The Joy of a Tea Garden

One of my more recent pleasures has been the creation of a tea garden in part of my backyard.  The header photo on my blog page is of part of that garden. It started when I decided to redo a part of my backyard by re-purposing leftover paving stones of varying sizes and shapes and other outdoor gardening items accumulated over 25 years.  I quickly had the beginnings of a unique space where I could retreat to enjoy a cup or tea or to sit with my friends over tea, sherry, or wine.  Combined with my growing love of succulents, I found the project to be fun and rewarding.

I also love looking for books about tea – any aspect of tea.  Coincidentally, I stumbled on a wonderful book, Tea Gardens: Places to Make and Take Tea.  Ms. Lovejoy is a landscape designer from the Northwest who has written several books as well as many articles on landscaping, gardens, plants, sustainable landscaping, etc.  This short book (115 pages) is a wealth of information about creating outdoor spaces in which to take and enjoy tea – either alone or with friends.  After an introduction entitled “TeaTime”, about the history and pleasure of enjoying tea, she devotes a chapter each to English, Japanese, Herbal, Cottage, and Container tea gardens.  She explores the cultural traditions, design elements and common plants found in each. As a non-gardening expert, I would have liked more pictures of the individual plants.  But the book might have lost a bit of its charm by expanding it so I’m quite content with it as is.  Being eclectic by nature and style, I loved learning about the various design elements and got several feature ideas to add to my garden, including my Japanese stone lantern.

This is such an informative little book that I have ordered several copies for various friends who also enjoy the art and pleasure of tea.  Here’s a fun quote I found about sundials:  “Since Elizabethan days, the herb garden sundial has invariably been underplanted with thyme, to perpetuate the classic herbal pun”.   Who knew?  I certainly did not.  As we say, I’m on the hunt!

She wraps her book up with a chapter on ways to use your tea garden – including brewing tea in the garden.  The book closes with a chapter on making your own herbal tea from your herb garden – a small but delightful group of recipes for a variety of teas from stimulating to tummy taming and Mock Earl Grey.  This little book opened a big world for me and I’m grateful for my accidental discovery.