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Gardening Herbs


The Complete Gardener's Guide

by (author) Patrick Lima

illustrated by Turid Forsyth

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2012
Herbs, Herbs, Spices, Condiments, Plants & Animals
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2012
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2012
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


When first published, Herbs was extremely well received and set a new standard of excellence for gardening books. Turid Forsyth's photographs and watercolor illustrations capture all the beauty and detail of these fascinating and practical plants, and Patrick Lima's highly entertaining text is chock-full of clear information, helpful advice and wry anecdotes.

The book covers:

  • Selecting and growing herbs
  • Soil
  • Perennial kitchen herbs, such as horseradish, oregano, bay leaf and rosemary
  • Annual and biennial kitchen herbs, such as basil, chili peppers and parsley
  • Varieties of thyme
  • Varieties of sage
  • Seeds and sprouts, including anise, caraway, coriander and cumin
  • Alliums, including chives, leeks, onions, garlic and shallots
  • Leafy herbs, such as arugula and watercress
  • Herbs for blending and brewing, such as mint, chamomile and bergamot
  • Fragrant herbs, such as old roses and lavender
  • Gathering wild herbs

Special sections outline how to use herbs to add color to flowerbeds and how to propagate, preserve and grow herbs indoors. The book concludes with 16 delicious recipes that make the most of fresh herbs.

This beautiful book combines the wisdom of two longtime gardeners, creating a comprehensive reference that any gardener will enjoy and use regularly.


About the authors

Patrick Lima and John Scanlan escaped to a flat field full of hip-high seedy hay grass, some scrubb chokecherries crusted with black not and a few leaning fence posts looped with rusty wire in Dyer’s Bay in 1975. Since then they’ve transformed fallow land into an oasis known to gardeners everywhere as Larkwhistle. Their books have been published by Key Porter. They’ve lectured and toured about their love of the land and their love of green and growing things, offering hope and insight for those who share land husbandry. Five Rivers is thrilled to have Patrick and John join our community.

Patrick Lima's profile page

Turid Forsyth's profile page

Excerpt: Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide (by (author) Patrick Lima; illustrated by Turid Forsyth)

Excerpt from Chapter 1; Sample Entry from Chapter 4 Excerpted from Chapter 1 Starting Out: Herbs in the landscape




In a garden, as in nature as a whole, diversity is a hallmark of health and balance. Anything that reduces diversity -- growing a strictly limited number of plants, for instance, or using chemicals that deplete soil organisms or spraying to wipe out insect friends and foes alike -- invites trouble down the road. In contrast, planting a variety of herbs about a garden promotes diversity in both subtle and obvious ways. Beneficial parasitic wasps are drawn to the flowers of lovage, sweet cicely, dill and other umbelliferous plants. Hummingbirds arrive to sip nectar from crowns of tubular bergamot flowers, while swallowtail, admiral and monarch butterflies flit among purple coneflowers or land on the great cartwheel blooms of angelica. Essential for pollination, bumblebees and honeybees seek out nectar from herbs such as lemon balm, lavender, mints and hyssop and busily gather pollen from opium poppies. Where conditions are right, frogs, toads, bats and ladybugs will inhabit a garden and eat their share, of aphids and mosquitoes. Having admired frogs sitting placidly on their water-lily pads, you may be discomfited on occasion to come upon a garter snake -- or, in these parts, a massasauga rattlesnake -- with its mouth full of web-toed amphibian, but it's all of a piece. In late summer, twittering goldfinches fly in to feast on sunflower and mullein seeds.

I can't imagine our garden without its herbs, plants that enchant us somehow and elicit contact and response. When I think of herbs, I think of essence, intensity and strength: pervasive aroma; flavors pungent or sweet but always distinct; essential oils concentrated to a degree that gives a plant character. Working with herbs brings us in touch with intertwining traditions of gardening, cookery, brewing, folk medicine and home-based crafts. So many simple pleasures are associated with herbs: picking fresh leaves for the kitchen; making a pot of fragrant tea; traveling down memory lane on a whiff of costmary or rue; tousling the lavender as you stroll by and breathing in its calming scent.

Herbs encompass a huge variety, and our aim is to be as inclusive as possible. Something that shows up as a herb here may well be another gardener's weed, vegetable or flower. In the chapters that follow, herbs are grouped according to common characteristics and uses: annual and perennial culinary herbs; tea herbs; the various thymes, sages and alliums; herbs grown primarily for fragrance; and old-time medicinals that remain excellent ornamentals for sun and shade. Look around the piece of earth you tend. There are places in every landscape where herbs of one kind or another will thrive, adding their varied appeal of scent and savor, utility and tradition -- creating a garden full of interest and beauty by any definition.


