Sunday, July 29, 2007



Today I will post another page of my fabric book about "Devon House." This page shows just a few of the things that have been grown here, both past and present.

This page represents the time when I had an enormous herb garden, mainly in the area in front of Devon Cottage. At that time, we also had a row of shadehouses, initially built when we were setting out to establish a Vanilla industry. That is all in the past now, and has given way to the boys' enterprises.We do have a few vanilla plants still growing up near John's Joinery, but the only remaining evidence of the herb garden are the Fennel plants, including bronze fennel, which still refuse to give in! I have a few of the herbs in pots around the remaining half of one shadehouse, and of course, a few around Devon House. But at the time, I grew an enormous variety, interspersed with vegetables and cottage garden plants, all mainly growing in raised boxes.

Some of the things I grew were quite exotic and unusual, and I was continually challenged to try something new. Along with the plants, of course, came the beautiful books and herbals, and I just loved all the knew knowledge and herbal lore I gained.

I cannot say that I started using all sorts of unusual things in my cooking - my family would not have accepted that! Nor did I become weirdly "alternative" with strange concoctions and herbal remedies. I really just enjoyed the sensory pleasures of growing and handling the plants, and learning something of their history.
One of my favourite herb plants was Rue - the "Herb of Grace." The plant must like me too, because I still have a few bushes in the beds around Devon, all self-sown. Like the fennel, it really feels at home.

Rue is a very old plant. It was once used for sprinkling holy water in churches, and the story goes that the rue leaf is the shape on which the "Clubs" in a pack of playing cards is based. The fragrance is not particularly sweet, and it cannot be called a useful herb today. I would certainly not use it in cooking, and when asked, I liked to tell people it was useful for bringing on miscarriages! I am sure that it would have some antiseptic properties.

With all this plant material at hand, I was able to raise several hundred cuttings and seedlings each year to sell at our St Barnabas' Spring Fair. That gave me enormous pleasure. I also delighted in making herbal posies....there is nothing showy about herb flowers, but a mixed posy is the most delightful thing, very gentle and calming and eye-pleasing. Another great pleasure in my herb garden was 'showing' round people with visual disabilities. The fragrances and textural qualities of these plants more than made up for the inability to actually see them.

The picture above shows the bed in front of our verandah, showing the ever-faithful lavender, pineapple sage, and perennial statice. There is also some 'pink pearl' sage, which disappeared for a few years, then re-appeared by itself last year.

Bernie is not really a gardener, but he does know what he likes in a garden. He has a much better vision for the 'big picture' and the landscape generally. I am afraid he regards my 'method' of gardening as somewhat haphazard, disorderly and untidy. But for me, if a plant looks as if it has settled in happily into its spot, particularly if it has done so of its own accord, I will leave it there. If it both useful and beautiful, so much the better. I just cannot get rid of my old plant friends without a real sense of loss!

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