Artistry of Herbs


So much of our garden was slack and wilting yesterday evening, before the rain began.  The ground has grown drier each day, available moisture retreating deeper, away from the multitude of thirsty roots.  This time of year devolves into a contest of will between me with my trusty garden hoses, and July’s relentless heat and extended dry spells.


Bronze fennel glows in the late afternoon paired Verbena bonareinsis and Joe Pye weed.


Plants react differently to the many challenges that befall them in the course of the year.  Watching how plants respond to stress can guide us in the choices we make in planting.

No one enjoys a garden filled with drooping, brown tipped leaves.  And most of us don’t have the unlimited time or resources to water enough to compensate when the weather turns hot and dry for days or weeks at a time.  That is why it is smart to plant a good percentage of deep rooted, sturdy, drought tolerant plants to stand tall through July and August.


Loose foliage of Siberian Iris and Crinum lily function like ornamental grasses through summer, setting off other flowering plants nearby.


Herbs top my list of sturdy, dependable choices for summer structure.  Fennel, lavender, Salvias, dill, thyme, Santolina, rosemary, Germander, Artemesia, and Pelargoniums stand up and look smart with a minimum of supplemental water.  Iris, considered an herb by many, are a part of this dependably sturdy cohort.


Rose scented Pelargonium


And, these plants are all beautiful.  Many are fragrant, and some bloom for weeks right through the summer. Their leaves are fleshy and thick, some waxy and prepared to stand up to the relentless Mediterranean sun.  Their subtle colors and designs fascinating.


Spanish Lavender


As an added bonus, most can be found for a very small investment each spring.  Many herbs are offered at local big box stores and grocery stores from March through June or early July for just a few dollars a pot.


Newly planted Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’ grows with tough Sedum ‘Angelina.’  This Rosemary can eventually grow into a good sized shrub.


Perennials generally survive challenging weather better than annuals, anyway, because they have grown deeper, larger roots. Perennial herbs prove some of the most dependable.

They may need more coddling through their first few months, but once established they will hang on until conditions improve.  Like trees and shrubs, their roots can seek out moisture out of reach of many other plants.


Keep newly planted perennials well watered while their roots grow out into the surrounding soil. Once new growth begins, you know the plants are settling in. The Monarda and Verbena hastata were planted in mid-July, a terrible time for planting!  The Pineapple sage (top right) is now well established and can handle summer weather.


We are all discovering ways to adapt to the challenges our changing weather patterns bring.  We see all sorts of records broken month after month, and know that more change is likely ahead.

Our gardens can adapt, beautifully, and with tremendous artistry.  We just need to keep an open mind as we plant.  A willingness to experiment with new plants, ones we may not have previously considered for the perennial garden, and different ways of cultivating it opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities.



Woodland Gnome 2018


“In a world of change,

the learners shall inherit the earth,

while the learned shall find themselves

perfectly suited

for a world that no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

5 responses to “Artistry of Herbs

  1. Does bronze fennel re-seed itself, or does it revert back to green fennel? I have not grown it yet. I have been very satisfied with the common green fennel.

    • Tony, that is a very good question. I haven’t noticed fennel seedlings sprouting to answer from first-hand experience, but bronze fennel seeds are available to buy (here, and from other vendors online: I got interested in bronze fennel from a potted arrangement I saw in a book featuring bronze fennel and borage. It is a combination that works well, and I enjoyed it on our deck for a summer. I like the metallic sheen on the bronze fennel foliage and have bought it, when presented with a choice, ever since. I can’t speak to flavor, but it is very nice filler in a vase.

      • Renee’s Garden Seed offered me a sample years ago, but I declined, just because they were sending more samples than I could accommodate already. I have only seen it already cut in markets. I actually did not like it as much as what grows wild. The wild fennel is so pretty in green. However, since I have not seen the plants, I am sort of wondering how it would look with green fennel. You know, just a little bit of each.

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