This week is National Pollinator Week. To increase awareness of how herbs can be great for pollinators, each day of the week I will post a short article about a culinary herb in my Virginia garden whose flowers are known to attract pollinators. Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of flowering plants. It is especially vital for gardeners who are growing fruit and vegetables. There are many plants that attract pollinators but it is also important to reduce or eliminate pesticides, provide continuous blooms throughout the growing season, create large pollinator targets of native or non-invasive plants, and situate the plants in sunny areas with wind breaks. Culinary herbs are often harvested for the foliage but if left to flower they can attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Plant several of one type of herb so you can harvest some to use in the kitchen while letting a few flower. Or, plant perennial or shrub herbs in your landscape to add flowers to your garden.
To learn more about pollinators, check out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Forest Service, and the Horticulture Research Institute’s”growwise.org” page. To learn more about herbs, visit the Herb Society of America.
Monday June 20, Cilantro
Tuesday June 21, Dill
Wednesday June 22, Sage
Thursday June 23, Chives
Friday June 24, Basil
Saturday June 25, Thyme
A landscape edible, thyme is actually quite versatile in the garden. Thyme can be grown as a groundcover, small shrub, edging, or topiary or used in a rock garden or in a variety of containers such as hypertufa and hanging baskets. Thyme is a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, full sun, woody shrub that prefers well-drained, slightly alkaline soil.
I have three types in my garden. The English thyme serves as a groundcover to prevent erosion on a slop and it has spread to cover the soil, thus preventing any weeds. I use the leaves in tomato-based meals, such as pasta and lasagna, and beef, chicken, potato, and bean dishes. I have a lemon thyme shrub that looks like a round, mound about 8 inches tall. It adds a lemon scent/flavor to baked goods such as pound cake and quick breads. My silver thyme is my most recent addition; its white/silver variegated leaves contrast nicely with my dark sedums.
Thyme leaves dry very well and dried leaves have a more concentrated scent or flavor so I tend to use dried thyme but fresh leaves can be used as well. I harvest and dry leaves in the spring and then let the shrubs flower in the summer to attract bees and other pollinators. Bees love thyme, apparently they make a very tasty honey.
There are many different types of thyme: different scents and different shapes. DeBaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, VA, sells over a dozen varieties including golden lemon, green lemon, orange balsam, caraway, coconut, spicy orange, woolly, and silver thyme. Add thyme to your garden for your kitchen and to attract pollinators.