Is there anything more relaxing than sipping a warm cup of tea surrounded by a fragrant and colorful garden? People who know their tea have partaken in this practice for several centuries. In Victorian England “tea time” became the defining symbol of British civilization. Set on plush lawns and back-dropped by elaborate gardens of salvia, roses, lavender and yew, English society sipped exotic tea blends from fine china, accompanied by delicate pastries and sandwiches set on crisply covered tables. Across the globe, Japanese tea gardens developed as a spiritual element of Zen Buddhism, providing a place for quiet contemplation and meditation on man’s spiritual connection to nature. Situated prominently in the garden was the teahouse, the location for the symbolic tea ceremony. Two societies, one common element – tea.
As the British and Japanese have known for ages, tea, with its legendary calming powers, has long been renowned for soothing life’s countless stresses. Nature provides an abundance of herbs to employ in the brewing of the perfect cup of tea. From tangy rose hips to tart lemon balm to spicy peppermint, anyone can find a flavor to match tastes and mood. And the beauty of it is you can grow all the selections right in your own tea garden, pick them yourself and enjoy the relaxing tea experience within the serenity of your garden setting.
Herbs are undemanding residents of the garden and grow happily in containers. Most require full sun (6 hours per day) and frequent watering. Although many herbs can be grown easily from seed, your local nursery or garden center will carry seedlings which will give you lush looking containers even sooner. By choosing perennial herbs, you’ll be able to enjoy your tea garden year after year.
To create an intimate, relaxing retreat, choose a section of your deck, balcony or patio where you can position a bench or a small bistro table and chair. Surround your seating area with fragrant herbs, positioning taller ones like anise hyssop or bee balm to the back, and shorter, bushier plants like chamomile, lemon balm and mint to the sides and front. If you have enough space, create a mirror image of this planting arrangement opposite your seating area.
Through trial and error you will determine what herbal flavors are most appealing to you. You can make a tea of just one herb, or blend several for a more complex taste. You can also blend herbs with black or green tea for a slightly stronger brew. Here are some ideal tea herbs to get you started.