Herb gardens offer special appeal for beginning gardeners, especially if you have only a small yard or patio for growing them.

"Herbs are easy to grow, thrive in poor soil and don't require much space," says Shirley Hill of James City County.

"They require little care, only an occasional weeding, and require little water," says Hill. "Not only are they attractive, but the colors and scents add another dimension to the garden as well as the kitchen."

You can't beat that recipe for gardening success, can you?

In addition, herbs, which typically come from the hot, dry Mediterranean area of our world, love heat - something we've had in surplus this summer. You can also grow them in large pots, as long as you make sure drainage is good.

Hill is one of several members of the Colonial Triangle of Virginia, Herb Society of America, who invited us to visit their different styles and sizes of herb gardens in James City County.

Her garden is part of a larger English one with an enclosed picket fence that makes it look neat and tidy. The herb section is on a small berm bordered by a wall where she plants scented herbs. Below that wall, she has kitchen herbs.

Her favorites include basil for salads and pestos from spring until late fall. She also likes fragrant rosemary for roasting chicken and other meats. She uses lavender for baking cookies and pound cake.

Genrose Lashinger has one of those gardens that keeps going and growing - she's even bought the vacant property next door so she can expand her plantings.

Many of her herbs - chives, flat-leaf parsley, Greek oregano, bay, rosemary and lemon thyme - grow right outside the back door of her house, close to the kitchen where she can quickly snip them for culinary needs.

"The area is bordered by brick in full sun, which gives them the heat they need," she says.

She also grows herbs as ornamental plants in her yard for making the flower arrangements she enjoys sharing with others.

This year, she's experimenting with a Grosso lavender hedge on one side of her yard. Lavender needs exceptional drainage, so she's planted it on a slight slant, using mulch with sand and gravel mixed in. In that spot, the north wind blows through, helping keep the area fairly dry. So far, she has two plants about 21/2 feet tall and three others coming along.

"It's the first time I have been able to keep lavender alive," she says.

Lashinger, a retired schoolteacher, also volunteers at Mathew Whaley Elementary School in Williamsburg where she teaches kindergartners about the history, culture and uses of herbs. They also learn about better eating habits when they enjoy snacks that are made from those herbs.

Carol Schmidt packs numerous herbs into a small space at the back of her garage, plus she scatters them around the yard in beds and pots.

She grows sugar-like stevia for iced tea, rosemary for lamb and roasted potatoes, chives for mashed and baked potatoes, Munstead lavender for potpourri, sage for pork, dill for salmon and lemon verbena for cookies and tea.

Schmidt makes sure she grows any unruly mints, such as spearmint, in a barrel so it won't take over her garden.

She stands empty 2-liter bottles around the inner perimeter of each barrel - positioning them on a base of gravel in the bottom - to keep the container from weighing too much after she fills it with potting soil.