In attending a recent outdoor garden design workshop, I came away with more than just another specialized way to arrange herbs in a garden. No, I learned so much more. I just had to share. . .
I listened as two horticulture instructors explained that in order to obtain the most productive and energy-efficient herb garden, the best design is a spiral herb garden. Most gardens of this type usually measure six feet wide and three feet tall. But the beauty of a spiral garden is that it can also be scaled down to suit
smaller growing spaces. Maximizing space, herbs can be planted horizontally and vertically. Herbs needing different light levels and moisture conditions can all be planted together. Full-sun herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or lavender would be planted at the very top, with sage, basil, and cilantro in the middle and possibly parsley, chives, or mint at the bottom. Plants arranged in a spiral not only utilize the sun or shade well, but the ease of watering, creation of different soil microclimates, and perfect drainage at each level is achieved. Maximum drainage occurs at the top and access to your plants is accomplished from 360°.
Looking down on your herb spiral from above, its spiral pattern would appear somewhat like that of a nautilus shell or a snail. Patterns such as this and other placement patterns in nature are based on “sacred geometry” or the “Golden Ratio.” Think of the spiral pattern of cabbage leaves, the double seed pattern in the middle of a sunflower, or the winding petals of a rose. The Golden Ratio is known as “Phi,” or more commonly “The Fibonacci Sequence.” This is a simple sequence of numbers that is the total of the
two previous numbers added together. It starts as 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and goes on indefinitely.
Nature doesn’t do anything haphazardly. There is logic to the way leaves are spaced on a stem and the number of petals on flowers. For example, you find 3 on most iris and lilies, 5 on rose hips and bog stars, 8 on cosmea, 13 on some daisies, and 21 on chicory and black-eyed Susans. Sunflowers can have 34, 55, 89 or 144 leaves; all are numbers corresponding to the Fibonacci Sequence. Planting in the most productive and energy-efficient way sounds complicated, but once you recognize the patterns you see them everywhere. The branching of trees, the unfurling of a fern, pineapples, the bracts on pinecones; all Fibonacci. Coincidentally, days before the workshop, I noticed the most beautiful spiral pattern of tiny yellow flowers on the bloom of my aeonium plant. I just marveled at its beauty, never realizing nature’s intentional patterns.
Please explore the many explanations and examples of herb spirals online or in herb books. Starting with the measured center, you build outwards in a series of spirals, growing larger as you reach your base. Spirals can be built of bricks, rocks, wall blocks, cut logs, or even bottles tied together. Be as creative as you like. It’s truly a satisfying spring or summer project. When researching spiral herb gardens, you can be sure The Fibonacci Sequence will be mentioned. I have seen many herb spiral gardens but never knew about their connection to Fibonacci. Learning about its presence in nature and its relation to me as a gardener showed me never to think of any workshop as predictable.

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