Herbs in the Garden — Some ThoughtsJuly 29, 2007
Often I am asked to include an herb garden into my landscape designs, and recently a fellow blogger told me she had started an herb garden and was interested in some ideas about gardening with herbs. So….here are some starting thoughts.
Every garden should include herbs!
That’s my initial reaction. I honestly don’t know if there is a place where you couldn’t include herbs in the garden. Whether you have a small pot of herbs on an apartment balcony, a designated herb garden or sprinkle herbs throughout an entire landscape, they truly make wonderful additions to the garden. They invite pollenators, add fragrance, improve cooking, are visually stimulating, offer healing properties, and so much more! Sure, some may be grown as an annual, but many perform year after year. Regardless of their lifespan, I think they’re worth every penny.
In most of my landscape designs, I use herbs as ornamental woody shrubs. Here in Seattle I use plants like lavender, sage & rosemary as evergreen shrubbery in many gardens.
- Rosemary blooms intermittently year-round in our area. I use upright varieties as well as trailing varieties. Last year’s icy freezes took out some rosemary plants throughout our area. However, I cut several back hard, an they bounced back nicely. Others had to be replaced, but considering they are readily available in the trade and fairly inexpensive, I believe they’re worth it!
- Lavender offers so much in the garden. Brushing against tired winter branches will still send out a blast of amazing fragrance. Bees love it and flock to gardens to pollenate everything if there’s lavender to be found. And the blooms come in thick, feather-tipped Spanish varieties ranging from light pink to deep purple and even reds or in tight English and French forms from whitish/pale pinks to deep purples.
- I love being able to visit my garden in the winter to harvest sage for soups or turkey stuffing. I use it in flower arrangements throughout the year. Colors range from grey to purple to yellow-green. A must-have for every garden!
As well, I use low growing oreganos and thymesÂ as edging plants and groundcovers.
- Thyme takes many forms. All attract pollenators. All spread nicely and supress weeds. And, many options are becoming available that have specialty scents like my new lime thyme, which has hints of citrus and has a greyish green mother of thyme form.
- I love using ornamental oreganos in the garden. Some appear like blueish-grey with pink hops and have a short season. Other like low yellow oreganos add a beautiful finish to beds, say below deep purple heuchera!
- Of course, upright oreganos are wonderful for cooking, too!
In our area, I incorporate many basils into my garden beds. When harvesting basil to keep for the winter, I freeze leaves in zipper bags. It maintains flavor much better when frozen than when dried (thanks for teaching me this Mom!). When picking basil, be sure to pinch it to a node. (More on pruning this way in forthcoming posts.) This will encourage new growth and keep your plants going strongly. Pinch out flower buds to keep it from going to seed!
- Purple basil: Adds beautiful color and form to the vegetable beds or flower beds. Plus, the leaves are beautiful torn into salads. This year, I planted mine below a purple-fruiting tomatillo & above a yellow-variegated sage in a tiered vegetable garden. The combo is beautiful.
- Spicy globe basil: There are small-leaved options that have extra kick. I don’t find the plants particularly stunning, but the flavor is amazing.
- Genovese basil: This is very available in the trade & is a favorite to many. And, it produces well.
I do have a few favorite herbs that I maintain annually, knowing it is unlikely the plants will re-generate. Tho, this year, I was lucky & both came back.
- Lemon verbena is a must have to me. The scent and flavor is unbeatable, if you’re a lemon fan. I use it for many cocktails, desserts, meatsÂ and fruit salad dressings
- PineappleÂ sage is another with amazing scent. Plus, it blooms red late in the season, attracting hummingbirds. I don’t really cook with it.
- Lemon grass. This is my first year growing it in Seattle. I love the form it adds to the beds & it seems happy this summer.
The Garden invaders….There are several herbs that I like (and some I dislike), which still appear in my garden.
- Mints: I love spearmint and peppermint. I keep a container of chocolate peppermint going yearround, and I harvest from it. But I will not put it in my beds as it can become quite invasive as do all the other mints I’ve encountered.
- Lemon Balm: I used to love lemon balm, but I’ve come to find it weedy and disease prone. I prefer lemon verbena instead. If you do grow lemon balm, don’t let it seed & do keep it in a container.
- Catnip: There are several kinds of catnip available. I have a perennial variety that I planted for an old cat at the end of his days. That was years ago, and I’m still battling it out. I find it attracts whitefly, and frankly I just don’t like it. I do have a self-seeding annual that is pretty equal to the plants you’d buy at the petstore for your cat. I have neighbor cats who nap under it throughout the summer. I know what it looks like young, so I let it self-seed & then thin it as needed.
- Feverfew: I love this medicinal herb, which looks similar to a small daisy. It is a great remedy for headaches. If I get a migrane, I like to have a feverfew bouquet in the quiet, dark room. It is calming and quite lovely. It too can be invasive. I allow it to self-seed and then move plants in the spring to place them in desirable locations.
- Parsley: I prefer flat leafed parsley. I keep it in vegetable beds, but it does try to spread & take over the beds. Do not let it go to see or you will have it everywhere. I keep it cut hard & pull out unwanted volunteers as soon as they appear. I have parlsey just out my door throughout the year.
New to me: In addition to trying out Lemon Grass this year, I’m also growing Valerian for the first time. The plant itself is beautiful. I’m not sure what to expect in the long run.
I’m sure I’ll think of other herbs to mention as time goes on. If there are any you’d like more information on, let me know. But, again, all gardeners should try their hand at growing herbs!