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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My top garden plants - Dill

There are a number of garden plants that I love for the fact they have multiple uses and all are ones I wouldn't want to be without in any garden. They are all pretty when flowering and of course (and I think you may have figured this out by now), have benefits to wildlife too!


Most people know dill as an annual culinary herb. Yes it's delicious, is probably best known as an accompaniment to fish but I use it predominantly in Greek cos lettuce salad, something I learnt when spending time in that country. It's simple, just take 4 or 5 leaves at a time, roll them up and shred them crossways as fine as you can, then add chopped spring onions, lots of chopped dill and dress with malt vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. I eat great bowlfuls of the stuff when I have a good hearted cos lettuce, which isn't often enough as it tends to bolt easily when the weather gets warmer. You can also save the seeds for flavouring vinegar for pickles.

However did you know if you just leave it to grow tall and flower it makes the most magnificent stately addition to any flower bed? It goes very well with tall but 'see through' plants like Verbena bonariensis (more about that in another post) and Perovskia - none of which form dense mats and all blow around in the wind quite happily without generally falling over. They also don't take up much room at ground level so can squeeze in amongst other plants which take up more room lower down. Dill will self seed all over the place so once introduced, so long as you let it set seed (and especially if you compost it after this stage!) you'll probably never need to sow it again. I have swathes of it in both the veg patch and flower beds - I just weed it out if it is in the way. It's pretty hardy too and will germinate in low temperatures and smaller plants will survive several degrees of frost, so some winters I've managed to keep a bit of dill going all through.

The blue spires on the left are Perovskia, or Russian Sage. Verbena b. is far left, the tall
mauvy flowers you can just see against the gravel and hedge.
Actually this whole bed is my main bee and butterfly magnet
and I tend to spend a lot of time here!

Dill, Perovskia and Cone Flowers

But aside from the above, this is one of the main reasons I grow it. Along with fennel and wild carrot it is the foodstuff of the Swallowtail caterpillar. I see quite a number of these beautiful caterpillars through the summer months and if I see one has stripped a plant bare I move it to another plant! Swallowtails are beautiful butterflies and need our help and I'm rewarded here by seeing them often for months on end, as early as April some years.

Dill also seems to attract a particularly spectacular red and black striped shield bug - I am not sure why they like the flower heads but they don't seem to do any harm to it and they are rather fun to have around.

Dill gets my joint no. 1 vote and I'll mention my other faves in due course.


  1. Lovely photos, Mandy. I've had Perovski for two years now and love it. I'd never seen it before I came to Brittany, but spotted it in the roadside commune plantings and bought some after that.

  2. We've found it to be really slow growing - my main clump has taken a good 4-5 years to mature and the cuttings we've taken are still very tiny even after a few years. Maybe it is our dry soil as some shrubs are very slow growing too.