The Edible Garden - Episode 5 - Flowers and Herbs

The Edible Garden - Episode 5 - Flowers and Herbs

In this Episode of The Edible Garden we meet Alys Fowler looks at Flowers and Herbs in her Birmingham garden.

Alys introduces herself as a writer and gardener, having grown up in the countryside she now lives in the city with her husband.

Alys gets pleasure from the simple things in life, home made bread, home grown vegetables, making things and looking after her much loved chickens.

Her garden is just 20ft by 60ft at the back of her Victorian terraced house.

This year Alys is hoping for as much home grown fruit and produce as possible and not shop bought, all grown in a beautiful but productive garden.

Flowers and Herbs

In a purist garden the only flowers would be edible but Alys loves so many different flowers.

 She has chosen flowers that she can use for several purposes.

Some of her chosen flowers are edible, some for cut flowers and some just for the insect and pollinators to help in making her garden productive.

Poppies growing in Alys garden

Alys' garden has to be 'me' and provide flowers both for her home and for her friends. 

Some flowers like Poppies, Violas and Calendulas can be both eaten and are good pollinators.

Verbena and Viburnum look good as cut flowers in a vase and are also good pollinators.


It is April and not many flowers are out in the garden yet so the bees and pollinators are out looking for food.

Alys garden, spring crops

Alys is also having a gap in her produce with the winter crops gone and the spring crops not quite ready yet. 

Better planning is the key to keep the garden productive.

Next year Alys is planning on having Kale and Chard and late winter salad crops to fill that gap.

Purple sage

What Alys does have in the garden is some established herbs like her purple sage which is an all year round herb.  

She does have a Magnolia tree for the early pollinators.

Magnolia tree in bloom

In her borders she has Rosemary and Rocket which is good to eat over winter and in the spring the pollinators like the early flowers.

Alys loves Rocket and the edible flowers which she puts in salads.

Alys picks rosemary

The Rosemary gives her 'aromatic garnishes' for her dishes all year. 

Rosemary is sun and drought loving and just need a haircut each year to keep it trim.

Herbs are both medicinal and culinary. 

Alys home made bread with added rosemary

Alys adds the delicate flavour of Rosemary to home made bread.

She adds a chopped tablespoon to the dough then bakes.

Throughout the year there is also poppy and sunflower seeds to add.

Alys eating freshly cooked bread

When you bake a good loaf its a 'very pleasing moment'. 

Gratuitous eating shot!


It is May and the weather is warm.

 Alys is planting Verbena Bonariensis, which flowers from late July. 

Verbena Bonariensis

Alys likens her to a super model, slim, elegant and irresistible to pollinators.

A good plant has its root system just starting to poke out the holes at the bottom of the pot. 

It shouldn't be pot bound and with a happy plant you can tease the roots out easily.

Verbena Bonariensis root system

Always plant them so the level of the top of soil levels meet. 

The Verbena will grow tall and airy with lovely purple flowers on top so that it does shade out the other plants.

Not only is it perennial but it will flower up to the first frost it will also attract a lot of pollinators, what's not to like.


Alys is planting sunflowers.

Sunflowers are an annual that flowers in late Summer then the seeds provide food for the birds in the Winter as well as for Alys.

The sunflowers were sown in February and are planted out in the back of the borders supported by the fence as they can grow up to 10 feet tall.

Alys talks to her neighbour

Gardens need not be a barrier for people or wildlife.

The back garden and the neighbouring gardens can be a haven to substitute for the lack of small fields and wildflowers.

Having more all year round flowers in the garden can create an amazing habitat filled with fruit and vegetable too.

For Alys Bees are the 'life blood' of the garden. 

Alys visits beekeepers

Alys is off to visit the local Beekeepers to learn more about bees and honey. 

Donning a protective suit Alys asks the keepers about the honey.

The honey comes from the nectar and the bees travel up to a 3 mile radius to collect it.

Alys in a beekeeping suit

Alys lives within 3 miles of the bee hive and says that their bees must visit her garden.

She says at times she has seen one arrive on a plant and lots more bees follow.

Bees and a honeycomb

Honey bees will visit the same flower all day long bringing the nectar back for honey and covering it with wax.

Urban honey is holding its own due to the different nectar the back gardens produce. 

Every hives honey is unique due to the difference sources of nectar.

Alys eating honey

Gratuitous honey eating shot.

The trick with insects is to get the right balance. 

They are like guests, some welcome, others stay too long and eat to much.

Aphids on Alys seeds head

Getting the balance means some insects see off the less welcome ones.

Ladybird larvae have arrived to see off the aphids from Alys seeds head.


When it comes to Caterpillars, Alys picks them off and feeds them to the chickens.


It is June and the chives and their flowers are a welcome arrival and both are used by Alys as well as the bees loving the flowers.

Bees on chive flowers

Alys likes to keep the herbs close to the house by the patio so they are accessible even in the winter.

