Chamomile paths and special places.

I think I first became aware of chamomile when my son, then a baby, was given a china dish with these words printed round the edge.

“Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.” 
― Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Peter Rabbit

I still have the now rather chipped, but much loved dish.

It must have made an impression on me because over thirty years later I decided chamomile would be just the thing to put between the steps in the rockery. This was not because I wanted to make tea, it was because I wanted something that would be green all year and would spread freely between the steps.

I did  a bit of research and bought the non-flowering cultivar, Camomile Nobile Treneague.  I only bought a few plants to see how they got on and I put them in the narrow gaps between the steps, gradually taking cuttings until all the gaps were filled.

Chamomile between rockery steps

Chamomile growing between rockery steps and beyond – May 2014 

One of the things you need to know about chamomile is that is grows better where there is plenty of space and where it is less likely to be trodden on.

That is not necessarily what we want of it! However it does give you the opportunity to take plenty of rooted cuttings to transfer elsewhere.

In Spring 2013 we set about doing some serious work on the garden. It had been neglected for quite a while due to other commitments, but now we had the time to take it in hand.   One thing we wanted to do was create a seating area that would get the sun for as much of the day as possible and yet be hidden away in the middle of the flowers. That meant it should go in the middle of the south facing long border.  At the same time we put up some trellis to mask the rather ugly wall at the back. What a difference that made.

June 2011  - the area designated for the new hidden seat.

June 2011 : a rather haphazard collection of plants was the area designated for the new hidden seat.

The semicircular path area  was thoroughly weeded and levelled ready for its new covering.  We found a wonderful bench with granite supports and a seat that could be lifted off for the winter. I think that is what really sold it to us; that and the fact that it was in a sale!!

New trellis, new seat (almost) and first chamomile plants

April 2013: New trellis, new seat (almost) and the first chamomile plants in front of it.

By April we were ready to plant the chamomile, though we only had sufficient for half the path to start with.  We planted it and watered it and tried very hard not to tread on it.

You are recommended not to walk on chamomile for at least 6 weeks after planting it.

June 2013: New plants growing nicely

June 2013: New plants growing nicely

At the same time we chose the other plants that we would see and smell while we were sitting on our new bench.  On the wall behind I planted a honeysuckle and a scented white clematis. To the right of the bench I planted a cotinus which would grow quite tall and help us feel more secluded.  The bed in front of the bench was supposed to be filled with romantic pink flowers – I am still working on that!

July 2013 - still growing

July 2013 – still growing

By July the plants were filling out nicely and we were still adding to them from the rockery overflow, but notice the potentilla in front of the bird bath.

Potentilla in flower

Potentilla in flower

The potentilla looked lovely, but it spread all over the chamomile path.

Another  thing you need to know about chamomile is that it needs a lot of sun and just won’t grow if it is covered even for a short while.

February 2014: damage caused by potentilla

February 2014: damage caused by potentilla the previous summer.

The bare patch needed replanting with more cuttings and the path was to take until the summer before it recovered.

June 2014: chamomile growing thickly

June 2014: chamomile growing thickly

By June the chamomile was growing thickly with very few bare patches, in fact I had even given it a haircut.  There is a fine line, I find, with how much you walk on chamomile: too much and it gets flattened and doesn’t grow, too little and it grows lovely and bushy but with a tendency to get leggy and stalky.

Chamomile is not a trouble free alternative to grass.  It is not much use at smothering weeds and so needs constant attention to prevent it being taken over.

Chamomile taken over by grass

Sept 2014: Chamomile taken over by grass

It is quite a fussy plant in terms of light and water and if it isn’t happy tends to go rather yellow.

Chamomile turning yellow

Chamomile turning yellow

I had hoped to grow it over the remains of a big tree root, hoping it would spread over the area that I couldn’t dig. The chamomile had other ideas!

So what is the verdict – am I glad I planted it?

Absolutely – no question. The smell as you walk over it is wonderful, even though you won’t be able to smell any other more delicately perfumed plants nearby.  Also in the summer you can walk over it in bare feet – it is wonderfully soft.

We have had many cups of morning coffee sitting on our new bench enjoying the sunshine. It feels a very special place.

New bench in Spring

New bench in Spring

Why not give chamomile a go if you have a suitable small area; I wouldn’t plant a whole lawn myself! You don’t need many plants to get started, in fact I am happy to send you a few next spring if you want to try it.

30 thoughts on “Chamomile paths and special places.

