Creating A Bright Space for Herby Entertaining

The long nights and warm days of summer mean only one thing – it’s time to take the inside out and create a fab entertaining space in your garden! But hang fire…. before you do, maybe it’s time to give some thought to making the space useful as well as gorgeous? Summertime cocktails and barbecue specials can be even more delicious if you’re using your own home grown herbs and flowers, instead of pre-packed plastic containers of supermarket leaves. I don’t know about you but I used to end up throwing half away, feeling very guilty about the wasteful packaging. That was, before I started growing my own…IMG_9267 Mojitos with garden mint, chicken kebabs on rosemary skewers, a sprig of lemon thyme in your lemonade or greek basil with your mozzarella salad, somehow all taste so much better when the herbs have been freshly picked not shipped halfway across the world! IMG_9256 Bents asked me to update an area in Open Skies as part of my morning challenge last week – a speedy whizz around the store to create three brand new, on-trend spaces using all their products and plants. Using bright fuchsia pink and an eye popping turquoise, we transformed a tired vegetable patch into a ‘Herby Entertaining Space’ in just under an hour! Colourful chairs, throws, cushions and accessories made the small area feel ready for a summer barbecue,  and the pots & planters of herbs brought it to life. The stylish bunting was very poplar with visitors, as were the planters of ready picked herb mixes. It’s all very well building ‘outside’ room but for me, if there’s no greenery, you may as well be indoors. Herby colourful garden in fuchsia and turquoise It must have felt inviting because we had inquisitive little visitors in there straight away, whether it was the super bright look or the delicious aromas of the mint, oregano, thyme and sage all fighting for nostril attention 🙂2015-06-27_0007Why not try growing curly leaf parsley, great for salads, tabbouleh, hummus, garlicky dishes and finely chopped final flourish decoration. I find mine grows best in pots, well watered and in the sun, with the same going to flat leaf parsley too. It doesn’t over winter that well if you plant out in the garden, not in Manchester anyway, so I plant fresh each year. 2015-06-27_0006 The kids loved the mint pots 🙂 This herb gives zest to lamb dishes, zing to new potatoes and a zip to your cocktails. It does have a tendency to take over so give it room in the sunshine not too close to more delicate plants. 2015-06-27_0005Oregano suits tomato dishes best, sauces for chicken or Italian style flavours but quite cool finely chopped into a Virgin Mary before Sunday Brunch. Like many herbs it loves the sun, but will grow in shadier areas, though maybe not as well. Its super pretty and when flowering, the bees adore it. 2015-06-27_0002Sage in all it’s guises is one of my favourite herbs to plant out in the garden, even up here in Manchester it flourishes and is hardy over winter. In the colder months it’ll give you warm flavours for your sage & onion Christmas turkey, in summer fresh savoury shoots to be pan fried into crispy treats on saltimbocca, or crushed with lemon for a meaty marinade. This baby is tough and resilient but likes it sunny at least a few hours a day, bursting into bee friendly purple flowers in mid-summer. I hard cut one of mine back to create a mini sage tree as it doesn’t like its woody stems being cut and often won’t re-grow hard cut offshoots, so can be trained into shapes. Fun to try. 2015-06-27_0003I chatted with a few visitors about the best way to grown thyme, having had a few issues with it in our wet climate as all the myriad of different types of this wonderful herb like dry, well drained conditions. After some experimentation mine flourished but only when I planted it on a bed of small stones or chippings mixed with bonemeal, leaving the soil around it loose and mixed with drainage assisting gravel. The low ground covering types like to be near brick or path edges, to spread it’s tiny aromatic leaves over the non-soil edges. I even created a Thyme Walk at one of our rental gardens (must get an up to date picture this week!)2015-06-27_0004Whether you’ve got a country cottage English garden, a contemporary city space or a simple window box, growing your own herbs saves money, waste and gives you burstingly fresh flavours at your fingertips. What’s not to love?! x Herbs at bent Garden Centre, WarringtonThanks to Bents for my challenge, I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a morning than playing with herbs and creating a party space. Plus I found myself some more pineapple sage and a chocolate mint plant #sneakyspending 😉 2015-06-29_0001

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