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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Sage in bloom on 4-30-12

Tea Gardens

I grew up in a tea drinking family. My Grandma Kinsel emigrated here from South Wales, England in 1919. The first words we heard every time we visited her were, "Would you like a cup of tea?"

Since I'm a gardener as well as a tea drinker, I put together a program on Tea Gardens this year. This program cover several types of tea gardens and the tea garden design components that make these great spaces to enjoy tea. It also covers plants used to grow and make teas.

The tradition of making and taking tea in the garden is steeped in English and Japanese garden history. Today we know that tea gardens also provide enchanting outdoor spaces that are soothing, productive, sustainable, and lovely to visit. Whether large and formal or small and intimate these spaces should give you a sense of privacy and serenity as you sip your tea.

There are many different types of tea. My grandma preferred a traditional black tea. My tea tastes are a bit more eclectic. I like blended teas such as Earl Grey and spiced teas like Chai. I often time my tea type to the time of day. I prefer herbal decaffeinated teas for evening sipping, and sometimes I'll choose a relaxation blend of chamomile or lavender.

Many different types of plants are used to make tea. Traditional black, green, and white teas come from the Camellia plant that is grown in more tropical locations. Tea leaves are usually hand-picked and then fermented to produce the various types.

I grow several plants in my herb garden for making tea. My favorites this year are chamomile, mint, lemon verbena, and sage. I was very surprised by how much I like sage tea. I steep a tablespoon of fresh leaves in hot water for five minutes, drain, and drink. It tastes just like Thanksgiving stuffing! Lemon verbena and mint make a nice addition to both hot and iced teas.

"Would you like a cup of tea?" I encourage you to take a break from life's stresses today to relax and enjoy a cup of tea.

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