Have you sown your herbs?


Pictured is Shakespeare Garden at Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, 9020 Airport Road, Conroe

In William Shakespeare’s time, certain plants called sowing herbs were cultivated for their perfume or medicinal smells. They were dotted on the floors of houses and other buildings such as churches and monasteries. This custom was most widely practiced in England from the Middle Ages through the 18th century when, for some reason, the practice of bathing declined. Fragrant herbs became a source of personal hygiene among people of all classes of society and royalty. Even Queen Elizabeth I would have loved the scent of Meadowsweet and it was strewn about her bedroom. According to John Gerard, author of Gerard’s Herbal (1597), the queen preferred this fragrant herb above all others.

Herbs were scattered throughout most rooms of houses, usually by mixing them with straw or laying them on reeds or rushes. Walking on these surfaces would give off fragrant aromas. Certain herbs, such as Queen Elizabeth’s Meadowsweet, were effective in preventing infestations of fleas and other insects. A few times a year the grass mixtures were swept from the houses and fresh provisions were brought in. This was probably a good thing, considering there was most likely encrusted mud, animal waste, abandoned food, etc.

Some herbalists today have described their own methods of spreading herbs for use as insect repellent. Favorite herbs are ground with coarse sea salt and strewn around the areas of the home where vermin are most likely to hide: dark corners of cabinets, under appliances, pantries, and guest areas. pets.

Here is a list of spreading herbs that were commonly used in Shakespeare’s time – chamomile (Anthémis Nobilis) – insect repellent; Hyssop (Hyssopus officinale) – fragrance; Lady’s bedstraw – kills fleas, was used to stuff mattresses; lavender (Lavender sp..) – Perfume, mattresses and pillows; Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – Fragrance; Rose – petals only; Rosemary (Rosmarius officinalis) – Churches, insects killed and repelled; Street (Ruta graveolens) – Repellent for cats; Wise (Salvia sp.) – Insect repellent; winter savory (Satureia montana) – insect repellent.

Most of the herbs listed above are found in Shakespeare Gardens at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Herb Zone, 9020 Airport Road, Conroe. The master gardeners are happy to share their knowledge of growing herbs in Montgomery County. Although we are NOT grass sprinklers, we like to talk at length about the best herbs to grow in your garden, whether used for culinary purposes, landscaping or as a companion planting. Consult us!

For answers to your gardening questions, please visit Montgomery County Master Gardeners at
or call 936-539-7824. Master Gardener members are available to assist you weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the A&M AgriLife Montgomery County Extension Offices located at 9020 Airport Road, Conroe, Texas 77303.


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