Fabulous Friday: Growing Herbs

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One of the nicest things about summer is the garden filled with fresh herbs.  Most herbs prove very easy to grow.  They enjoy full sun, can stand a little dry weather, naturally repel pests, and smell delicious.

Herbs have such beautiful and interesting foliage, that I enjoy using them in containers and in the perennial garden. They also add an interesting touch in a vase.

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Rose scented Pelargonium grows with parsley and fennel.

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Evergreen perennial herbs, like rosemary, often maintain a presence through the winter.  Even when frost damaged, most will begin to recover and grow again by early spring. Although many Mediterranean herbs are marginally hardy in our climate, we’ve had enough success overwintering them that it is well worth making the effort.

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Overwintered Lavender and Artemesia. Artemesia propagates easily from stem cuttings in early spring.

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Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Artemesia, culinary sage, Santolina, germander, oregano, chocolate mint and many varieties of Lavender remain evergreen in our garden.  Other herbs, like comphrey, dill and fennel, return with fresh growth once the weather warms.

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Comphrey is one of our earliest herbs to bloom each spring.

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We’ve had mixed experience in overwintering one of my favorite herbs, scented Pelargoniums.   I’m always thrilled to see tiny leaves emerge in early spring where one has survived the winter.  Perennials, they aren’t fond of winter indoors, unless you have a spot to keep them in bright light.

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Thyme provides lots of early nectar for pollinators. It grows into an attractive edging for perennial beds and borders.

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Scented Pelargoniums rank high on my spring shopping list, as I scout out choice varieties wherever herbs are sold.  P. ‘Citronella,’ sold to ward off mosquitoes, can be found in many garden centers and big box plant departments.  But I am always watching for the rose scented varieties and an especially pretty plant called P. ‘Chocolate Mint.’ 

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Pelargonium ‘Lady Plymouth’ has the scent of roses

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Basil grows particularly well for us here in coastal Virginia.  It really takes off quickly in our late spring and summer heat.  Sometimes I begin with seeds, but most often watch for my favorite varieties at herb sales.  Some varieties, like African Blue Basil, are hybrids and can’t be grown true from seeds.

African Blue and Thai Basil quickly grow into small, fragrant shrubs.   I let them flower, and then enjoy the many pollinators they attract all summer.  Their seeds attract goldfinches and usually stand in my garden until after the holidays, when I finally pull the plants once the seeds are gone.

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Basil gone to seed, delighted our goldfinches and other small birds last September.

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Our garden is filling up again with growing herbs, now that we are into mid-May.  Taking some time to enjoy our herbs makes this rainy Friday fabulous.  The perennial herbs are into active growth now, and I’m finding and planting choice varieties of Basil, Salvia and Pelargonium.

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Newly planted Santolina and purple Basil will grow in quickly.

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We experimented with a relatively new Lavender cultivar last year:  L. ‘Phenomenal.’  This very hardy (Zones 5-9) and disease resistant cultivar was introduced by Peace Tree Farms in 2012. Hybrid ‘Phenomenal’ can take our muggy summers, so long as it has reasonably good drainage, and doesn’t die back during the winter.  It will eventually grow to a little more than 2 feet high and wide.  I was curious to see how it would grow for us, and bought a few plugs through Brent and Becky’s Bulbs last spring.

I was so pleased with how fresh they looked all winter, that I ordered new plugs this spring.   The plugs are still growing on in pots, but I look forward to planting them out before the end of May.

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Culinary purple sage grows well with German Iris and other perennials.

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If you have faced challenges in past years overwintering your Lavender, or losing them during a muggy summer; you might want to give L. ‘Phenomenal’ a try.  These will work nicely in a good sized pot if your space is limited.  Add a little lime to the potting mix or garden soil, and try mulching around newly planted Lavender plants with light colored gravel to reflect the heat and protect the foliage from splattered soil.

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Spanish Lavender also proves very hardy and overwinters in our garden.  This is my favorite Lavendula stoechas ‘Otto Quast.’

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Herbs prove such useful plants.  They nourish, they heal, they repel pests, and they thrive in challenging garden conditions.  Their unique leaves and healing scents add beauty to our lives.

Do you rely on herbs in your garden?  Wild at heart, they simply want a place to grow.  Why not try one this summer you’ve not grown before?

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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August herbs in a vase

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Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

In A Vase: Celebrating Lammas

August 1, 2016 Lamas 010

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Our days remain muggy and hot; yet signs of the changing season surround us.  Dried leaves blow out of the trees on the winds heralding summer thunderstorms.  A red cast overshadows leaves on the Dogwood tree and Sumac.  Corn is ripening and local veggie stands overflow with the season’s bounty.

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This is Lammas, a traditional Celtic celebration of summer’s harvest.  It is a holiday, celebrated as July melts into August each year, to feast on the season’s bounty, share meals with loved ones and bake bread with the first of the season’s harvest of grain.

We have a full month of summer stretching ahead of us, hot days washed clean with summer storms.  Crickets, locusts and frogs compete to sing loudest and longest.  Their music fills the air night and day.

Herbs in the garden have covered themselves with flowers, hoping to lure me out into the heat and humidity to cut them back.

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And yet change is in the air.  We can see, smell, hear and feel the approach of autumn as each day grows imperceptibly shorter.

The sun bakes our garden, and many perennials and new shrubs have drooping leaves.  No amount of rain or watering will re-hydrate them for long in the parched Earth where the sun beats down all day.

The first Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, bloom where they’ve seeded themselves around the garden; miniature golden yellow suns shining happily amidst the deeper green of herbs and shrubs.

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I’ve cut herbs and summer flowers for a vase today to honor the festival of Lammas.  There are the bright yellow fireworks flowers of Fennel and tall cool violet spires of Thai Basil exploding from a base of Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and Pelargonium ‘Gray Lady Plymouth.’

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The remaining fresh stems of Crocosmia sparkle with deep reddish orange hues, colors of this ancient summer holiday.  All colors of the sun and fertile Earth come into play at Lamas, and this arrangement is sprinkled with new golden Black Eyed Susans.  But there are also sprigs of pink blooming Oregano and stems of purple Verbena ‘lollipop’ tucked into the vase today for contrast.

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Our friend, potter Denis Orton, made the porcelain vase and glazed it with one of his unique crystalline glazes.  The metallic crystals form as the piece cools.  We admire his glazes and collect pieces now and again as we can.

This one was found when we visited him at a local arts festival on Mother’s Day this year.

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The loose arrangement in our vase today looks a bit droopy in the day’s heat.  It is an echo of a similar one I gathered on Friday to take as a welcome gift to a new neighbor family.  I felt inspired to gather another for us to enjoy this week.

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The heat index went over 100F here again today.  It has become normal for the temperature to rise several degrees above the forecast before evening storms blow through, cooling things off again as darkness gathers.  Thunder echoes in the distance again this evening…..

Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink today, showcasing some of the stunning Zinnias she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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“At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh,

it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year,

and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end.   

The plants of spring wither and drop seeds to ensure future crops.

Grains are ready to be harvested and the fruits are ripe for picking.  

We can give thanks for the food on our tables.”

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Herne

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