About Hilltop

Gardens

Tea Garden

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The tea garden is a circle separated into eight pie shaped sections with walking paths through the middle. Each section contains plants that are used for culinary purposes such as tea or flavoring baked goods. Some of the plants are perennial; some reseed them­selves, while others are planted each year often from saved seed. A number of the plants are in the mint family.

Mint (Mentha) of two types grows in the tea garden. Both are hard to keep within their borders but both are so aromatic we cannot give them up.
The chocolate mint has chocolate-brown stems and somewhat green-brown leaves. There is a hint of choco­late aroma to the leaves but it mostly smells minty.
mint photo Our green mint is our favorite for drying. It has a sweet heavy fra­grance. A fresh sprig of this mint is wonderful in iced-tea.
Lemon Verbena photo

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a semi-tropical shrub from South America: it suffers if we have a very cold winter. The leaves emit a heavy lemon scent when crushed and the oil from the leaves is used in making perfumes, lotions and soaps. The leaves retain much of their scent when dried and that makes for uses in potpourri and in cooking.

bee balm photo

Bee balm (Monarda) is also called wild bergamot: it is in the mint family and is an North American native. It is a perennial that comes back each year in the tea garden. It has lavender/purple flowers from spring through the sum­mer. Bee balm has a square stem and can be propagated via stem cuttings but it propagates itself via rhizomes so we have to pull out the new plants that invade the pathways.

The leaves, flowers and stems are used in alternative medi­cine. The flowers are edible and are used as the distinct flavoring in Earl Grey Tea. Leaves that have been stripped from the stem and dried for no longer than 2-3 days make a nice tea. Bea Balm is also used in potpourri mixtures.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is a plant from a warm temperate climate so we have to start it new each year. We may start it from seed or buy fresh stalks from the oriental market and simply place them in the ground.

Lemongrass is used as a medicinal tea in India but you need not be sick to enjoy it. It is also used in Thai, African, and Mexican cooking.

lemon balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is an­other plant that is a member of the mint family. It is a native of Europe and as evi­denced by its name has a lemony scent.

The plant puts out many small seeds and the plants pop up all over our other gardens but are eas­ily removed. Lemon balm is used in pot­pourri and as a tea.

Tea Hibiscus

Tea Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a dwarf shrub like plant that hails from the tropics. It will not winter over in our tea garden but it produces seeds that we then plant the next year.

A tea is made from the outer sepals of the tea hibiscus after the flower has bloomed. It is a tart tea that begs for honey or sugar. The tea is deep red in color and is drunk hot or cold by many cultures around the world.

Chamomile

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) or German Chamomile has wispy fern like leaves and a small gay daisy-like flower. It is an annual that, if allowed to go to seed, will go everywhere. Usually this plot in the garden is blank by end the summer because the chamomile dries up and is cut down.

Seen here is a tray of blos­soms cut from the chamo­mile plant. The flowers are used to make a tea that is thought to help a person get to sleep. To make such a tea take two tea­spoons of dried flower per cup of tea and steep for 10 to 15 minutes while covered to avoid evaporation of the volatile oils. 

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop (Agastache) is a pe­rennial in the mint family. It has flower spikes from summer into fall. We have two types, one with lilac-blue flowers and the other with pink flow­ers. Often dried spikes are used in flower arrangements. A delicately anise aroma is imbued into a tea by the leaves. Fresh leaves and flowers can be used in salads or as garnish. The flowers are some­times used in tea breads.