Friday, April 17, 2009

Monarda, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

My perennial herbs are back! Herbs are my favorite part of the garden. This is the part where I say how I use them to make little fragrant sachets, or flavorful bottles of vinegars to give as gifts, or mince them fresh for seasoning mouthwatering gourmet dishes.

But I don't.

I should, and maybe this year I will, but I have the same problem with herbs that I have with lettuce. I hate thinning and cutting them.

The thing about herbs is they need to be harvested at their very peak, right before they flower.

Here in Virginia, that's in June. Right about when they've grown up all green and healthy and fragrant.

That's why I grow herbs. For the fragrance in my gardens.

Last year I grew nine kinds of basil, just because whenever I brushed up against it the wave of fragrance was to die for.

Italian Basil, Prince Michael Basil, Sweet Basil, Thai Basil, Purple Basil, Greek Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Bush Basil, and Lemon Basil.

I love basil.

You would think I would have cut and saved some, but I just couldn't bear to cut the plants down.

So far the basil hasn't come up yet (it needs warmer weather, being a Mediterranean and Indonesian herb). But the rosemary is back with a vengence, little green spikes popping out all over.

The oregano is filling in, but still at that 1" stage. When the temps rise a little, it will grow quickly.

This is Woolly Thyme. It's actually a low-level ground cover, and just as soft and fuzzy as a cat's paw.

One of the easiest herbs to grow is sage because there's really nothing you can do to kill it. No need to water, mulch, or fertilize. The roots will spread, and new plants will spring up all along the root line. After the new plants are 5-6" tall, they can be transplanted by just diggin up the clump of dirt around them (severing the original root runner). Both mama plant and baby plants will continue to spread, mostly because secretly they are members of the mint family.

And then there are yuccas (also called Adam's needle). Not an herb, but I liked the way they looked in the rain. These are sister plants to the ones in the front yard, and all of them are transplants from the family cemetary up in the mountains. These two are in the Swing Garden, broke free of their plastic pots, and have new babies spring up all around them.

Yuccas have little hairs, like threads, that grow off the spikes. The Native Americans took those little threads and wove them into rope. Those threads are the strongest fibers in the natural world. Besides the threads, yucca roots can be ground up into a soap-like substance, and used for shampoo.

Except I can't stand to pull up the yuccas either.

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