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Myrtle at Kew Gardens Myrtle at Kew Gardens

Myrtle is direct descendent from the Greek herb Myrtos, also known as the herb of love. It was a symbol of peace in the old testament and in Roman and Greek mythology  it was associated with the Greek Aphrodite and the roman Venus. As it was considered sacred to the god of Venus it was usually planted all around her temples. As a consequence it was also considered to be an aphrodisiac and to this day brides will often have a sprig of myrtle in their bouquets.

It is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, and is an evergreen shrub that in the right conditions can grow to 3m high, although here in Britain don’t expect it to grow more than about 1.5m high. Its sweet leaves and flower buds are often used in Mediterranean cooking, and provides year round interest in the garden or allotment.

Growing Myrtle

Myrtle is not fully hardy, so well worth growing in a container. Most will survive to temperatures of down to -10C so they can be left out all year round, but if you have an unheated greenhouse it is well worth bringing them in over the harshest part of the winter – if you don’t they will survive all but the worst of the British winter, although the frost will damage the shoots and leaves (prune these out in spring).

Feed with liquid fertiliser during the flowering season.

It should be grown in full sun, but sheltered from harsh wind, and prefers a light and well drained soil.


Take semi ripe cuttings in mid-summer.

Using Myrtle

Myrtle leaves and berries are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking, and are also used in some liqueurs and salad dressings. The berries are often dried and used in a similar way to juniper berries.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

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