It has been a couple of months now since I first began planting my tea garden and I am happy to report that there has been a lot of success. For someone without a green thumb, my garden has survived (and thrived) more than I possibly could have hoped for. I am beginning to wish I took photos of the weed patch it was before I picked out the weeds and rocks, mixed in compost, planted herbs and flowers (and seeds), and added stepping stones and markers. The garden is now stunning and I love going out just to stand, looking over it with pride (NOTE: I did not take a photo of the garden to include here because I am not a good photographer and thus would not capture its beauty).
But of course, you don't want to hear about my pride in my garden, you want to hear about how I got here. Last I talked about my tea garden here I mentioned what I planted in my garden (namely roses, lemon verbena, strawberry, viola, spearmint, chamomile, yarrow, and cornflower). Of those plants, all but the cornflower and yarrow (which were planted as seeds) have been producing lately (and contribute to the cute hanging display which is not well represented in my picture below because it is 10x cuter than this).
That doesn't mean the plants have been producing at the same rates. The rose has not done too well. After the first few roses, the plants stopped producing (though I have heard they tend to produce on and off through all four seasons). I didn't mind this, though, because the tea I made from the first few roses didn't turn out well. I plan to try some made with rose petals from a rose located elsewhere on our property.
The lemon verbena is growing slower than expected. Lemon verbena plants can get up to 6 feet high so I was expecting my plant to grow faster. Only recently has it grown tall enough for me to feel confident snipping a few leaves off and drying them. I like to dry my lemon verbena in bundles hung upside down. I recently bought this set of 4 hangers (made for socks) to hang bundles of herbs and flowers. I also found this set of mini rubber bands as I found that collecting them with a rubber band is easier than tieing them with string. Lemon verbena usually takes less than a week to fully dry.
The strawberry plants—offshoots taken from my mum's garden—have done well. Because this is the second year that they are growing (and they, themselves are offshoots) they have not been spreading at all but rather have put their energy into strawberry (and strawberry leaf) production. I already have plenty of strawberry leaf for tea. I have been drying the leaves between two paper towels in a heavy book (I like to dry them in the gardening book I got from the library book sale last month). They usually take around a week to dry fully. Unfortunately, the berries themselves have been eaten by some sort of critter but I have been enjoying the tea.
The viola has done even better than the strawberry. though I currently have only the small plant taken from the cracks in the sidewalk (the seeds I planted are almost fully grown but have not yet produced flowers), I usually get 3-4 flowers from the single plant every couple of days and another few flowers from a couple of violas in my mother's garden. Because I keep taking off the flowers, they grow back with great vigor. I like to press the violas in the same big gardening book as the strawberry leaves to dry them and they usually only take a few days to dry. Though I haven't used them in tea yet, I love the stunning pressed flowers and have sprinkled a few in my baths.
My mint has done about as well as the lemon verbena. I planted the mint in a small pot to prevent it from spreading through the roots and found that the pot I planted it in was a little too small so I moved it to a bigger container (an ice-cream container to be more specific) the other day. It has been thriving and I often cut off a stem and dry it in the same way as the lemon verbena (hanging upside down in clusters). I find it takes about a week to dry.
My chamomile is doing best of all. Though it took a while to start blooming, once it did, it all bloomed at once. Now, I find that I can collect a number of flowers early morning and late afternoon and hang them upside down to dry. I am still working out how long it takes for them to dry properly but am enjoying how much the bush is producing and the lovely chamomile smell that now floods my room. I hope to make a chamomile cake of some sort soon as I was served one at a party once that was delicious.
My cornflower and yarrow have not produced yet, as I mentioned before, however, the cornflower has grown at 10x the speed of the yarrow. While the cornflower is probably 6 inches tall at least and covers a square foot (give or take), the yarrow has barely appeared above ground and there are only 5 or so seedlings I can spot. In fact, when I picked up a lavender plant at the plant shop recently, I decided to also plant a full-grown yarrow plant. We will see how that turns out.
Speaking of lavender, I now have a Spanish lavender plant in my garden. I decided to go with Spanish lavender (as opposed to some other strains that work just as well in tea) because I cut and dried some of the lavender from a wild Spanish lavender plant growing near us. I dried it hanging upside down and it took a little over a week to dry. I then stripped the buds from the stem (don't be afraid to be aggressive when you do this, it takes a little bit of force). The tea I made from this lavender was delicious and a stunning purple colour but unfortunately, the plant died (it wasn't watered and it is now getting into the 90s). Thus, I planted a Spanish lavender of my own. I also made lavender lemonade with wild lavender. I will post the recipe at a later date.
I have also been collecting and drying clover. Clover is a great flower to add to your collection for tea but not a good one to plant in your tea garden for one simple reason: it is everywhere. I have had no trouble collecting it from the yard and the side of the road. There are patches of both white and red clover (two different strains of clover with slightly different looks, properties and tastes/smells) around the house and though I have only just hung up my first bunches of white clover to dry, I have had some experience with the red clover. I haven't been able to try the white clover yet but I love the way the red clover flowers pop of the stems when dried. They look like little puff-balls. They also made good lemonade.
I have been collecting all of these items in little circular tin cans with 2.5x2.5 inch stickers on top. You can buy the tin cans on amazon here but I made the stickers myself with nice thick sticker paper and a Cricut. I suggest looking for something similar. I also purchased a glass teacup like this one (but cheaper) and cool teapot like this (also cheaper). I find that when making tea, it is nice to have all the fixings including a teapot. A glass teacup makes it particularly fun as you can then see the flowers through the glass. What beautiful pictures!! I suggest searching yard sales and Goodwill stores near you for cheap finds like my own. Don't pay full price for your teacups, saucers, teapots, and other elements as they are things that can often be picked up second hand for a good price.