<em><strong>Master Gardener Ellyn Pelikan shares some advice for aspiring tea gardeners:</strong></em>

<strong>Mints:</strong> Shade to semi-shade, loose moist soil. Mints are rampant growers, so consider growing them in pots.

<strong>Lemon Verbena:</strong> Shrub grows to 5 feet. Likes sun, light, well-drained soil. Makes a nice hot or iced tea.

<strong>Pineapple Sage:</strong> Likes sun or semi-shade and drier soil. It's not fussy and grows to 2 feet tall. Produces red blossoms. Great for iced tea. Add a spear of pineapple and a tall iced tea spoon.

<strong>Rosemary:</strong> Likes sun and loose soil. Requires little water once established. Shrubby and very hardy. Great winter tea with a splash of milk, honey and crushed fennel seeds.

<strong>Tea garden tips</strong>

Try mixing different herbs together. If the scents mingle well, so will the flavors.

A splash of fruit juice turns an herb tea into an herb punch.

<em><strong>Perfect cup of tea</strong></em>

1. Fill a kettle with fresh clean water and begin to heat.

2. Pour hot water into a china, stoneware, or glass teapot to preheat it.

3. Once the pot is warmed, pour hot water out and add herbs of your choice.

4. When kettle comes to a rolling boil remove from heat, pour over herbs in teapot and let steep 3-7 minutes or to taste.

5. Stir tea in pot before pouring. Add honey, sugar and milk to taste. Don't use cream as it can curdle some brews.

<strong>The tea table</strong>

Cover your table with a crisp pretty cloth and add a small vase of flowers. Use your best cups, plates and silverware, including a sugar shell, sugar tongs and tiny milk pitcher.

<strong>BEST PLANTS FOR AN HERBAL TEA GARDEN</strong>

<em><strong> Master Gardener Janet Barocco offers her choices:</strong></em>

<strong>Mints (Mentha spp):</strong> spearmint, peppermint, chocolate, orange, apple, "Mojito," Kentucky, Bergamot. Mint can be invasive. Best to grow in containers.

<strong>Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):</strong> If allowed to flower, reseeds freely in garden.

<strong>Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla):</strong> Frost tender; dies back in winter but re-emerges in spring (in Sonoma County) if mulched well. Good in containers, too. Makes great hot or iced tea.

<strong>Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus):</strong> Frost tender. Best grown in pots and taken indoors in winter.

<strong>Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita):</strong> Dry the daisy-like flowers.

<strong>Anise hyssop (Agastache Foeniculum):</strong> Licorice flavor/ leaves. Pretty blue flower attracts bees.

<strong>Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana):</strong> Sweetener. Frost tender. Grow in pots and move to protected area in winter.

<strong>Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans):</strong> Leaf has fruity flavor

<strong>Rosa spp:</strong> Rose petals, fresh or dried. Dried rose hips add color, tartness and Vitamin C.

<strong>Violets (Viola odorata), Lavender (Lavanduala spp), Ginger (Zingiber):</strong> Can grow in containers, but needs heat and is very frost tender. Buy organically grown and use it fresh.