|Flowering Herbs Like Lavender Can Brighten Up Any Landscape|
She was clearly earnest in her love of flowering plants, and I was a little embarrassed and stymied by her knowledge and obvious enthusiasm. I didn't know much -- well, anything -- about the plants she was rhapsodizing over. I probably couldn't have picked one out of a lineup, and I certainly didn't know anything about their care. Plant names with three syllables or more taxed my vocabulary beyond its Anglo-German limits.
Flowering Herbs are the Best of Both Worlds
Our chat was a revelation. People garden for lots of different reasons. She was a flower person, studiously polite but unimpressed by my description of a garden bed full of common sage, mint and thyme -- none of which produce flowers worthy of a photo op. When it became painfully clear I was ignorant about even the most basic aspects of growing landscape flowers, she gave me a suspicious look -- like I wasn't a real gardener after all -- and went on her way.
My fascination with herbs was a head scratcher for sure. I wasn't even much of a cook. In those early years, I collected different herbs the way people collect postage stamps, with avid glee but no plans for pursuing their practical applications. This was in California where I had over 100 varieties growing in uncontrolled profusion in a ramshackle garden on the outskirts of a eucalyptus grove. It was heaven. The smell of all those scented geraniums (and their small but worthy flowers), mixed mints and the citrusy artemisias (I forget the variety) were heady enough to threaten olfactory overload when the afternoon sun hit them. It was the best perfume, and worth every inch of garden space those plants appropriated from their flower festooned cousins.
Today, I know a lot more about herbs as well as flowers, vegetables and landscape plants than I did then. In fact, I know enough to add a few flowering herbs to my landscape to satisfy myself as well as those naysayers that claim herbs are just weeds with benefits -- the unlovely mongrels of the garden.
To heck with that! Here are 10 herbs that are as pretty as they are useful. You'll buy them for their herby benefits, but enjoy them for their beauty, too.
Lavender (Lavandula, various)
This one tops our list because lavender is widely considered one of the most attractive, aromatic and, well, romantic herbs around. Although you may be familiar with its distinctive purple flowering spikes, lavender is also available in white and yellow varieties. They're not as dramatic, but if you enjoy unusual specimen plants, give one a try. Easy to grow in (very) well-draining soil, lavender can hold its own in a cutting garden and in a place of honor around showier plants. Lavender is also considered good luck, and who couldn't use a little more of that.
|Lemon Scented Geranium|
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium, various)
You're probably familiar with geraniums. They crowd garden center shelves every spring in reds, pinks and that electric peach color that almost defies description. There are also scented geranium varieties that have smaller, often variegated flowers in scents from lime to rose. The leaves are usually small as well, and may be dappled green to brown. The specifics vary based on the variety you choose, and I admit the scent is the big selling point for these plants. Scented geranium flowers are also captivating, though, and come in white, pink, lavender and purple. They can look so delicate they appear almost artificial.
Scented geraniums may be dried and added to potpourri, and when picked fresh, make pretty, long lasting members of spring flower arrangements. In the garden, they are an easy care option that somehow looks more sophisticated than the geraniums you're used to. Think of them as a 21st century take on a classic.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
The oil extracted from evening primrose seed is currently being study for the treatment of conditions as diverse as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. If you're into herbal remedies -- and pretty flowers -- give evening primrose a try.
Herbs That Grow in the Shade
Bee Balm (Monarda)Honey bees have faced challenges from pests and pesticides in recent years. Planting a little bee balm in your garden is a vote of confidence for these industrious pollinators. The bright red flowers of bee balm attract plenty of bees, but they also entice hummingbirds and butterflies. If you like natural garden entertainments, bee balm will bring your flowerbeds to life with lots of visitors.
Give bee balm full sun and dappled afternoon shade in areas that experience punishing heat. Like lavender, bee balm needs well drained soil. Add this plant to your edible flower list, too. Dried bee balm also makes a refreshing tea, and the aromatic leaves and dried flowers can spice up potpourri. Don't expect high performance right away. Bee balm usually starts blooming the second year. Be patient. It's worth it.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
From a distance, feverfew looks like a fern that's sprouted petite daisies (or chamomile clones). It's an attractive shrub best known for stopping migraines before they take hold, and for helping to control toothache pain.
