Because of the unusually mild weather this past winter, many plants are waking up from winter dormancy early. The shrubby herbs like sage, rosemary, lavender and tarragon are already outfitted with fresh new foliage that will soon obscure the foliage that lingered through winter. Those that have not yet bloomed may do so sooner than expected.
New herb plants can be added to the garden any time now. Even if rain resumes (or actually ‘starts’), there should not be enough to cause new plants to rot, particularly since the warming weather will keep plants growing faster than the root rot that can kill them through cool and damp winter weather. Sage, tarragon, marjoram, mint and thyme are easier to grow from small plants. Dill, cilantro and basil are easier to grow from seed sown directly into the garden. Oregano, fennel and chives can be grown by either means.
Many of the woody herbs, like rosemary and the many varieties of lavender, are commonly used in landscaping, so can be found in even the most basic nurseries that do not feature a selection of other herbs. Because almost all herbs have sensitive root systems, they should be planted while small. The smaller 1 gallon plants are easier to grow (as well as less expensive) than the larger 5 gallon plants are. However, sweet bay is an exception that does not mind being planted as a 5 gallon or even larger tree where it needs to look mature now, even if only a few leaves get used in the kitchen. Low growing rosemary is a common ground cover. Upright varieties can be shorn into small hedges. Thyme makes a nice small scale ground cover between stepping stones, where it shares its fragrance when stepped on.
Chives, oregano, parsley, mint and thyme are not often marketed as common landscape stock, but are visually appealing enough to appear in the landscape. Herbs that are not so visually appealing can be planted in a separate herb garden, among vegetables in a vegetable garden, or simply out of the way. Basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, sage and marjoram can be too unkempt at times. Basil and cilantro look good most of the time, but then get harvested in large enough quantities to leave bald spots. Fennel can be a striking foliage plant for a while as long as no one minds that it will eventually get harvested.
2 thoughts on “Culinary Herbs With Landscape Appeal”
Interesting. Some of these are perennial here, like the thyme and chives. I’ve occasionally had tarragon come back, but not reliably. About five or six years ago now, a friend gave me a large potted bay tree which I haul outside for the summer and back in for the winter. It is prone to scale, and I almost lost it one summer, but I gave it a few good washes and it soldiered on. Every couple of months I start to notice some honeydew on it and so each individual leaf gets washed again. It is a very nice thing when I’m cooking a beef stew to just run upstairs and pluck off a few leaves to throw into it!
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Chive is not only perennial within the climate here, but can naturalize. I hate to discard it, but must do so sometimes. Thyme naturalizes also, but not aggressively so. Bay is a nice small street tree. The native bay grows wild here. Unfortunately, it is commonly sold as bay, but is very different from it. For those who are not aware of the difference, it can be a problem.