Herb Spiral: Magical Sparkling Joy


By Janis Gingermountain


SpiralThe moment Jasmine, our informal gardening advisor, mentioned that we might like to build an herb spiral in our community garden, I was hooked. It didn’t hurt that she served us several yummy summer herbal treats. The spiral sounded magical, sparkling, special. It seemed as if a fairy wand would touch it and bring it into its glory.


A spiral is a curve that winds around a fixed center point at a continuously increasing distance from that point. In ancient times it was a symbol of the sun. The spiral was also considered a symbol of hypnosis. No wonder our proposed herb spiral had such hypnotic appeal. Too, the spiral was, from early times, a symbol of dizziness. Truly, the prospect of our herb spiral was beginning to make us dizzy with joy.


We would, with paint or small stones, outline a dreamy, meandering spiral pattern, and later use glistening quartz crystal rocks to line our curving paths. We were lucky enough to have large North Carolina quartz crystals on our land, mostly in the creek beds. We chose a slender triangular quartz rock to top the spiral. One can, however, use whatever one has on hand, from interesting rocks of many colors, shapes, and sizes, to something as uniform as paving bricks.


There are many pluses to building an herb spiral, the biggest one being that if you have plenty of pretty rocks and can beg or steal your herb plants, there is little or no cost.


Another advantage is that you can grow lots of herbs—at least 16—in a small space.


A big recommendation is that an herb spiral can be so beautiful; you will catch your breath every time you look at it.


Easy to plant, care for, and harvest, the spiral provides loads of wonderful culinary, medicinal, or aromatic herbs.


The winding levels of the spiral’s pathways allow for the growing of a variety of herbs that need slightly differing soil conditions. Sun-loving herbs can bask at or near the top, while their shade-loving sisters can reside in the cooler, damper lower level.


We decided to create a kitchen-type herb garden with such culinary herbs as basil, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, fennel, nasturtium, oregano, parsley, and coriander.




1) Put down a circle of thin cardboard or three layers of newspaper about 8 feet in diameter, or an oval of similar size.


2) Place a rock at the center, drawing or painting a spiral outward, leaving a space of about 16 inches in each row or curve. When you finish you should have about three spiral paths at all points.


3) Water the cardboard or newspaper thoroughly and cover it with at least 4 inches of well-rotted manure or compost, then shake straw (not hay) onto the soil. Water thoroughly.


4) Starting from the outside, begin building a ground-level wall of rocks or bricks, settling each one sturdily into the next and into the manure or compost.


5) Build up the bottom layer with at least 6 inches more of manure or soil suitable for planting.


6) Keep building around to the second level or layer. Place your rocks and put in another 8-12 inches of soil. With the third level do the same.


7) Now you are at the top and ready to place your most beautiful, most eye-catching rock. This rock may be standing at a height of up to 3-4 feet.


8) Choose your plants, planting shade-loving ones into the shadiest spots and the sun-loving ones toward the top. Cover with handfuls of straw and water them. Space plants at least 16 inches apart. Plant invasive plants such as mint and oregano in submerged #10 tin cans or sewer pipes.


9) Take a picture of your spiral when just planted and again at summer’s end.


10) Your herb spiral will give you many years of happiness.



Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker