Chamomile (Chamaelium nobile and Matricaria recutita)
Many people have heard of this herb … generally in connection with tea! Chamomile is known for its relaxing, soothing effects. The two kinds of chamomile have always been accepted for their medicinal properties. We’ll look at that further but let’s consider why they should be grown in your herb garden!
German and Roman chamomile come from two distinct genera although both have daisy like flowers.
Roman Chamomile forms a dense carpet with feathery green leaves which give off a wonderful appley fragrance when disturbed. Chamomile actually means “earth apple” so that should come as no surprise! The sweetly scented, daisy-like flowers are usually single but I have grown a much more decorative, double flowered version this year (Chamaemelium nobile.v ‘Flore Peno’) which resembles a miniature chrysanthemum. It makes an ideal edging plant or would decorate the front of a mixed border. It flowers abundantly from May to the first frosts. There is a further incentive to grow this herb – it is a hardy perennial and pops up again year after year!
On the other hand German Chamomile is an upright fast growing hardy annual, again with feathery leaves and a flower that more closely resembles a daisy. It does set seed and distribute them very easily so you are unlikely to need to buy seed the following year! This species is also known as Pineapple weed or Manzanilla (particularly in Spain).
Both kinds of Chamomile, being natives to the Mediterranean climate, love a sunny position in well drained soil. They are also both easy to grow from seed sown in the spring and Roman Chamomile is also easy to propagate further, by taking root cuttings in spring or summer (Click here for a demonstration on how to do this.)
‘Tis the beautiful, scented flowers that are full of all sorts of wonderful possibilities … you need to gather them without their stalks when the flowers are fully open. Allow to dry thoroughly and then store them in an airtight container. These can be used to make a wonderful calming and soothing tea. The flowers of German chamomile have a slightly sweeter taste than those of Roman chamomile, which can taste quite bitter especially late in the season.
The double flowered version, Flore Peno, is grown commercially as the source of the essential oil derived from Chamomile.