Iden Croft Herbs is one of those gardens that seems to be a hidden away gem of the Kent countryside that geographically is easy to find!
I remember one visit on a cold March Mothering Sunday some years ago when we were the only hardy souls to venture beyond the café and the plant sales area. Although we did spot a few early bees buzzing around the Pulmonaria flowers.
My most recent visit could hardly have been more different weather-wise. A blazing hot June day, so bright I could have done with a very posh camera with lots of filters.
My visit was primarily to view the National Plant Collection of Mint, held by Iden Croft Herbs. One of a handful of collections of the genus Mentha recognised by Plant Heritage.
But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to wander round the rest of the gardens, just me, herbs, flowers, trees and the wildlife. As with many small plant nurseries, the opening times may be limited, so I was grateful to meet Tracey and be allowed a stroll around and admire the range of planting.
I liked smelling the aromatic foliage of the growing collection of Thyme in their pots, sitting on a raised gravel bed. If you would like an easy maintenance herb garden, this is an idea to consider. Growing herbs, especially Mediterranean and sun loving herbs, in large pots on a gravel bed is very efficient. The herbs could be watered from below, so they could take up what they need. The gravel would also prevent their roots from drowning in the wet winter.
Walking through an arch laden with white climbing roses on one side and red climbing roses on the other, I entered the Victorian walled garden. Now a peaceful spot offering benches in sun and shade, this used to be a walled kitchen garden, and has in the past supplied strawberries for Wimbledon.
The air was humming with bees laden with nectar and pollen. There were plenty of birds around too, encouraged by this wildlife friendly garden.
A spot in which to sit and dream.
Iden Croft Herbs – National Plant Collection of Mint
The National Plant Collection of Mint, the Mentha species can be found near the plant nursery area. Iden Croft Herbs have them planted individually in 10 litre pots and they make an impressive display en masse.
For people who, if they think of mint growing in the garden at all, think of a clump of spearmint (Mentha spicata) in a pot in a shady corner. Or, if someone unwisely planted in the ground, being one of the plants that are not actually weeds but get pulled out and complained about on a regular basis. The Romans are credited with bringing spearmint into the British Isles.
Pliny is reputed to have said:-
“The smell of Mint does stir up the minde and the taste to a greedy desire of meate.”
And indeed, many people think of this herb purely in a culinary way, as the main ingredient in a sauce to go with a certain roast meat. I found it very entertaining that there is a mint variety called ‘English Lamb’! (Mentha spicata ‘English Lamb’)
Whilst Ginger mint is Mentha x gracilis, a cross between spearmint and corn mint, has lovely striped foliage and a ginger warmth in its flavour.
Pineapple mint is Mentha suaveolens ‘variegata’, with, as you may have guessed, a pineapple hint to its mintiness.
The range of scent is good with the vibrant in both foliage and flavour ginger mint contrasting with the more delicate aroma of strawberry mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Strawberry’ The latter found its way in to my basket by way of a smaller specimen. It has been flowering very prettily in my garden ever since. The strawberry mint leaves, along with leaves from a new lemon verbena (another purchase) have been a delicious addition to summer drinks of Pimms and elderflower cordial.
A Reminder about Visiting National Plant Collections
It may seem obvious, but do remember, whether you’re visiting Iden Croft Herbs Mint collection, or any other National Plant Collection, that certain plants flower at certain times. Although Mints are perennial, they generally die back over the winter. Their flowering time is usually June, July and maybe August, depending on the season.
The other thing which you may not be aware of, is that the holders of National Plant Collections do this voluntarily. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work. This is not easy maintenance gardening.
This is a garden, or a group of garden rooms, that are allowed to live on the wild side. If you’re used to the manicured offerings of some public gardens, you may think parts of it unkempt. But go with the flow and appreciate the national plant collection of mint in their pots as well as the overgrown lushness of native shrubs rubbing shoulders with herbaceous perennials that are also useful medicinal herbs.
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