  1. I love chamomile and I have planted it in between bricks in the centre of my potager. As you say the smell is gorgeous. I always fancied a chamomile lawn but I think that is a bit ambitious. I saw it used as a seat once which I think is a nice idea.

  2. I have a small patch of it underneath the bird table, hoping that it would cope with little feet in an area where not much else would grow. It’s been a reasonable success.. the birds seem to like it! Perhaps they like it a bit too much, so it’s just as well that it’s easy to move bits around to fill in gaps.

  3. I found the same thing when I grew it in England around some stepping stones. You can plant it as a seat, I don’t know how much you can sit on it but it was popular in mediaeval gardens. Yours looks very healthy and thick so you must be tending it very well.

  4. I know the post is about chamomile, but the success of your new border is really distracting! I love the softness of your path and I can imagine the scent, but those penstemon and poppies are outstanding!

  5. Hi Annette – almost makes it sound as if you desperately want to get rid of some of it!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing the info about chamomile and the development of your plans for the hidden bench. The clematis behind it looks lovely – which one is it? It seems odd when we hear about chamomile lawns and yet you say it shouldn’t be walked on too much – not what we would expect. It was something I considered as a path at one stage when the garden was being subdivided over the years, but decided against it although for no particular reason.

    • Well I do love it, but yes it grows almost too well at the sides of where it is planted.
      The clematis was beautiful this Spring – apart from being a Montana I am afraid I don’t know which one as it was a cutting from a friend. It is very vigorous, but apart from needing a lot of cutting back it is pretty trouble free.
      I guess if you had a whole lawn of chamomile then only the well used bits would be troublesome. It is easy to replace any bare patches if you have the time. I think a whole lawn would take a lot of work, but I guess they all had gardeners in the days when they were popular.

    • Wow Hilary, you have been having a good look around my gardening blog – thank you so much.
      Chamomile has the most wonderful pungent smell; as to whether it is worth all the work is a bit debatable in here in Aberdeen.

      • No problem. It’s a pleasure. I have zero talent with plants, usually killing them due to lack of attention but I love them. My family are all great gardeners but I have yet to bloom (ha ha) in that direction. 🙂

        • Gardening can take a lot of time and you sound pretty busy. I am a bit like that with house plants; I only have ones now that survive with zero maintenance and very irregular watering. I am sure you will bloom if and when you want to.

          • Oh dear, I don’t even know the names of my house plants! I have some lovely orchids that I have bought cheaply and that I manage to get flowering every year.
            I also have a wonderful fern that is now very old and dries out continually. When it does it throws itself off the shelf and I know it is time to water it! Sorry I can’t be more help. Maybe when I am next in a garden centre I will find out some names for you.

          • It’s okay. I likely will not be buying plants any time soon but it helps to have the big groups: orchid and fern. 😀 We actually got an orchid for our anniversary and I was shocked that it only needed watering every few weeks! I’ve got part of an ancient (50 years+ ?) Christmas cactus that apparently can’t be killed. And of course, a cactus that I’ve spiked myself on quite a few times.

  6. Hi, I planted a Chamomile Nobile Treneague lawn this July. It forms a crescent around a large stone sun in the garden giving a sun and moon effect. While I’m really pleased with how quickly it’s grown I noticed I’m getting a lot of yellow fronds. Do you know what causes this? I know some yellowing is to be expected but I seem to be getting quite a lot. When you gently pull a yellowed frond it comes away from the plant easily and looks brown and rotten at the bottom. The lawn is in full sun, no weeds, I’m keeping on top of that, though the soil can get quite wet if we get a lot of rain (high water table). Any suggestions or comments would be great.

    • Hi Dave, Sorry to hear you are having problems with your chamomile. I have had my path for several years now and it does tend to go quite yellow later in the year. I have never noticed it rotting though, but then my soil is very free draining. Mine usually recovers well in the spring. It is quite tough stuff once it gets going, but maybe you should take some rooted cuttings and grow elsewhere in case you need to patch any gaps. How big is the area you are growing?

      • Hiya. I was planning on taking some cuttings next year, I just wanted to let the plants get settled. I bought 75 plants to cover an area approx. 3 – 4 sq metres. The plants quickly covered the area, it seems I have good growing soil, everything I plant seems to do really well. The fronds that turn yellow seem to rot where they attach to a main stem but the main stem is fine and the core of the plants themselves look good. We have had a lot of heavy rain this year so fingers crossed. Do you know if chamomile is susceptible to slugs. I’ve seen a few slug trails around and they have been nibbling on my Hostas. I’ve put some slug pellets down amongst the chamomile just in case.

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