Saturday, 28 April 2018

Making the Seasons: April


Hello! First of all, thank you so much for your lovely and encouraging comments on my knitted jumper. I am glad you all liked it and, given how chilly and grey the weather has been this week, I've appreciated it's warmth on more than one occasion. 


Welcome to my Making the Seasons post for April. In this monthly project, my friend Lucy of Attic24 and I are consciously trying to make time in our busy lives to focus on small and seasonal creative projects - activities which are achievable yet fulfilling, and in tune with the months of the year. I really hope it might inspire you to have a go at doing something creative yourself. 

My project this month was to renovate an unloved wooden box and turn it into a small herb planter for the back garden. This might at first glance seem ambitious but please believe me when I tell you that it only took a couple of hours, snatched here and there over the Easter holidays. 


The box, found in my Grandpa's garage, was in reasonably good shape and just needed a bit of TLC and as soon as I clapped eyes on it I thought "planter!" I gave it a quick sand and two coats of outdoor wood paint in a lovely soft grey, then drilled a few holes in the bottom for drainage. I lined it with a couple of heavy duty plastic bin liners staple-gunned to the inside of the box, trying to roughly match up the holes in the plastic with the holes I'd drilled in the box - I have no idea is this method is correct but it has worked for me on previous projects, allowing drainage but reducing the effects of water on the wood over time.


I bought a selection of herbs from the garden centre, choosing rosemary, chives, flat leaf parsley, thyme, oregano, mint and lemon balm. I am a bit nutty about fresh herbs. The olfactory power of them just sends me into such a spin; the memories, the recipes; the  meals - it makes my mouth water. Fragrant rosemary reminds me of lamb and little roasted potatoes, while savoury thyme makes me think of roast chicken every time. Oregano I associate with pasta dishes and the oniony chives with cheese and salad. But the herb that really moves me is mint. The associations and memories are so powerful, just a whiff of that plant takes me back to my grandparent's beautiful garden on a summer's day. My late maternal Grandma - who would lunch "casually" in the garden with a table that was laid for state occasions including, tablecloth, china, crystal glasses, silver cutlery, the works - would send my sisters and I down to the "herb garden" (rockery) to cut mint or chives for various salads and other dishes. Mint would be chopped and sprinkled liberally over butter-drenched Jersey Royal new potatoes which would be eaten as we sat under a tree in their garden. I'm sure the filter of time and love has skewed these memories slightly, but they remain. Also, in recent years, I've come to associate the smell of mint with mojitos, and the memories around those are no less warmly remembered, although they may be at times fuzzy. Goodness I love a mojito: white rum, mint, lime, ice - summery heaven in a drink. 


I aimed for herbs that I knew we would use a lot in cooking (although sadly I don't think I'll ever be able to grow my most-used basil or coriander successfully without a cold frame) and that were hardy for the British climate. I deliberately planted the mint and lemon balm separately in pots as they will spread quickly and need to be contained. I have to admit here that I have no idea what I will do with the lemon balm, I just liked how it smelled. Any ideas most welcome! 


I realised once I'd planted them that, while I knew which was which, the children (and very possibly John) might not. How could I ask the kids to go and cut me some rosemary if they didn't know which plant it was? 


And so I decided to make some herb markers from Fimo modelling clay, simply because I had some in the house and had seen something similar on Pinterest, and I thought I could use my little stamp set with it. (Incidentally, this is the stamp set - I've had it for some years and use it absolutely loads, I'd really recommend it.)



Stamping the Fimo took a little practise (and I had to give the stamps a good clean!) but was fun to do and they have the desired effect.



I've since moved the herb planter to right outside the kitchen door, so that they can be easily cut in all weathers (so important in April!) without trekking down to the bottom of the garden.



Ziggy hasn't eaten the herbs yet, but has had a little nibble at the corner of the planter. 



That last photo reminds me that I really must jet wash and treat the decking soon, it's looking awful. That job is one of the many things on my garden to-do list this spring, one of many ideas that's always simmering away at the back of my mind, as I try to think of ways to improve our outdoor space on the smallest of budgets, so that hopefully we can sit out in the warm sun in a few months and enjoy all our hard work. With a mojito perhaps? :-)

Please do pop over to Lucy's blog and read all about her creative adventures this month. I hope you're all enjoying your weekends. Happy crafting! 

18 comments:

Lucy Attic24 said...

I'm so with you on the power of scent to transport you back in time and place. Herbs hit the nostalgia spot for me too, and oooo now I really quite fancy a mojito!!
No idea about lemon balm, but it reminds me that when I had a conservatory at my last house, I had a collection of scented leaved pelargoniums and I adored the lemon scented one so much, I used to squeeeze the life out of the leaves every time i walked past!
Lovely Spring project this month - now lets hope the weather warns a bit and your herbs thrive in their new home xxxxxx

Jacqui Fenner-Dixon said...

