English Cottage Gardening – Herbs Of The Mint Family

Herbs of the Mint family are a beautiful and useful addition to any cottage garden. They include such favorites as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, and lemon balm.

Basil flowers

Basil flowers



Originally, cottage gardens were grown for household use, not for beauty alone. Herbs were used as medicine, as flavoring for food, and to freshen the air in the damp, musty lodgings.



The concept of a separate herb garden, isolated from other flowering plants, would have been inconceivable to an early cottage gardener. Herbs and vegetables were grown side by side with roses and foxgloves, both of which also had household uses.

Bee on Lavender

Bee on Lavender

As you can see from these pictures, herbs can be as beautiful as purely decorative plantings. They are also very attractive to bees and butterflies.



I try to incorporate as many as I can into my overall garden design.

The Five Plants Bees Love Best

Okay, I’ve accepted that all of you aren’t going to become beekeepers, despite my best efforts to persuade you to don a beesuit and pick up a smoker and a hive tool.

Some of you are allergic.  Some of you just can’t understand how I can enjoy playing with critters that sometimes sting me. Beekeeping isn’t  for everyone, and that’s okay.

So is there anything you can do to help save the bees? Absolutely!

As most of you know, bees collect nectar and pollen from plants for food. They make honey from the nectar. Pollen is their sole protein source (honey bees are vegetarians) and they use it to make food for their young.

Some plants have more nectar and pollen than others. According to  Dr. Vetaley Stashenko, an apiculturist, naturopath and apitherapist, the five top plants to support the honeybees with nectar and pollen throughout the season are Borage, Echium (also called Viper’s Bugloss), Goldenrod, Melissa (also called Lemon Balm), and Phacelia (also called Tansy).

They’re not exactly plants you find at your local nursery.  I had to search a bit to even find seeds for all of them!

But they are quite lovely, and will blend in nicely with the typical English border.



borage 2

Borage is a self-seeding, medicinal annual that can over-winter. Young leaves and blue blossoms may be used in salads. It provides spring forage for honeybees, and blooms into the summer.


echium botanical


Echium aka Viper’s Bugloss is a spring blooming shrub with repeat bloom. Fall bloom provides nectar for bees for overwintering. The most unusual feature of Echium vulgare is the protection of the nectar inside the flower from vaporization (when it’s hot) or flushing away (when it rains). It is why almost for 2 months this plant is a stable source of nectar for bees. Additionally this plant produces nectar throughout the day unlike most plants which produce nectar for a short period of time. If the bees have a good access to Echium they can collect between 12-20 lbs of nectar a day. The concentration of sugars in the nectar vary 22.6-48.3% depending on the quality of the soil, and not on the amount of rain. The honey is light amber in color and very fragrant with a pleasant taste, and does not crystallize for 9-15 months.




Goldenrod is a perennial that blooms July through September, and so is important for the timing of a colony preparing for winter. Long bloom period of 25 days; grows anywhere and can be invasive.  Honey is dark amber, strong tasting, rich in protein and high in minerals. Medicinal plant that helps with fungus, especially in urinary tract.


lemon balm botanical print

lemon balm

Melissa aka Lemon Balm is a perennial  with a prolonged bloom of 45 – 50 days generally in summer, but with repeat blooming in warmer climates. Delicate honey with very light, pinkish color.




Phacelia aka Tansy is one of the best spring forage sources for honeybees.  It’s a perennial that blooms 45-60 days and continuously produces nectar throughout the day. Can be seeded several times per year.

Because the seeds were somewhat difficult to locate, I bought them in bulk.  If you would like some, please let me know and I will send you a gram (about 100 seeds) of each of the five for $10.00.  That is much cheaper than buying five individual packages.