Herbs have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years – and they look very attractive in the garden, too. There’s a huge range to choose from, including annual and perennial herbs.
Watch our video guide to planting herbs.
Many herbs also attract and provide food for various forms of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, hoverflies and birds.
Angelica archangelica is a tall, shade-loving herb most commonly used for making candied stems to decorate cakes. Early flowering and rich in nectar, angelica is a vital food source for early bees and hoverflies. Birds also eat its seeds in autumn.
Borago officinalis is an attractive plant with hairy leaves that have a slight cucumber flavour; the pretty flowers can be used as a garnish for drinks or salads. Its delicate blue flowers are a magnet for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
Lavandula angustifolia is one of the best plants to grow for attracting bees and butterflies. There are hundreds of species and cultivars to choose from, producing attractive scented blooms from May-September.
The stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is one of the most important native wildlife plants in the UK. It supports more than 40 species of insect, including larvae of the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, is best known for the distinctive flavour of its leaves. But if it is left to flower, its tiny blue blooms provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies.
Thymus vulgaris is a sun-loving hardy perennial, used for adding flavour to stews, salad and sauces. Its mauve-coloured flowers attract bees and butterflies.
A tall-growing hardy perennial, Valeriana officinalis produces clusters of sweetly-scented pale pink flowers from mid- to late-summer. Its blooms provide a source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
If left to flower, Foeniculum vulgare, produces attractive yellow blooms that attract hoverflies. The seeds are eaten by birds in autumn and winter.
The wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca, produces white flowers, favoured by bees. The small, sweet fruits are eaten by birds in summer.
Carum carvi is a hardy biennial with feathery bright green leaves. It produces tiny clusters of creamy white flowers in early summer that attract a range of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.
Kate Bradbury says
If you live in the south-east, keep an eye our for unusual looking caterpillars on your fennel plants. The continental swallowtail butterfly can be found on the south coast in very hot summers, and lays eggs on fennel and other umbellifers.