Excerpted from Chapter 4. Summer Seasonings: Annual and biennial kitchen herbs


Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium


Chervil is so delicate, it never appears in markets. To have chervil in the kitchen, you must grow it in the garden. But once established, this pretty annual sows its hardy seeds and reappears gratis every season. Chervil does not transplant. To start a patch, scratch the long black seeds shallowly into decent loam in sun or light shade. Keep the ground moist until the seeds sprout, thin the seedlings to 6 inches apart, and harvest the outside leaves, always leaving the central crown to continue growing. Lacy umbels of pinkish white flowers -- "like exquisite bits of enamel work," says one observant writer -- are followed in midsummer by seeds. Allowing chervil to seed down saves you the work, but be prepared for new plants to pop up in odd places. When chervil is left to its own schedule, its seeds sprout in early fall, forming a small rosette that winters over and begins to grow first thing in spring.

"The leaves put into a sallet give a marvellous relish to the rest," wrote John Parkinson in his 1629 "speaking garden," Paradisi in Sole.

Later, in the 1699 Acetaria, John Evelyn added his assent: "The tender tips of chervil should never be wanting in our sallets, being exceedingly wholesome and cheering of the spirits." Indeed, the herb's name comes from the Latin chaerephyllum, "a joy-giving leaf"; chervil equals cheerful.

A close cousin to the robustly perennial sweet cicely, chervil holds a milder anise flavor in its soft curly leaves. Given its early growth, chervil is a natural with chives and dill to season spring dishes; try the three in cottage cheese or dips. Chervil butter flavors asparagus, and later on, minced chervil and chives go into lettuce salads and warm potato salad. I often use up to one-third chervil with parsley for tabbouleh. The French fines herbes always include chervil and chives with two others chosen from thyme, savory, basil or tarragon; in any combination, they make a splendid green-flecked omelette. Chervil is best fresh and may be added at the last minute to cream soups such as carrot, asparagus or puree of green pea. In fact, this is all the cooking that chervil's subtle flavor will withstand.


Excerpted from Chapter 17 In the Kitchen: Cooking with fresh herbs


Spicy Tofu


When I feel a bout of sniffles coming on, I load this dish with ginger and garlic and make it extra-hot with chilies. It seems to knock back an incipient cold. Adjust the spices to your liking, and serve with rice and steamed greens. 1 block tofu, regular or firm 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger 2 fresh red chili peppers, chopped, or 1/2 tsp. dried red chili flakes, or more to taste 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped, or more to taste 1/2 tsp. curry powder (optional) 1/2 tsp. tamari 1 Tbsp. water

Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes or strips, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the ginger, chili peppers or flakes and garlic, and cook for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the garlic from browning. Add the tofu, and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tofu turns slightly golden. (Unless you are using a well-seasoned, cast-iron or non-stick frying pan, you may have to add a little more oil to keep the tofu from sticking.) Add the curry powder if using, and stir for 1 minute. Add the tamari and water, and bring to a high simmer. Serve hot.

Editorial Reviews

A text to sit back and read enjoyably while comparing qualities of different herbs.

American Herb Association Quarterly

Comprehensive guide ... lots of practical advice on growing herbs as well as suggestions for medicinal uses, recipes and decorations.

Globe and Mail

What a lovely, informative and motivating book this is.

Hamilton Spectator

Patrick Lima's graceful garden prose takes a wide-ranging approach to herbs. His observations and advice are anchored in the herbs he and his partner grow at Larkwhistle, their garden high up on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, as well as those found in the garden of his collaborator Turid Forsyth. Some chapters are devoted to such idiosyncratic subjects as alliums and garden silverware-or herbs with silvery leaves. Turid Forsyth's watercolours and photographs are given lots of elbow room to very good effect. A lovely book.

Canadian Gardening

The book is like a colorful, calming stroll through the realm of summer.


Essential... Lima is one of our great garden writers... a literate charming guide.

Hamilton Spectator

Herbs provides you with the essential knowledge to build your herbal garden from the soil up ... fun read.

Colorado Homes and Lifestyle Magazine

The striking color photographs and detailed watercolors make this a hard book to put down. But as I read through it, I realized that it's more than a coffee-table book. It contains very good herbal information ... This is a delightful and very informative read.

Lexington Herald-Leader

It is ... herbs as they can be used to enhance the landscape that is most appealing about this book.

American Gardener

A most attractive coffee-table book, this volume is at the same time an excellent reference resource for the herb gardener.

American Reference Book Annual

Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide by Ontario gardener Patrick Lima is big, beautiful and reasonably priced. More than 100 herbs are covered in chatty fashion, together with tales of Lima's personal herb-growing adventures.

Vaughan Today

The informational material in this book is exquisitely complemented by photos and illustrations ... the use of high-quality paper assures great reproduction. "Herbs" is as beautiful as it is useful.

Appleton Post-Crescent

Expansive study ... focus[es] on the plants' physical characteristics ... recipes and hundreds of photos enhance this charming book.

Publishers Weekly

Filled with delightful vignettes and essential advice ... lavishly illustrated.

Paper Clips

A must read for cooks who wish to enhance new and favorite recipes with fresh herbs, people interested in natural alternative medicines, craftspeople who turn their hand to scented designs and, of course, gardeners who enjoy tending herbs and are on the lookout for interesting new plants to add colors, scents and foliage to their beds.

Chesapeake Home

Other titles by Patrick Lima

Other titles by Turid Forsyth