I adore herbs and grow quite a few. Lemon balm tea, is very refreshing and supposed to help you sleep among other benefits. Just put a few leaves in a cup, pour on hot water and let it steep, then add some honey. You can also use it in lemon cake recipes (there's quite a few online). It gives your cake lovely little green flecks. I have a set of those little stamps and you've inspired me with your Fimo plant markers.

Jennifer Hays said...

Your planter is really nice. I have herbs in pots but a big planter would be very handy, just all of them together like that. I really like your markers too. I have the same stamps, I use them for ink, but they're such a pain to clean. I'm kind of a stickler about getting ink off my stamps before I put them away, it's really kind of silly, I should just enjoy them and not be so fussy. Hope you're having a good weekend. :)

Nana Go-Go said...

Lovely memories of your Grandma. I hope my gorgeous Grandaughters remember me with such fondness.Loving the pink of your garden bench.I think I'll give my tired old bench a pink makeover.Good job on the planter.Lots of inspiration here. Thank you.

CJ said...

You've made a lovely job of it. Herbs are on my list of things to get next time I'm at the garden centre or maybe at the herb farm if they have an open day. CJ xx

Ellie Foster said...

I really like the plant labels made from polymer clay - what a great idea (and much cheaper than ceramic!) That's got my brain buzzing...
Best wishes
Ellie

Jane said...

Love the plant labels, what a brilliant idea. I've only used lemon balm to make tea (I love tea made from fresh mint too, much nicer than the dried tea bags) but I'm sure there must be a biscuit recipe online. The planter looks lovely. Have a good week. Jx

faith76 said...

A mojito is calling me xx I love the upcycling and the labels are cute. I am growing mint from seed at the moment. I do hope they work so I can have on baby new potatoes and make my own mojito's xxx

primdollie said...

Love your planter and love reading your blog daily in my emails! Sorry I don’t always post but wanted to add that the lemon balm is great in salads and vinaigrette’s and any veggie you like a bit of lemon flavor it also dries well and keeps well dried! It is VERY invasive ( don’t ask me how I know hehehe!) so containing it is good and don’t plant it in your garden it will take over! Enjoy your herbs I grow every kind I can! Basil being my favorite of course and dill can’t get enough of either of those! Thanks for sharing your lovely memories too! Hugs Linda

Loralee Clark said...

I've grown lemon balm for six years now and use it in the fall and winter for teas--good for colds and cold sores. For summer, I like to muddle it in a mortar and pestle and add it to boiling sugar water. Then, once cooled, I strain it and add it to fresh-made lemonade. It's fun to make ice cubes with lemon balm leaves frozen inside and use those for the lemonade. I use them in iced tea too. Have fun!

A Smaller Life said...

It looks wonderful, and yes, like some of the other commenters I would highly recommend lemon balm as a gorgeous tea-like infusion.

If you can it would really help your planters drainage to raise it off the ground ever so slightly. Even some flat wooden lolly sticks would work. I have a similar planter and I used a garden cane snapped into four pieces positioned underneath like runners.

Christina said...

Your planter is fab Gillian. Herbs are so useful for food preparation, we used them loads although they have to be very hardy to survive a Scottish winter. I also love rubbing my fingers against a leave or two and just inhale the scent. x

Anonymous said...

Really recommend keeping the mint inside its own pot because a) it needs moist whilst the Mediterranean herbs need dry , and b) it has runners and will take over the entire planter very quickly Good luck.

Jo said...

It looks great Gillian. See how you get on but I have my dry climate herbs in one pot and other softer ones grouped together. Rosemary and thyme are med herbs so they can suffer a bit of dry weather/conditions but the softer leaved herbs might need more water. If you are picking them regularly they should keep shooting well. Our garden needs attention too. I am slowly knocking it back into shape after our disastrous year with the puppy last year. Jo x

mrsrobinson said...

So inspired by the plant labels. Just need to rediscover the fimo from the depths of a cupboard... how long do you think that stuff lasts?

creativemummybear said...

I love your herby project! I have a large clump of lemon balm in the garden and I use it for filling out a vase of cut flowers. It adds scent to the arrangement and the fresh green colour sets off the blooms perfectly. I haven’t tried lemon balm tea, so I must try that too!

Suzanne Jones said...

I've just bought a selection of herbs as the ones I showed have refused to come up. I bought some lemon balm mainly because my friend has a large amount of it outside her back garden, and our rabbits like it!

Suzanne Jones said...

Aaagghh predictive text! Should be sowed!