Sunday, December 9, 2012

Herbs in the Flower Garden

Although herbs are not grown primarily for their flowers, they have an important place in my garden. I have moved them to the front border because they are not only more convenient for when I need to snip rosemary for a roast chicken recipe, they are beautiful plants in their own right, with interesting foliage in varying shades of gray-green to lime green.

Silver-edged Horehound of the mint family, Marrubium Rotundifolium, with soft woolly leaves edged in white. I haven't tried this in cough drops yet.

Ornamental oregano--of no use in the kitchen and without much scent--the surpassingly beautiful Origanum Kent's Beauty. An enchanting plant of unusual color, with leaves the color of eucalyptus, and these fairy-like tiny lavender blossoms peeking out from between the pale mint-green bracts frosted with pink at the tips.

Regular oregano is easy to grow and spreads wildly.

I have already mentioned the robustness of Melissa Officinalis, the ever-enlarging Lemon Balm. It is best not to see it ever in bloom, in case it goes to seed. Meanwhile, when crushed, the leaves smell wonderfully of . . .  lemon.

Blooming sage plant. Large, velvety leaves make a nice mounded woody-stemmed plant, with these lavender flowers to surprise you in late spring. Sage is an herb flavor that can be easily overdone, since a little goes a long way. 

To the lower right of the picture grows tarragon, a hardy plant with narrow, slippery, yellow-green leaves redolent of licorice, lemon, and basil. It is often used to infuse vinegar. The plant itself has long since shot up, branched out, and made its presence known.

Blue-gray rosemary is an attractive, woody-stemmed plant that may return next spring if it doesn't get much below zero.  The leaves are easy to harvest and dry to add to savory soups and stews and roasts.

One should never let a peppermint plant bloom like this, unless one wants lots and lots of little peppermint plants.

Ahhhh, lavender. One can never have too many of them. Nice looking, large and imposing upright plants with gray-green, felted narrow leaves, with a long blooming season of these spiky blooms. This is the scent that heals and revives. There are many varieties of lavender, with subtle variations in color--mostly whites, pinks, and the purple/lavenders--and variations in scents. One of my plants smells much more definitely of menthol than the others.

Blooming thyme, nestled between the sage and marjoram.. Thyme is one of the freshest and sweetest of scents, and the plants, low growing and well-behaved, are nearly evergreen. They come in a number of irresistible varieties. I cut thyme for cooking well into the winter. 

While sage is also a well-behaved plant, if large when full grown, beware the marjoram when it flowers. It is a major reseeder.

Echinacea is an herb, but more importantly, a gorgeous, if coarse-leaved, flowering plant. A number of them are wonderfully fragrant. Echinacea like plenty of sun, but are not drought resistant, so make sure they do not dry out. This is the Sundown variety, blooming next to a Little Lamb hydrangea.

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