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Chamomile, Rosemary & Thyme

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Jo Ann Sellers

Herbs have been around for a very long time, in fact scientists have found Chamomile  (Matricaria recutita) in the tummy of a mummy. The poor guy must have been feeling pretty sick and was treated with Chamomile tea which calms and sooths. Remember Peter Rabbit's mom also gave him Chamomile tea. Although Chamomile has been around for awhile, I’d like to focus on my favorite herbs today: thyme and rosemary. Thyme is believed to be one of the biblical manger herbs and some believe that rosemary gets it brilliant blue flower from when the Virgin Mary draped her cloak to dry upon the plant during her flight into Egypt. So these aren’t exactly new age options either.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are what I call Mediterranean-area herbs. They like hot, dry weather and it can be a challenge to grow these plants in Virginia with our summer humidity. Rosemary and thyme grow best in well-drained, near-neutral soil and full sun. If you plant thyme so that it can grow draped over a flat rock (think of a snake basking in the sun) this will make for a happy plant. To combat the humidity and help rosemary grow successfully, use white builder stones around the base of the plant. This allows the sun to be reflected back onto the plant and helps maintain airflow around and through the rosemary.    

During a very cold winter rosemary needs help surviving and I've found planting rosemary with a southern exposure against a wall, fence or building at the plants back can improve the warmth the plant maintains. The cultivars of  ‘Arp’ or ‘Madeline Hill’ have a better chance of enduring extreme cold and have withstood winters in Zone 6. 

Thyme also has a long medicinal history. It has been credited with relieving melancholy, chasing nightmares, aiding digestion, and curing hangovers. Maybe that mummy would have been better served by drinking a tea made from thyme and the blue rosemary flowers? 

Jim Donegan