Feverfew grows to a height of around 20 inches and is not persnickety about accommodations. It can be invasive, though, so keep an eye on it.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
It's easy to please this flowering vine. Passionflower will tolerate poor soil, partial shade (although it prefers sun) and benign neglect. It doesn't like drought conditions, though. In return for a little attention, it will reward you with large, purple blossoms that look like they belong in a tropical paradise. Passionflower will thrive in an arbor, along a deck or fence, or twined around a mail box post. As an added incentive for growing this exceptional plant, the leaves of the passiflora incarnata passionflower make a relaxing, sleep inducing tea.
How to Grow Passionflower
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
This elegant member of the sage family is a pretty adorable garden plant. It produces jade green leaves and small, deep red, trumpet shaped flowers. Together, they will make you nostalgic for Christmas. For total irresistibility, pineapple sage really does smell like pineapple. Although the fragrance dissipates when the leaves are cooked, stems from this plant make a beautiful garnish and an appealing ingredient in fruit salad.
How to Grow Pineapple Sage
|Pot Marigold (Calendula)|
Pot Marigold (Calendula)
Marigold creates some confusion because there are two distinct plant varieties with the same common name. The garden center marigold you know and admire is probably French marigold, a useful border plant with interesting yellow to orange or russet flowers. Pot marigold, or calendula, looks similar to some French marigold cultivars, but has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal medicinal properties. Calendula can be used to make soothing lip balms and skin creams, for instance.
Dried calendula petals can produce a serviceable dye for fabrics -- or Easter eggs -- and fresh calendula petals look lovely when added to salads or tossed into fresh vegetable dishes. For two plants that look pretty similar, why not choose the one that does triple duty in the garden, kitchen and craft room? Calendula may be hard to find in your garden center, but it's easily propagated from seed.
Different Marigold Varieties
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
You probably already know rosemary has a resinous, piney aroma that can enhance the flavor of lamb and pork dishes. It makes a nice shrub, and can be trained into a hedge, too. This evergreen has needle like leaves, and is predominantly a deep green in color. There are creeping rosemary varieties, and some newer cultivars are hardy to zones 6 or possibly even 5 in sheltered areas.
It may surprise you to discover that blooming rosemary can be a riot of color in shades as pale as cream and as vivid as deep blue. Its flowers are tiny, but there are so many of them that a rosemary bush in bloom can look positively bejeweled. Add a little dew for sparkle, and flower power doesn't get much better anywhere.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet produces clusters of milky white flowers that have a sweet but not overpowering almond scent. Blooming from June to September, this plant will give you your money's worth in the garden and in cut flower arrangements that smell as good as they look. Meadowsweet likes moist conditions and can grow to over four feet, so position it at the back of your flowerbed and give it room to spread.This charming herb has numerous aromatic, culinary, curative and craft applications. If you want to take your gardening hobby in new directions, it's definitely a candidate for further study.
Flowering herbs offer color, curb appeal, scent and extras like flavor and medicinal value. Try one or two in a flowerbed and you'll see just how beautiful a "weed" can be.
Lavender Plant- Flickr
User: Duncan (Lavender at Kensington sunken garden)
White Lavender - Flickr
Scented Geranium - Flickr
User: Melanie J Watts
Yellow Evening Primrose - Flickr
User: Maia C https://www.flickr.com/photos/maiac/7527303950/in/photolist
User: Brewbooks https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/3896684813/in/photolist
Bee Balm Flower - Flickr
User: Audrey https://www.flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/611296534/in/photolisthttps://www.flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/611296534/in/photolist
Feverfew - Flickr
User: Melanie Shaw
Passionflower - Flickr
Pineapple Sage - Flickr
User: Marie Shallcross
Marigold (calendula) - Flickr
Rosemary - Flickr
User: Georgie Sharp
Meadowsweet Spray - Flickr