There are hundreds of species of Thymus, but the commonest form of culinary thyme is this one, which hails from the Mediterranean region. It is an evergreen, frost-hardy sub-shrub, and forms a low, spreading cushion, with tiny, highly aromatic leaves (ht 15-30 cm). Minute white or purple flowers appear in spring, and are attractive to bees. Thyme needs a well-drained, sunny position in the garden; it can also be grown in a pot. It needs little pruning if sprigs are regularly harvested for use in the kitchen; otherwise, trim back the stems in autumn if the plant is leggy. Propagation is easiest by detaching small rooted pieces from the main plant and potting these up. 'Silver Posy' is a pretty cultivar, with white-edged leaves. A hybrid of Thymus vulgaris with Thymus pulegioides is named Thymus x citriodorus, the lemon-scented thyme, which is useful in cooking. In classic English gardens, thyme lawns were often a feature, using many different species and cultivars to form a beautiful tapestry-like carpet, as shown in the photo above. Thyme can also be used as an edging plant alongside a path or between stepping stones.
Thyme is used in many meat and vegetable dishes, and is one of the essential ingredients, along with parsley and bay leaves, of a bouquet garni: a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and used in the preparation of soups, stocks and stews. Thyme leaves dry well and are one of the components of the blend known as herbes de Provence, a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region of southeast France. A handful of fresh thyme run through a kitchen blender with water then strained, has been suggested as a spray to deter bronze orange beetles, which are the scourge of citrus trees in Sydney. It's best to spray the trees through winter and spring to try to kill of the eggs and young nymphs of this pest.