Sunday, 7 April 2013

Thyme for a change

After a particularly long and cold Winter some of the plants in my garden are looking a bit "past it". The other day I was looking for a few sprigs of Thyme to use in a casserole when I noticed that my Thyme plants were in worse shape than I thought. One big plant that had been growing at the base of my Pear tree for the last few years had died completely, and I removed its remains only last week. Other than that, I was able to locate only three other Thyme plants. One of them is really supposed to be an ornamental plant (though we do occasionally snip the odd sprig or two from it), and it lives on the patio:

It will probably recover - it has in the past - but it will be a long time before any of its leaves are fit for the kitchen.

This one is in even worse shape, having lost almost all of its leaves:

I think that one will probably have to go.  The only half-decent Thyme plant I have is one that has been in the coldframe over the Winter (there's a moral in that tale, isn't there?):

Well, at least it is vaguely green, but it could hardly be described as "luxuriant", could it?

Definitely the time had come for a Thyme-renewal!  I was at the Garden Centre on Easter Monday, buying some compost for planting-up some more potatoes, when I noticed that they had a lot of healthy-looking herb plants in 5-inch pots. They were on special offer at four for £6, a reduction of about 20%. I bought four, though in retrospect maybe I should have bought a few more.

Since the new plants are primarily for use as culinary herbs, I chose two specimens of Common Thyme

But I also got one of Broadleaved Thyme. This is very similar in taste and smell to the Common Thyme, but it has a more creeping habit. I deliberately chose one which already had some quite long shoots.

Then purely for its ornamental appeal I chose this Golden Thyme ("Archer's Gold"). Despite appearances, it is not a lemon-scented one.

I'll pot these up into bigger containers next weekend, when hopefully the weather will be more conducive to outdoor gardening!

In the past I have grown Thyme from seed, but it takes a long time to get it to maturity, and I felt that in the present circumstances I could not wait that long. In any case, I think that £1.50 for a decent-sized healthy young plant is pretty good value, especially as I didn't have to incur any delivery charges (our local Garden Centre is less than 2 miles from our house). I always like to inspect very carefully the plants I buy, and I often spend a fair bit of time choosing the nicest specimen on display, and that is not something you can do when you buy by mail order.


  1. Those new Thyme plants are so beautiful!
    I went to a Home and Garden Show yesterday, and one of the topics was Container Gardening. The speaker, who works at a local garden center, said that before he buys a plant he turns it gently out of its pot to inspect the roots. As you can imagine, we all gasped at his audacity. Someone asked if the garden center employees objected. He said, "Some do, but I'm not buying a plant with dead roots!" Well I'm not bold enough to do that - unless I'm at the garden center he works for. Then I'll just say "Jayrd told me to!"
    Hope you are having a wonderful day!
    Lea's Menagerie

  2. Mark, don't be afraid to give your Thyme plants a good cut-back after flowering. Soon, the new foliage develops and it keeps the cushion-like shape.

  3. I was going to say the same as Vesna - I always give our thymes a haircut at this time of year.

    Another probably growing thyme form seed is you will end up with more than you wanted and all the same variety. I'd definitely buy them as plants! It's a bit like perennials - I don't want 20 or 30 of the same plant as good as that may look in huge gardens mine isn't huge and I want some variety!

  4. thyme is my absolute favourite herb, especially lemon thyme

  5. Sometimes Thyme seems to just stand still, doesn't it? So I agree: it was time for some new plants and they do look fine! Happy cooking with Thyme.
    Sounds like a bad poem!! Sorry about that!

  6. Funnily enough I was inspecting all my thyme plants - I have quite a few around the garden - a lot of them have gone very woody so really need replacing. I use lemon thyme more than any other in cooking and also for flavouring olive oil.

  7. Sometimes just buying some seedlings is just easier isn't it - particularly when you can easily tell that they are healthy. Nice purchases.

  8. Archer's Gold is one of the plants which I bought last year. I think £1.50 is pretty good for a plant, especially when you consider how long it will live for and how many times you'll use it in the kitchen. Those supermarket specimens are not much cheaper and they don't last very long.

  9. I am surprised no one has mentioned common thyme self seeding. I find my old plants become moribund with age but there is usually a supply of young plants to take over.
    I love the creeping thymes as a rock garden and gravel plant. ( come to think of it I do not really like thyme as a flavouring!)

  10. I just cut m thyme back yesterday. It is only a year old, so it wasn't that badly overgrown.

  11. I love thyme. I have what we call English thyme but is probably the same as what you call common thyme. I also have French thyme and Golden Lemon thyme. I never use the lemon scented one in cooking. I suppose I could. But it is just so pretty.

  12. Thanks for the reminder, mine needs replacing as well! It lasted a few years with vigorous haircuts but it's rather old and tired now.

  13. Hi Mark. I have found that when my thymes are spindly in the spring, they usually bounce back beautifully from a complete hacking back. I am ruthless with them. Haven't lost one yet.


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