She has various varieties of chives including Chinese, Garlic, Mouse Garlic and normal which she loves.

Sweet Cicely  grows alongside and smells of aniseed balls, which she uses in apple pies and puddings.

Elderflower Champagne

Elderflower Champagne is an excuse for a forage with Jeremy and Ingrid.

For 10-12 Litres, 35 elderberry heads are needing to be picked.

You need to make sure they are in full flower and not discoloured.

Picking elderflower heads

Strength wise it will not match Champagne and be more like a week lager. 

The leaves and stalks contain a cyanide type substances so be careful to avoid adding them!

Sugar is dissolved in boiling water then the Elderflower heads are added once it has cooled after adding cold water.

Limes and lemon zest is added to the elderflower heads

Zest of limes and lemons are added plus a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

2 weeks is the earliest you can drink it but it does get better with age.


Mint and Lavender are now at their best in July .

Lavender flourishes in a sunny spot with well drained soil and is a must for Alys in the garden.

Mint is a thug that will grow anywhere and is an essential herb best grown in pots to stop it spreading. 

Growing your own Mint Tea in a pot or the garden in rich composted soil to grow fat happy leaves that can then just be picked and put in the teapot. 

Putting mint leaves into a teapot

At the end of Summer you cut it back and dry the mint leaves for use in the winter. 

Lemon, Ginger and Black Stemmed Peppermint all make a good tea.

Tea drinking shot!

Alys has 2 weeks of solid rain and the slugs are out in force and the lack of sun is affecting her garden and Alys is not happy.

This Summer has been declared 'rubbish' so Alys turns to her kitchen.

Lavender Biscuits should help her get her summery feeling back with the smell of them cooking.

Lavender leaves are chopped into the biscuit mixture and flowers squashed on to the top, the flavour can be overpowering so not too much.

Then put the biscuits in a tin, with no eating shot!

Vibrant flowers

When the sun does come out the vibrant colours of the garden do too. 

A meal of just flowers is not enough but Nasturtiums a stuffed courgette, chicory flowers, Chive flowers and Calendulas added to your cooking to decorate.


It is now August and the super model plant Verbena Bonariensis is doing her thing and the bees love it.

Verbena Bonariensis

There is a garnish glut. 

The mainstay of cooking Bay, thyme, Rosemary, Sage and Winter Savory all need full sun, free draining soil and constant picking to maintain a healthy non leggy plant.

Thyme is a Mediterranean plant so it does not like too much water, love or looking after, neglect your thyme for a good plant.


For a good crop of tasty Basil, Mint or Parsley, where good tender leaves are important, they need good rich soil, lots of water and love.

As most gardens have a range of conditions you need to plan where each herb will suit best.

A kitchen or garden with out herbs would be a 'sorry place'.

Alys is off with a bouquet of herbs for a house warming gift for her friend Rachel

Alys is off with a bouquet of herbs for a house warming gift for her friend Rachel. 

This includes Sage, Vietnamese coriander, Mouse Garlic Chives, Oregano, Bay, Sage and Rosemary.  She can use all these until her own herb garden is established.

You can then hang the bouquet upside down to dry.

The bouquet

Alys then gets roped in to helping with the move.

The chickens are now well established  in the garden and there are plenty of eggs for herb omelettes. 

They lay 2 eggs every day and Alys cant think of a life without chickens and they are so easy to look after as they recycle. 

Alys shows off her chickens eggs

Even the egg shells are given back to them as grit.

Alys is using mostly oriental herbs, she starts with Japanese bunching onions which she chops.

Perilla a bitter herb, then Mitsuba a Japanese Parsley and homegrown Chillies.


The eggs are whisked and the herbs added to the pan.

No food miles, no chemicals, herbs, happy hens and a gratuitous eating shot.


It is now September and the natural cycles Alys has created in the garden are working for her.

Sunflowers and herbs

The Sunflowers are still out in bloom and she is still picking herbs and salads.

An Indian Summer and the warmth means that Alys can relax and swim in streams.

Alys relaxes in a stream

Off on a camping trip which looks more like glamping, Alys takes her flowers and herbs with her.

They decorate the bell tent with them as well as eat them.

Alys drinks a glass of homemade elderflower champagne

Elderflower Champagne anyone?

A toast to the Champagne, tent and friends followed by gratuitous drinking shots.

All photographs are copyright of

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  1. I like Alys, she’s slightly nuts, very funky and has cool friends and neighbours like Jeremy and Ingrid and of course George and Mr Singh. Stylishly done, it makes me interested in our own garden which pleases my wife.

    1. Hello Vegetable Man
      Yes its a really delightful series The Edible Garden and she manages to cram so much in a small space as well as Chickens and it still looks attractive.
      Glad to hear Mrs Vegetable Woman is happy to see you in the Garden it is such a fulfilling hobby and even better if you grow your own fresh vegetables and salads!
      Hope you are enjoying the rest of the blog.
      Best Wishes
      Pete Free 🌻