Both good for the outdoors and your insides, German Chamomile not only brings its calming aroma to the garden, but it also has a variety of uses.
German or Roman?
There are two types of Chamomile:
- Roman Chamomile (also sometimes called English or Russian Chamomile) is a creeping ground cover used for planting an alternative lawn. It’s a feathery cover that grows over the top of bare soil, like a sprawling green mat or carpet, accentuated by its characteristic small yellow flowers with pretty white petals. It is a hardy perennial plant.
- German Chamomile grows upright, usually raising up between 30-60cm tall and is an annual plant that re-seeds competently with little help.
Both types of Chamomile are grown in exactly the same way and enjoy the same climatic conditions.
Cheerful and pretty, they dance in the garden...
You will only ever have to buy seeds or one chamomile plant on one occasion, if you’re committed to growing it in your garden.
I still actually have the original seed packet, but I had so many seeds in my dried tea, that I can just take the jar out of my pantry at whim and head out to the garden to sprinkle them around outside, then I watch them grow!
To start plants in a seed tray, fill the tray with good quality potting mix, sprinkle seeds across the top, then lightly sprinkle more fine potting mix to cover them up.
Keep them moist and humid in a greenhouse, or on a windowsill for 10 days.
They transplant easily into big pots or in to the garden. Despite a bit of frost (about 6 hard frosts) and lots of wet weather this year, my chamomile has not died off. So getting 9-12 months from these annuals can be expected in a cold temperate climate like ours.
While hardy plants, they can benefit from gentle sprays of worm juice, Seasol or fertiliser to keep them flowering and perky, realistically I only ever do this about once every 3 months.
Harvesting flower heads...
To harvest and dry flower heads you can catch the flower between your two forefingers which lifts them off the end of the stem quite easily. I fill a brown paper bag with these flower heads during spring, summer and autumn. They dry well in the bag, sitting in a warm airy place, I leave the top of the bag loosely open and shake them as I walk by every now and then.
Once completely dry, I fill recycled coffee jars with them and give extra to family and friends for their afternoon teas. Stress relief and calming for them in a jar!
Adding these flower heads to make tea is just as simple. I add one to two teaspoons to a small pot, adding a combination of chamomile, lemon verbena and mint. Let steep for 3 minutes, then pour into cup, add one teaspoon of local honey, let it dissolve. Enjoy in the late afternoon or in the evening before bed time.
Chamomile can also be added to soaps, shampoos, baths and to make healing salves.
But please note that some people can be overly sensitive to it and it can knock some right out to sleep! I’m talking from experience. After growing this I feel I am building up a tolerance to it, but it's good to know it works a treat if you’re a bit of an insomniac!
Smells as good as it tastes...
Aromatherapy in the hot evening garden, chamomile delights the senses too. Walk past it, brush up against it and breathe it in. You can add it to a vase of flowers to bring its scent indoors too. They last for about 5 days as a cut flower.
Disguised as a cheerful flower, chamomile relaxes the stomach and supports digestion, as well as being anti-inflammatory.
Good for the compost too!
You can add the spent tea and tired plants to your compost heap, as it adds calcium and potassium to the mix. Leftover tea leaves and tea can be used to feed trees that benefit from these precise nutrients.
Time to sow...
Late winter to early spring is the best time to plant your Chamomile seeds.
After one year in our garden, I’m already dreaming of planting a magic scented lawn, it might be our next blissful garden experiment.