year:herb patch maybut now it looks like this:new culinary patchThe reason is this little beauty,geum rivalewater avens (geum rivale). This first appeared in the field beside the river, then sneaked its way into my garden, where it seeded itself lavishly among the mulleins and hyssops. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated, delicate little flower in yellow and pink, and I was harbouring it under the illusion that it was its relative, the wood avens (also known as herb bennet) which has a fragrant root you can use in pot pourri. However, water avens is a good plant for bees and butterflies, so quite valuable in its own way, only the clue is in the name. It likes it wet. All my mediterranean plants – planted on the top of a south facing bank, were sulking and fading away, and moss was taking over everything.

    So the water avens has moved beside the pond, and the culinary patch was cleared. A barrow of compost was put on, and all the moisture lovers – the sorrel, mint lemon balm and chives, have been moved to the lower side. The top layer will be opened up, some sharp sand and compost added, and new plants of sage, oregano, thyme and winter savory will go in. I’ll sow chervil in the gaps, where I hope it will seed itself in the small crannies.

    This all meant a lot of traipsing past the pond with barrows of discarded plant material, and the frogs were not at all pleased.frog agitationAbout twelve of them are croaking and mating furiously, and there are large lumps of spawn forming. Birds are chasing each other all over the garden too, and every time I go out there is something new to see – leaves on the gooseberry and blackcurrant, a violet, whose rich exotic purple just doesn’t show up in photographs, leaves of arum italicum, hellebore flowers, and the first flower bud on the wind anemones I planted from root cuttings two years ago. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this!

  • Half a Hundred Herbs – Sowing the Seeds

    daffodils and cyclamen in pots  The cloud has come down and it feels bitter outside, although the frost has gone. But on Tuesday, the sun was shining and I took the first photos. The garden is beginning to wake up and put on colour.

    The crocuses are out undercrocuses first primrosethe rowan tree,






    and the first primroses are showing.







    pondI’ve seen frogs mating in the pond, but there isn’t any spawn yet. The black-backed gulls have come up from the coast and they are staking out territories on the warehouse roof, and bullying the smaller black-headeds who have been here all winter and thought they had the river to themselves. There”s a woodpigeon attempting to build a nest in a completely unviable fork in a birch tree, and I’ve heard a woodpecker hammering, and a thrush singing. best of all, the curlews are back.

    All of which means it’s time to sow the first seeds. the sweet peas are in, and the tomatoeoas and half-hardy annuals will be next. They’ll go in the propagator on my windowsill – it might look north, but it’s a dormer with light on three sides, so it usually does pretty well. The hardy annuals, first salads and chervil and parsley will go into pots in the greenhouse, which seems to be reliably frost-free, and we’ll be off.

    flowering quinceThe dried and frozen herbs I’ve been cooking with over the winter are coming to an end, but the chives are coming through now, and the sage thyme and oregano have enough growth to risk a first cut. Everything else is beginning to bud, now, though the rosemary stilllooks a bit shocked, and the sorrel has a lot of fresh green leaves. I love the taste of sorrel, but you do have to get it very early, or it will be too sour for pleasure. There may be sorrel sauce with the chicken tonight!


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