Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Thyme flowers.

Thyme, like many herbs, does best in well drained exposed positions and is one of the easiest herbs to grow. The aroma comes from aromatic oils the plant produces which are thought to act as a repellant for many insects, a substitute for water evaporation in hot weather and antifreeze in frosty weather that prevents cells containing water, bursting in winter snows. Thus more oil is produced in plants in cold alpine type climates. Easily identified as a compact very tidy bush with tiny oval leaves that can be up to 45cm tall or in it’s more prostrate form, as a dense fine leafed ground cover, it thrives in the rockery or as a border plant. The stems can either be trailing or upright with small, elliptic leaves that are very fragrant. Many species are evergreen. The leaves are small and oval with tiny flowers of mauve or purple in summer. The flowers are attractive to honey bees.
Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region, and it is thought that the Romans spread it around their Empire, to Europe, Asia, Britain and North Africa. 
Records show thyme was used as far back as the Sumerian days as a disinfectant.  Ancient Egyptians used thyme as a part of their mummification formula.  If you look at the properties of thymol, which is the phytonutrient found in the thyme’s essential oil, you will see why.  This compound is known for killing moulds, microbes, bacteria and fungus.  Thyme is traditionally associated with the spirit world, and even today is thrown or planted on a grave in some cultures.
Greek soldiers bathed in thyme and had a thyme oil massage in order to bring out their bravery.  It was a compliment in ancient Greece to be told that you smell of thyme.  In medieval days, ladies embroidered thyme on a scarf or cloth and gave it to their favorite knight for courage.
Both the Romans and the Scots used thyme to treat depression.  The Scots believed thyme could ward off nightmares.  A sprig of thyme under your pillow at night is said to prevent bad dreams.
Thyme is very attractive to fairies.  In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania the Queen of Fairies sleeps on a bed of wild thyme.  Drinking a potion of thyme is said to protect a person from fairy mischief.  Thyme is the main ingredient in a 17th century Irish recipe which is supposed to make the drinker able to see fairies. 
 Thyme enjoys an alkaline soil and a hot sunny position – it also does very well grown in pots which generate extra heat that thyme just loves. All species need full sun and good drainage. Avoid poorly drained soils, plants will die in soil that stays wet for long periods. Thyme grows very well all summer in sub tropical climates and even tropical areas if the humidity is very low, especially if it’s very cold at night. If plants wilt or get die back due to high heat and humidity; cut them back and new growth will emerge. Ideally thyme should be pruned annually to keep the bush compact. With scissors give the bush a haircut – pruning the tips. Plants will be fuller and more vigorous if they are pruned back frequently up until August. (Pruning after this may result in tissue that is not hardy enough to survive the first hard freeze.) It is important to not cut plants back during fall or winter garden cleanup -- wait until new growth emerges in spring.
Thyme enlivens the garden, purifying the air and enhancing the overall health of the garden and one can simply not have too much of it in the garden. Plant thyme and rosemary liberally in your  garden because it encourages honey bees which will improve pollination of everything else in your garden increasing the yield by a minimum of 20%.

As a garden plant perennial thyme can be used as an edging plant, between stepping stones, in pockets in stone walls, and in containers.
 Growing thyme: 
Thyme can be grown from seed, plant division or stem cuttings.

Growing herbs often becomes a passion and Thyme is one of the easiest of all herbs to grow, whether grown from seed or from bundles of store bought plants – it should be planted in abundance for its uses are amazing.

Thymus vulgaris is the plant most used medicinally and also for use in the kitchen (generally known as common thyme).

Sow seeds in trays in moist but not wet soil and cover very lightly, the seed is very fine and will rot if planted too deeply.

Seeds germinate in 3-4 weeks at 21ºC – so Spring is the optimum time for sowing. When they are about 2cm high and have been “hardened off” by exposing to ever increasing outside temperatures daily – returning them to shelter in the evening. When well hardened, plant them about 30cm apart or closer if you want a hedge. Thyme plants grow to about 30cm in height and make an easy care inexpensive hedge that the bees love.
Thyme related species and varieties:
  1. Thymus x citriodorus
  2. , lemon thyme, smells like lemons and grows 9 to 12 inches tall. Look for the pretty variegated forms.
  3. T. herbabarona, caraway thyme, smells like caraway and is a robust plant that grows 2 to 5 inches tall.
  4. Thymus praecox, mother-of-thyme, is the traditional dark green ground cover that grows 4 inches tall.
  5. T. pseudolanuginosus, woolly thyme, has minute, woolly silver leaves and stays low to the ground.
  6. T. serphyllum, wild thyme, grows 4 to 6 inches tall and is used extensively as a ground cover. 'Coccineus' bears tiny rose-colored flowers and forms a dense occur on short, dense spikes. The flowers are very attractive to honeybees.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and info. Nice job.