On holiday in Madeira last October we were walking up in the hills surrounding Funchal and saw a small but lovely vegetable garden fenced from the road.

We stopped and were admiring it for a few minutes when its gardener emerged from his potting shed and came to talk with us. He explained that in their climate he could grow anything well. I asked about some of the herbs he has and he gave me a cutting of a soft-leaf plant taller than himself which he said was herva cidreira, for making a tisane. That which we have on the mainland is low-growing with thin leaves like mint; his is clearly a different variety – maybe a completely different plant.

We nurtured the cutting in wet paper towels and mugs of water whilst on holiday and potted it when we returned to the farm.

It lived on the kitchen windowsill for a few weeks until we knew it had rooted and would survive. Janet over-wintered it in the conservatory where it had plenty of sunshine and warmth. In spring I pinched the tip out and potted it on, and by April it had two strong shoots. I planted it in the vegetable garden under irrigation before we went on holiday again. 

It thrived, until the day I was working on the pimiento plants next to it and dropped the rake handle on the fork of the two shoots, splitting the plant almost in two down the middle.

I sellotaped the stem together and staked and tied the two shoots together with string to hold them upright. The plant survived and has grown strong again. Even through the scorching summer this tender-leafed plant has survived and is very healthy.


This morning I fancied a herb tea and decided to have one from this plant. Long story short, it looked delicious and tasted horrible!

So, what is the plant? Why did this chap have the plant in his garden?

I think I’ll stay with lemon verbena from the herbaceous border!