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Do you wish you had fresh herbs on hand for all your cooking needs? Here is my guide on how to plant a French-inspired herb garden!
I have spent countless hours admiring French herb gardens from Provence in my Pinterest feed, so was rather excited when my husband was gracious enough to build a raised herb garden by our patio. Here is what I planted!
A sucker for anything French, I jumped at the chance to design a French Herb Garden with home and garden designer Ariel Walisser (from Ariel Home & Garden), and her sweet grandma. We created a beautiful layout and filled it with my favourite herbs, adding a border of stunning edible flowers for a pretty touch. Ariel is so talented, and designs all of our planters each and every year. She sources the plants and planters from Better Earth Gardens.
What is an Herb?
According to the Oxford dictionary, an herb is “any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring food, medicine, or perfume”. They are a wonderful way to add flavour to a dish, and are rather simple to grow. Herbs have been used for centuries for their culinary and medicinal properties.
How to Grow Herbs
Herbs do best in a sheltered area with full sun, and can be grown in standard garden soil with good drainage. They are relatively low maintenance, and are beautiful! While I grow my herbs outdoors, you can also grow them indoors by placing the pot in a windowsill or other area with full sun (6 or more hours of direct sun a day). You can start herbs from seed by starting them indoors, but I usually purchase the plants since I don’t have a greenhouse.
Herb Garden Size
For context, my herb garden raised planter box is 3′ x 13.5′. Tip: Ariel advised me to leave 6-8″ around the border of the planter box for my herbs to have a good amount of room! Not one to follow rules, I filled that space with a pretty border of edible flowers. I chose pansies since they are stunning and don’t grow tall.
Herbs to Grow in a French Herb Garden
A French herb garden, or “jardin potager”, is really simply an herb garden filled with herbs commonly used in French cooking. I snuck in a few Italian herbs for good measure to make our pizza oven feel more at home.
Parsley: I grow both flat-leaf and curly parsley in our garden. Parsley is one of the most versatile herbs, used in a variety of dishes.
Bay Leaf: These fragrant leaves are used to flavour soups and stews, and can be easily dried to use all year long once the weather shifts into fall.
Chives: I love the regenerative nature of chives; you can trim them back and they keep growing. I use scissors to cut them into salads or to top baked potatoes, and the flowers are stunning to add to dishes for a garnish.
Lavender: Beautiful and fragrant, no garden is complete without lavender. That being said, I often plant it in other areas of our garden given how big it grows.
Rosemary: This woody Mediterranean herb is slower to grow but a must. It is another herb that dries well. It grows equally well in a pot.
Tarragon: This delicate herb is used in a lot of French cooking, including fish dishes. We have an incredible dish with tarragon coming up in our new cookbook that I can’t wait to share with you!
Thyme: One of my favourite herbs, I add thyme to soups, stews, roasted veggies and mushroom pizza to name a few dishes. I love the wild look of thyme with it’s tiny leaves.
Mint: Be aware that mint loves to spread: for that reason I tend to plant it in pots instead. Of course, the choice is yours! No mojito is complete without a handful of fresh mint, and it’s very easy to grow (and harder to get rid of).
Dill: Certainly not a French herb, but I LOVE planting dill. It is my favourite thanks to my Ukrainian heritage. I tend to plant it in my main vegetable garden next to my beets to remind me of my grandma. Dill is one of the herbs that will go to seed quickly, but you can plant it mid-summer to get two growing seasons out of it.
Edible Flowers to Plant in an Herb Garden
Throughout history, French herb gardens have been configured in geometric patterns with flowers or figures to line and adorn the border.
I wanted to create a border of white flowers that I could also use as garnish for showy salads and baked goods in the height of the summer. I ended up using pansies, but here is a list of some other white edible flowers that you could grow in your herb garden (there are many not listed here): chamomile, echinacea, cornflowers (or bachelor’s buttons), and nasturtiums (white ones are hard to find but stunning).
French Landscaping Inspiration
For more garden inspiration, you can checkout my French Garden Landscaping blog which highlights the rest of my backyard (including my massive hydrangeas), along with my Pool Reveal blog to learn how we built the pool oasis of my dreams!