The Potted Herb and hidden treasures

With the sun shining this afternoon, I sat out in my wicker chair reading a book I hadn’t picked up for ages. At least twenty years have passed since I last opened The Potted Herb, by Abbie Zabar. A softcover version of the book is available here.

I remember when I bought this book. It was to be the first of many wonderful gardening book purchases. What fun I had pouring over it and imagining all the different uses I could make of the many herbs I planned to grow and did eventually grow.

Visions of creating a seventeenth-century stillroom ran through my head. There I envisioned creating herbal-scented inks, herbal brow wraps and incense and fragrant rubbing lotions. While I never managed to have a stillroom or make any of these treats, I did learn much about growing and using herbs. I gathered many bunches of herbs that I dried and gave away as presents. I also learned how to make a Rosemary topiary and had a thriving one for many years.

I loved The Potted Herb, especially for the interesting discussion on the origins and history of each herb. There are beautiful line drawings as well.

It wasn’t until I opened the book today that I remembered writing snippets of the book onto lovely Japanese writing paper.

Many of these snippets accompanied herbal bunches to friends, but I must have kept this one about Rosemary.

It was fun to read it again and remember my fascination with herbs, especially Rosemary and Lavender. On this sheet, (pictured above), I wrote the following about Rosemary using various coloured pencils:

Rosemary has always been of more significance than any other herb and more important than most of them put together. The name of the herb derives from the Latin words ‘ros’ and ‘maris’ meaning ‘dew’ or ‘spray from the sea.’

Keeping rosemary potbound not only adds to the strength of its fragrance, but is said to encourage flowering as well. Rosemary needs good drainage doing best in sandy soils, and will tolerate no less than two hours of daily sunshine during winter’s shortest days.

Rosemary was a herb that followed you from cradle to grave. A sprig was used to stir cups at christenings, while during the courting season its wood was made into lutes for lover’s madrigals. It is linked with remembrance and affection. This herb has always been a symbol of friendship.

As I returned indoors, I was surprised to see that the same Anemone flower I wrote about two weeks’ ago is still in bloom. I find it amazing considering that it has lived through several nights of hard frosts and is still looking lovely. I take heart from these little gifts that my garden still bestows on me.

16 thoughts on “The Potted Herb and hidden treasures

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great to talk to you last night Carm – ringette went well altho stayed up way too late-tired today-yawnnnn. Went out in search of brown clothing today as discussed, needless to say, no luck!!! ICK! Pip

  2. Ottawa Gardener says:

    I had the same experience with anemones. I have de Caan with their lovely vibrant colours. In fact, I love them so much, I plant a bunch this year (the squirrels appreciated that – sigh, must remember mesh).

  3. Vanillalotus says:

    That books sounds so beautiful. I love reading things like that and getting inspired. Your anemone is beautiful, it’s a fighter.

  4. teeni says:

    Kate, your Anemone is keeping us all cheery and looking forward to the Spring! I love your book and you are getting me interested in herbs. We have a lovely restaurant in driving distance that grows and uses all their own herbs and sells them on the premises as well. They have a huge greenhouse. They always explain about the herbs they use and why in each dish. If you are ever out my way, I’m taking you there cuz I know you would love it! I do and I don’t know much about herbs! 😉

  5. Rowan says:

    The herb book looks just my kind of book and it’s available on Amazon UK too! The anenome is beautiful and a real survivor.

  6. No Rain says:

    I love finding things I’ve written about many years ago. It’s always fun to remember some long ago interest or emotion. Your ability to paint and draw with your writing is something I envy. Aiyana

  7. Pam says:

    No rain is right, you do write beautifully. I don’t have a garden but have thoroughly enjoyed spending my summer in yours. Right up to the last anemone!

  8. lisa says:

    Wow, that anemone is tough! My nicotania are still blooming despite frost too, very surprising. I’ve always been interested in herbs as well, but never done much with it. I like the idea of a rosemary topiary, and if they do well in the house…sounds like a good winter project for me!

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Isn’t it great to pick up an old book and have a good read. It is like having tea and catching up with an old friend.

  10. grannyfiddler says:

    the potted herb…. i think i’ll have to find that book… i have a few of like ilk that i treasure too. maybe we were born in the wrong century… and maybe it’s the year of the indefatigable anemone. i popped a few corms in my geranium pots this year, and there’s one purple anemone who just keeps smiling, long after the geranium is a soggy, wilted, frozen glop dripping over the edges of the pot.

  11. Connie says:

    When I read your review of the little herb book, I was nodding my head all the way. I also own that book and read it many years ago and remember that it really inspired me, too. I have always wanted to try a rosemary topiary…but it was hard to find one in the nurseries that hadn’t already been pinched, to cause it to branch out and a topiary needs a central leader. Did you start yours from seed? Thanks for the inspiration to attempt a rosemary topiary again!

  12. Annie in Austin says:

    Thank you, Kate, for the glimpse of what you drew on the writing paper – it looks exquisite from here. I have a Rosemary plant that’s survived in a container since 1989 – first in Illinois, now in Texas, but I never tried to make it into a topiary. It’s all twisty branches topped with a cloud of silver green needles. Anemones!! Last year I meant to plant more anemones and totally forgot. Maybe it’s not too late. Thanks for the reminder. Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. Verena says:

    Hi Kate,I´m back again and just wanted to say hello!As I can see autum came to you too as we have here in Austria. When the sun is shinning, it´s still very warm but the nights are very cold and sometimes we have frost too. Tomorrow I have to plant all the flower bulbs for spring, I hope I will find time for it!Have a nice weekend and hope you see you soon again, lots of greetings Verena

  14. kris says:

    I love that anemone – much prettier than any I have in my garden – and how fun that it’s still blooming for you!!That book looks like a treasure – I love the piece you wrote. I love when a book I’m enjoying – or a garden or blog for that matter – inspires me to dream. I get that warm feeling each time I think of it and so it never really fades.

  15. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing! I am starting to create my own little garden library (especially for the upcoming long winter), and I love reading others’ suggestions!

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