Now that summer is almost here, that we have struggled with mildew and aphids on our roses & co and that we are almost there savouring the garden at its best and most lavish moment... a sudden crave for outdoor meals and garden partying overcomes the busy gardener.
After digging, planting, trimming and pruning there is a well deserved break to enjoy the fruits of our labour - and plan a good BBQ with friends ( I almost think there is a tiny streak of malice in that - what we really want is our friends to admire/envy our lovely Raubritter in a flush of pink corollas or the Digitallis that finally came to show its proud spike of flowers).
But who says barbecue, says herbs freshly picked from the garden!
So here is a small vademecum to pick out your Thyme:
Thyme forms a quite crowded family of tens of different species and belongs botanically to the Labiatae Family. An ever present ingredient in almost all cuisines it comes in an infinity of different "flavours". Some are plain, ( T. vulgaris, T. Serpyllum) but there are lemon (T. citrodorus) and orange (T. Orange Balsam) scented types, thymes that recall cumin (Herba Barona) and liquorice (T. Camphorates), wooly thymes (T. Lanatus) and so on.
Although associated with Mediteranean areas, Thyme species grow spontaneously from Northern Europe, Russia , Central Europe till Northern Africa.
What they all have in common is their love for sunny and well drained soil - more on the dry side than not. Do not give those fellows the best compost soil you have - they will loathe it! Just a shovel of gritty, sandy poor soil will do perfectly.
Apart from its many culinary and oficinal virtues, Thyme is also an admirable groundcover.
Its many species of creepers reach from ground huging types to 20 cm high varieties - all with a bushy and spreading growing habit.
Variations on the green are many and include 'Coccineus' (= 'Splendens') with red flowers, 'Albus' and 'White Moss' with white blossoms, 'Annie Hall' with pink flowers and superior fragrance, the gold-variegated 'Mayfair' (= 'Aureus'), and the compact dwarfs 'Elfin' and 'Minus'. 'Hall's woolly' is a much less flat than regular woolly Thyme, has larger leaves, and is more floriferous, but not so vividly silvery. All these are fairly hardy.
Thyme forms dense carpets of tiny flowers which range from white to pink and purple of many shades. Foliage as well can come in plain green, leathery grey shades or variegated forms in gold and silver.
A tough and drought resistent plant, Thyme is a good alternative to grass where a low maintenance ground cover and little water are required. It is relatively resistant to being walked on and requires only little maintenance. Generous harvesting for the kitchen use usually keeps it in shape.
The flowering period occurs between May and June, but the dense matt of tiny leaves stays quite attractive even outside the blooming season.