Thyme is grown the world over as it is one of the most versatile herb plants, with numerous species of culinary and medicinal varieties completing the genus. The most common Thymus vulgaris has attractive foliage in a multitude of colours and fabulous displays of long-lasting flowers, this plant is a must for every garden.
Thyme is easy to grow and drought tolerant and gives off a heady fragrance when trodden on, also the bees love it. For maximum effect, choose two or three creeping varieties of thyme that will combine different foliage and flower colours and textures. Thyme will knit together to form a carpet of colour with wonderful fragrance underfoot. Some great varieties for this would be Thymus serpyllum var. 'albus' (White-Flowered Creeping Thyme) this flowers in May and June, (Thyme 'Bressingham Pink') has a profusion of bright pink flowers. Thyme 'Pink Chintz' has a mass of pale pink flowers, or Caraway Thyme so called as it's foliage is caraway-scented, all reach a height of between 5-15 cm and all are great for a thyme path.
Thyme also makes a great container plant too. Thyme looks great if different varieties are planted together en-mass to create a carpet of colour and scent.
Where and How to Plant
- Being a native of the Mediterranean it needs a place in full sun.
- Thyme is not only a great culinary herb, it makes a great low-growing, mound-forming ground cover which will discourage weeds and add a beautiful scent to your pathways and patios.
- Thyme needs well-drained gritty light soil, they are at their best in dry, sunny positions and will tolerate relatively poor soil.
- Add a little sand/grit to the planting hole to improve drainage and help strong root development.
- Use Thyme to create a gravel path, gravel garden or plant at the edges of a newly laid path to make it look instantly as if it's always been there. Why not update an existing pathway to soften its edges
- Replace those weeds in the cracks of your paths with wonderful smelling thyme.
- Position plants around 25cm (10in) apart firm and water them in well.
- Do not plant too deep, but only to the same level as it was in the pot you received it in.
- They will only really need watering well whist they establish and in very hot, dry weather.
- They may be given some liquid fertiliser a couple of times during the growing season if they are struggling, but generally they will not need it in fact too many nutrients encourage Thyme to become leggy.
- After flowering trim back the spent flowers once established plants can be pruned again in spring to maintain shape and avoid plants becoming leggy.
History and Herb Usage
Thyme has been an important herb for many civilisations for thousands of years. Romans that eating thyme either before or during a meal would protect you from poison. It has long been believed it would aide courage, bravery and strength indeed the name Thyme comes from the Greek ‘thymon’ which means courage and Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of thyme as a sign of respect. This association carried on to the Middle Ages, when Thyme was given as a traditional gift to knights prior to battle.
It has long been understood to have Antiseptic and Preservative qualities used by the Egyptians in their embalming processes, and in the middle ages when the plague struck, it formed part of the posies thought to protect against the disease. Though there was little effect of these remedies against the plague, it has been found that one of the chemical compounds found in thyme ‘thymol’ is a powerful antiseptic, and can be found in modern treatments such as mouthwash and cures for spots.
Thyme is an excellent herb for flavouring roast meat as well as stuffing and stews, and is a main constituent of a bouquet-garni. Pies and chutneys are also given an extra lift when this aromatic herb is added. The Lemon varieties such as Thyme 'Culinary Lemon' are great with poultry, fish or vegetarian dishes.
MASTER GROWERS TIP
“Thyme needs Full-light, a dry neck and damp feet to grow well”