“Thyme takes upon itself to embellish the parts of the earth which other plants disdain. If there is an arid, stony, dry soil, burnt up by the sun, it is there Thyme spreads its charming green beds, perfumed, close, thick, elastic, scattered over with little balls of blossom, pink in color, and of a delightful freshness.”
Thyme, perhaps because of its scent, perhaps due to its use in flavoring foods, has prominent roles in literature. The play on words has made it a motto for sundials and garden plaques, but I think of thyme as a wonderful landscaping plant.
My favorite use of thyme echoes Bacon’s advice: as a trimming for a walk. In my old garden in the city, where the houses were close and the sidewalk from the front to backyard was sandwiched between the neighbor’s and my own wall… I grew a long line of Thyme citriodorus, a beautiful low growing shrubby plant with lemony fragrant leaves, in partly sunny conditions.
One of the interesting things about this plant is the varied forms. A tapestry of different leaves and flower colors, all perfectly harmonious and soothing can be grown as a bed of interwoven soft colors. A popular use is to surround a sundial with a ring of thyme to create a pretty focal point in a garden (and provide a living pun). See the video below to learn how to create a seat of thyme- very English style and all that!
Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints. Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.
Sir Francis Bacon, English statesman, lawyer, philosopher & essayist
Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)
How To Grow Thyme
Thyme is hardy zones 4-9. Space 8-10 inches apart.Mulching Thyme over the winter months will prevent frost heaving, but my favorite practice is to place rock around my thyme plants to protect the roots and retain moisture during summer. I like to imagine that it feels more at home in this small effort to mimic it’s mountain origins. It likes organic matter in a well-drained soil. I don’t find it likes dryness as well as some would say. In the midwest we have wet springs, but a dry to drought time in the later season. Well drained is what to aim for in growing many herbs, as well as thyme.
Some of my favorite varieties include, T. citriodorus, T.vulgaris, T.serpyllum, T. pseudolanuginosus, T.minus. List of many named varieties.
Thyme seeds stay viable for three years, but the plants are usually increased through cuttings and division. I found cuttings very easy to start and little bits with some root attached even more successful, in mid spring. Be sure to keep new plants moist, so they take root and establish. The seeds are tiny, simply press them into the ground, or perhaps mix with sand and sow.
Interesting Facts About Thyme
- Thymol is antiseptic and anti-fungal, used in beekeeping, mouthwashes, as well as cleaning products.
- Red oil of thyme, Thymus vulgaris L. (Lamiaceae, formerly Labiatae), had good nematicidal activity in research experiments.
- One of the earliest uses was Egyptian mummy preservation
Create a Thyme Seat
Will you go, lassie, will you go? And we’ll all go together To pull wild mountain thyme All around the blooming heather, Will you go, lassie, go?
I will build my love a bower By yon clear and crystal fountain, And all around the bower, I’ll pile flowers from the mountain.
I will roam the country o’er Through that dark land so dreary; And all the spoils I find, I’ll bring to my darling dearie.
If my true love, she won’t have me, I will surely find another To pull wild mountain thyme All around the blooming heather.
Oh, the summertime is coming And thre trees are blooming And the wild mountain thyme Grows around the blooming heather.
Herb Garden Thyme Carpet
This photo taken in Inniswood Metro Park is of a bed of different varieties of thyme. I love the tapestry, or carpet effect of the slightly different leaf and blossoms on the flat surface of these low growing plants. All the fascination of carpet bedding without any of the garishness. In this personal garden that became a Metro park the Innis Sisters created a formal herb garden which contrasts beautifully with the natural wooded sanctuary surrounding the grounds.