These were a feature of numerous Victorian gardens, when old cart-wheels (wagon wheels) were plentiful. They provided frameworks of little beds containing kitchen herbs, the spokes prevented the different varieties from encroaching on each other. If you are using an old cartwheel, it must be treated with a plant-friendly preservative to prevent the timber from rotting. The spokes may also be a little close together to be practical, so consider removing some of them.
A brick-built wheel is long-lasting and the sections can be more effectively allocated. Choose a location in full sun if possible, and if it is for culinary herbs, put it near the kitchen.
Herbs for a cook’s herb wheel
Medium- to low-growing herbs of similar heights make for a balanced effect.
Allium schoenoprasum – Chives. Mild onion flavour herb with attractive, purple flowers.
Origanum onites – Pot marjoram. Warm-flavoured leaves, with pinkish-purple flowers.
Satureja montana – Winter savory. Makes an aromatic, neat pillow of dark-green foliage with white flowers.
Thymus x citriodorus – Thyme. Delicious, lemon-scented thyme.
Salvia officinalis Purpurascens Group – Purple sage. Bold purple and green foliage; strong, savoury taste.
Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel. Tall, feathery plant with an aniseed flavour for central pot.
Petroselinum crispum – Parsley. Biennial. It is also suitable for growing as an annual.
Annual selection to sow from seed:
Calendula officinalis – Pot marigold. Well worth including for the brilliance of its flowers. Self-seeds.
Anthriscus cerefolium – Chervil. A delicately flavoured herb, which is fully hardy and can be sown successionally for a continuous supply. Self-seeds.
Coriandrum sativum – Coriander (Cilantro). Spicy flavour. Thin out seedlings and keep moist.
Tropaeolum majus – Nasturtium. Grow it for the bright flowers and use them
Ocimum glabrescens ‘Purple Ruffles’ – Purple basil. The foliage provides a foil for other green herbs. Good basil flavour.
Satureja hortensis – Summer savory. This is more subtly flavoured than the perennial variety and it goes very well with beans.
Anethum graveolens – Dill. Plant in the central pot for its feathery foliage and delicate taste.
Making a raised brick herb wheel
1. Using a length of string equal to the radius of the bed, attached to a piece of pointed cane, mark out a circle on the ground. Then shorten the string and mark a small inner circle at the centre. Sink a length of earthenware (clay) sewage pipe (from builder’s merchants or building supply stores) in the centre. Then measure off equal points on the circumference to form the spokes, marking them out with canes and string.
2. Trace over the whole design with fine sand or line-marker paint.
3. Dig a trench for the bricks and fill with sharp or builder’s sand.
4. Construct as for the raised bed (steps 3–5), putting in one or two layers of bricks, set in mortar, to form the outer circle and spokes.
5. Fill in the sections of the wheel and the earthenware pipe with rubble, then gravel or pea shingle, topsoil and compost (soil mix).
6. Plant the herb wheel with a selection of culinary herbs such as wild strawberry, thyme, sage, rosemary and lemon verbena.