Chamomile - Chamamaelum nobile 'Treneague'
Chamamaelum nobile 'Treneague'
Chamomile Treneague is a dwarf variety with a mass of springy, mid-green fragrant foliage that flourishes all year round without the complications of flowers or a season off. Each plant will spread up to 40 cm maintaining an even height of finely divided, fronded leaves that knit together. The leaves are highly scented making it an essential member of our list of aromatic herbs, especially if you brush past or tread on them and they are a top favourite for wildlife in your garden.
An alternative lawn
If you have ever wanted a mow-free lawn, then perhaps this Camomile is where you should start. Each plant forms a springy, scented mat that interweaves with the next plant to form a bouncy, green carpet which lasts throughout the year. As a consequence it makes a fine lawn providing solid, green coverage where there is only light pedestrian traffic or acts as a soft, flouncy border edging whose grassy scent will waft up to you as you brush past. Camomile is also good for a rockery garden: clear a little patch of stones and plant so that it forms its own little cushion of green amonst the rocks.
Although easy to grow, you do need to provide a sunny spot if you want to avoid bald spots - a little dappled shade will also suffice - and a light soil with no stones that drains easily. Heavy clay will just be too wet in winter and too dry in summer for a camomile lawn to really work. Prepare the site well and make sure that you have removed any other competing weeds before planting your camomile plants. Once settled in and unlike grass, where the growing point is at the bottom of the plant so that mowing encourages growth, a camomile plant has its growing point at the tip of its shoot so you should not mow or shear it apart from to remove any dead or damaged fronds. Its dwarf nature will mean that it never outgrows its space. Once planted you should not walk on a Camomile lawn for at least 12 weeks and then only rarely for a year so that it can properly settle in. To pep it up in the summer or spring you could also plant some crocus bulbs or diminutive pinks or Dianthus and creeping thyme to add floral interest - or try planting a few of the flowering types of camomile especially the low-growing 'Flore Pleno'. The only things to disturb your peace with respect to a camomile lawn would be if you were to have a preponderance of aphids which suck the foliage of its sap. Extremely sharp frosts will damage the leaves and might kill the plant in the early years. A more robust alternative to this camomile for a lawn would be a creeping thyme.
- Height: 6-10 cm
- Spread: 30 cm
- Colour: green foliage all year round
- Uses: border edging, lawn for light pedestrian use, rockery
- Spacing: 20 cm
- Scent: grassy, a little like new-mown hay
- Habit: spreads to form a mat
- Life: hardy perennial
Mary Wesley's novel The Camomile Lawn centred on a family on holiday in Cornwall in the last peace time summer before WW2. Camomile lawns represented the quintessence of Englishness and something for all to hanker after over the coming years. Ironically Roman Camomile, Chamamaelum nobile, was brought over by the Romans when they invaded England and its daisy like flowers are used for all sorts of medicinal purposes - in tea for colds like Peter Rabbit's, to insomnia via menstrual cramps and ubiquitously in shampoo to lighten hair in eternal pursuit of that Scandi, sunkissed look. Matricatria retutica or German camomile is more common and also often replaces Roman camomile in tinctures and essential oils, but it is in fact a completely different plant.