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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scentfully Delicious Herb Walk


The fascination with herbs extends over a wide range of interests. Some people grow them for culinary purposes, some for medicinal uses, others for homemade cosmetics, and there are those who just enjoy being in the midst of their presence. Those interested in attracting beneficial insects should definitely consider planting an actual herb garden or tuck plants in various places amidst the landscape. Herbs are usually deer resistant, pest resistant, low maintenance, hardy plants.

Aromatic plants evoke emotions, as well as memories, the two often being connected. Emotions run deep into the core of our being. Scent has no concept of time and exposure to a certain fragrance often stirs up buried memories.

William Wordsworth wrote in 1807, "The world is too much with us". In today's overstimulated world where we are bombarded with information, we need a space in which to retreat and find some peace. Our gardens are a place to just "be". A "safe" place where we can connect with the spiritual and realize by observing the seasonal cycle of plants that whatever is happening with us, "this too shall pass".

Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" has reference to the allure of plants.
"Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine."

So very relaxing to just meander around a landscape dotted here and there with treasured plants we look forward to paying a visit. To take a pinch of favorite herbs just to savor their fragrance can be a heady experience as we feel better just in taking those deep breaths.

Annual herbs that reseed will usually find their own ideal spot and greet you year after year. Discover the right location for your perennial plants and you'll find them surprisingly easy to maintain. Periodic snips and cutting back in the fall should keep the plants in nice form.  Naturally hardy and pest resistant, herbs can be quite content provided they have sunshine and good drainage.

Below are pictured a variety of wonderful aromatic herbal plants:

My herbal arrangement in a pot consists of Greek oregano, Purple sage, Thai basil, Marjoram and Lemon thyme.
The Greek oregano and Thai Basil were chosen because they don't get as large as the garden varieties. These herbs take me away to the Mediterranean. Used extensively in cooking, these are great to keep near the kitchen door to snip as needed.




Rosemary is another great cooking herb, but is also wonderful in hair rinses and very useful to keep handy to sharpen our minds at moments we have to think clearly. Symbolizing fidelity and remembrance, rosemary is traditionally used during religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. I usually keep this plant in a pot so I can try to overwinter it indoors.





Anise hyssop is a personal favorite. Anise smells like a sweet combination of black licorice with a hint of lemon, pine, sage and camphor. This uplifting North American native perennial brings back memories of those black anise bear candies.













If you love hummingbirds, you have to have Pineapple sage. A tender perennial in the Northeast, it is a must for late season blooming, providing nectar to migrating hummingbirds by producing adorable red tubular flowers in September. This plant really does smell like pineapple and the leaves are a delightful addition to teas. Give this herb room as it will grow into shrub like proportions.









Catnip doesn't carry me away with its scent, but it is a must have since I have needy felines who enjoy the dried herb to break their boredom indoors. Catnip is also a great tea for a colicky baby or as a fever reducer.














Chamomile is such a delight to see appear in the spring. Its feathery stems with its apple scent is sought after as a tea, hair lightener or made into salves for skin inflammation. Once this annual plant goes to seed it tends to look messy but try to let it go so it can reseed before you cut it down.












There are four types of mints growing here, and I planted them years ago before realizing how it spreads and should have been planted in containers or with some kind of barrier. Spearmint and peppermint grew around a pond when I was a child and refreshing mint tea is a fond memory. Orange mint is a low growing ground cover that the insects adore. Apple mint doesn't really taste like apple and is recognized by its fuzzy leaves.



Lemon balm is another fairly hardy perennial in the mint family, and though it doesn't spread by underground runners it will reseed. These lemony leaves make a great addition to ice tea and very relaxing as a hot herbal tea, great for soothing the nerves.

















Lovely lavender is usually loved by everyone. It took a few tries till I found a spot where this perennial would return in the spring. It likes full sun and a spot with very good drainage. Relaxing, healing, sensual, this plant has a multitude of uses. A bottle of this essential oil is like a first aid kit. Sunburn, bug bites, wounds, all benefit from this standby. Lavender is most recognized for its use in potpourris and linen sprays.

 
 
 
Russian sage is another beautiful plant with its purple spikes, but it needs room to sprawl. A hardy perennial, this sage is for ornamental use and should not be used for cooking as is the Garden sage. Russian sage makes a lovely companion to lavender and as long as it is cut back after blooming it'll return its display till frost.





Southernwood is a plant long used to deter bugs and mice, spread around floors to freshen,
placed among stored clothing to ward off moths, and popular in wreaths. Very aromatic with its sharp, camphor, lemon odor.













Fennel is great for a showy background plant. It's lovely sweet anise smell and flavor is used in teas to aid digestion, helps reduce hunger pains, and freshens bad breath. A favorite addition for butterfly gardens, Fennel is a magnet for Swallowtail Butterflies and beneficial insects. The only drawback is that if you don't collect the seeds or prevent it from going to seed, it will easily spread.

Often it is thought that Dill is related to Fennel but it is not. Unless you make pickles, you may not really utilize this pretty plant. However, the beneficial insects will appreciate its presence. This annual reseeds and will pop up anywhere, but is easily pulled if not in a place you want.












Rue or Herb-of-Grace, isn't the most pleasant smelling plant, but is a pretty ornamental plant with its blue/gray foilage and yellow flowers. Worth mentioning, because it is very beneficial if you want to deter cats from your garden area. Cats strongly dislike the smell of this plant. 

Last, we have a favorite of any children's garden, Lamb's Ear. Though it doesn't have a distinct odor, it's soft and fuzzy leaves open a child's imagination to many creative ideas in play. Easy to grow, this plant is a perfect selection for a low maintenance rock garden or as a ground cover. It is drought resistant, spreads quickly into a mat leaving little room for weeds, and it flower's attract insect pollinators.