Herbs I’m Growing

July 30, 2008

I’m growing more herbs than ever in my garden this year. I generally stick to flowers and ornamentals but after coming across some great examples of container herb gardens I was intrigued by the variety of color and texture you can get in one pot using only herbs. Here’s a picture of my container herb garden.

The tall one on the left is Stevia rebaudiana, a great alternative sweetener. The golden colored leaves in the back right is Oregano (Origanum aureum). On the right side (a little hard to spot without clicking through to a larger image) is Dill (Anethum graveolens). In the front is Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum). And finally, in the front left is Curry (Helichrysum italicum). The local nursery that I purchased these from had a great selection of herbs and it was difficult to narrow my choice down to these five.

Each one has unique foliage. The Stevia has fuzzy, slightly serrated, oval leaves. The Oregano has small golden smooth (but not glossy) leaves that, due to their color, are very striking. The Dill is dark green and has finely divided foliage like Fennel (which, curiously enough, is only related through the Apiaceae family, not by genus). The Italian Parsley (also called Flat-leaf Parsley) has larger dark-green shiny leaves. The Curry plant is very different with tiny, whitish, leaves. It’s got the shape of Rosemary (only miniature) and skin that’s somewhere between Lavender and Dusty Miller. Here it is up close.

Although the leaves do smell like curry, Helichrysum italicum is not not used to season curries.

Here’s a close up of the Oregano.

I’ll confess that I haven’t put this plant to much culinary use but the foliage sure brightens up this container.

I also haven’t used the Stevia much yet (although we do use several Stevia products in our household). I have confirmed on several occasions thought that the leaves are in fact very sweet tasting. Here’s a shot of the Stevia up close.

In the vegetable garden there’s a bed with a well-established clump of Fennel. Our son, who will eat any vegetable as long as it is picked and eaten in the garden, frequently grabs a handful to snack on. Because of it’s height and dark color it helps provide some nice structure in the veggie patch. Here’s a photo of what it’s up to now.

For some reason nothing seems to grow very well in the bed with the Fennel except for a large clump of Sage (I’m pretty sure it’s Salvia officinalis). I would be quite happy with it even if it never flowered because the foliage is quite handsome.

Other plants in our Southern Oregon garden that would normally be classified as herbs include Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, and some self-sown Feverfew (at least I think that’s what it is).

What herbs do you grow in your garden? Which one is your favorite?

Monarda magnifica

July 24, 2008

No, Monarda magnifica is not a new species of Bee Balm, I made it up. It has a nice ring to it though and it made a good title for a post about the different varieties of Monarda that are blooming right now in my perennial borders. I have never grown Bee Balm until this summer. At some point over last winter they really caught my fancy and now I have 4 different varieties scattered throughout my garden. So far all have been easy to grow and are doing well in our climate.

I’ll start with Monarda didyma (I’m saving my favorite for last). Here is M. didyma ‘Raspberry Wine’.

This plant has by far performed the best in the M. didyma group. I attribute it’s success to a few factors:

  1. I think I planted this one at the perfect time this spring when it was just warm enough to start growing but cool enough for it to get established before the summer heat.
  2. I bought it at a local nursery and the plants were relatively large and healthy; the earwigs were not able to eat it to the ground like they did M. didyma ‘Jacob Kline’ (below).
  3. I planted these in a bed that I renovated over the winter. This bed received about 6 inches of fresh compost which was mixed to a depth of about 1 foot.

The other thing that I really like about ‘Raspberry Wine’ is that about 20% of the blooms are ‘double decker’ like the one in the photo above. When I saw this in photos over the winter I wasn’t sure if I would like it but after seeing it up close in my garden I have to say that I like the look. It’s pretty subtle anyway and you only notice it when you’re up close.

The next subject, and the one that I wanted from the catalogs most of all (at first), is M. didyma ‘Jacob Kline’. This one really excited me because of it’s bold red color and it’s height (can grow 4-5 feet tall). It hasn’t performed nearly as well as ‘Raspberry Wine’ but I wasn’t expecting any real show from any of these until next year anyway. The one ‘Jacob Kline’ that did get planted in nice compost enriched soil was a little on the smaller side and was eaten to the ground by earwigs so it has some excuses for being a little sparse. Here’s a photo of how it looked this morning:

One thing I’ve noticed (and I knew this before I had purchased any of these through my research) is that Bee Balms like regular water to look their best. They seem to be a little drought tolerant (depending on how you define drought) but the plants that I have on regular drip irrigation definitely look better than those that are not.

Now for Monarda lambada. I saw this one advertised in the Blue Stone Perennials catalog and I really liked the looks of it. Then, while visiting a local nursery in late December, I found a pack of seeds for M. lambada. (Side note 1: it’s not only because I’m obsessed with gardening that I would visit a nursery in the middle of winter, around here our winters are pretty mild so there actually are some things for sale. Side note 2: I can’t pass a display of seeds without picking up a pack or two, even if it’s not even close to the time to sow for the seeds I’m buying. Anyone else have this problem tendency?) I sowed the seeds in January along with the other seeds that I was starting using the winter sowing method (see here for more on how that went). To my delight, the seed pack was right and they are now blooming in their first season.

Out of all the Bee Balms that are in my garden, I have the most of M. lambada (with winter sowing you usually end up with a lot of plants). Almost all of them are doing quite well. I killed a few because I put them in spots that were too dry and then forgot to water them enough. M. lambada is also quite short compared to M. didyma (the tallest is probably a little less than 3 feet). I love the spots that you can see on the flowers when you look at them up close.

Another Monarda that also has spots on it’s flowers is also my favorite: Monarda punctata.

When I saw it’s photo in the catalog it was love at first sight. From a distance it’s not particularly showy but up close this is definitely one of the more interesting flowers in my garden. For a Bee Balm, there are a lot of colors involved. There’s the yellow flowers with red spots supported by purplish leaves that grow atop green leaved stems. Farther down, the stems even take on a darker reddish/purple color.

This plant gave me quite a bit of stress earlier in the spring. When it arrived (through the mail) it was totally out of it’s pot and one of the two main stems was almost totally broken off. I put the broken stem in a cup of water hoping that it might sprout some roots in case the rest of the plant didn’t make it. It took the main plant quite a while to get established and start growing but eventually it did (the earwigs left it alone for some reason). The cutting eventually just rotted in the glass and it ended up in the compost bin.

Well, that wraps it up. There would have been another, M. didyma ‘Coral Reef’, but despite what the tag says the plant I ended up with is definitely not ‘Coral Reef’ (which has pink flowers). I think it’s another ‘Jacob Kline’ which is fine with me. If you don’t have any Monarda in your garden I heartily recommend adding any of these great perennials, the hummingbirds will thank you for it!

Encore

July 21, 2008

As the mid-summer blooms start there’s still a show (at least in photographic form) from some of the spring blooms. The Alliums (Purple Sensation) are still putting on a show:

allium

And so are the Poppies in the wildflower bed:

poppy