Worshiped by the Egyptians, chamomile has been a favorite in the garden for centuries. Short and lacy, with miniature daisy-like flowers, this half-hardy perennial has many uses both in the garden and out.
Be sure to give chamomile full sun and light, well-drained soil. It thrives in mildly acidic conditions, and the liberal addition of sand is welcome. Keep it moist in the heat of summer. Plant seedlings at least six inches apart for most varieties, although some like to spread out so be sure to read any informational material included with the plants you purchase.
Chamomile can take some punishment. If you have an area that gets foot traffic or occasional abuse like kids rough-housing, it might thrive where other plants have failed. Growing to a height of 12 inches, it is a good choice for borders and along walkways.
If you enjoy camomile tea, which smells and tastes like a pleasant cross between apples and hay, be sure to include a number of plants in your gardening plan to ensure a good harvest -- and give them plenty of space.
In temperate climates, chamomile self seeds. In areas that experience cold winter temperatures, sew chamomile seeds indoors in spring. You can also propagate plants from cuttings.
With a light, sweet fragrance, chamomile is a nice addition to potpourri. Harvest leaves when the plant is mature, and always select flowers that are fully opened. Leaves and flowers dry quickly so don't overestimate drying times. A few hours in the oven (on warm) or in a dehydrator should do it.
Uses for Chamomile
Called a "physician" plant, chamomile has been used to rescue plants that are in a downward spiral. If you have a favorite specimen whose prognosis looks bleak, plant chamomile nearby and you may be surprised to see your sickly plant rallying. (I tried this with a hydrangea a few years ago, and it worked for me.)
Herbal teas seem to be the topic of the hour, so let me add another favorite to the batch. Chamomile tea is relaxing and can be a good nightmare inhibitor if you need one. It can also help get you to sleep at night.
There are any number of uses for camomile as a topical remedy, both as a whitener and to help heal as soothe:
Chamomile was once so valued for its restorative properties, it was considered one of nine sacred herbs. In the modern garden, it adds texture, fragrance, and tradition to potential problem areas, with a bountiful harvest for crafts and the teapot. Harvesting the small daisy-like flowers of chamomile is one of the delights of herb gardening. You shouldn't miss it.
It also goes by these names in some areas:
- Ground apple
- Earth apple
The first photo in this entry was provided by Lynne Hand. You can view her work at Flickr.com, including a collection of her nature photos.
Photo 2 - Courtesy of Morguefile.com