Perennial Portrait – Thyme

Perennial Thyme in the garden

All Thyme, annual or perennial like full sun, good drainage, and lean to poor soil. Perfect for a Prairie garden. Their tiny leaves reduce moisture loss and contrast well with larger leaved plants.

Thymus vulgaris grows 15cm high and spreads 45cm. A common name is ‘English thyme’. It has an upright growth habit and tiny aromatic leaves highly prized. The leaves can be harvested and dried for culinary use. With maturity it can become shrub-like with woody stems. It is a great addition to a rock garden a border or a planter..

For the love of Latin, A closer look at Thyme

The Genus is the first part of a plant botanical name. Genus is the name given to a group of organisms whose physical characteristics are permanent, similar and largely confined to that group. Its first letter is always in upper case.

The second name is the species name and refers to a feature of the plant and is always in lower case.

T. vulgaris – common

T. serpyllum – thyme leaved, serpent like growth habit

T. x citriodorus – lemon scented

T. pseudolanuginosus – resembling or imitating woolly or downy

T. praecox ‘Coccineus’ – scarlet.

Folklore – fact or folly

Thymus vulgaris – English Thyme in the medieval era symbolized courage. Knights leaving for the Crusades were given scarves from their women embroidered with this herb. There was also a popular belief that Thyme tea could help you see nymphs and fairies. “I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,” confides Oberon, referring to the sleeping place of his fairy queen, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In England, Thyme was used to dispel nightmares, assist in calming the headache due to inebriation and for nervous disorders.

To this day Thyme remains a medicinal herb. The active ingredient thymol is a disinfectant and an active ingredient in mouthwash and antiseptics. It is used in the treatment of fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and as an ingredient in expectorants and cough remedies. Thyme remains important for its many uses from spicing food, cosmetics to pharmaceutical preparations.