Herbs for Perennial Borders

By Joyce Driemeyer

Pineapple Sage - Salvia elegansMany herbs are so versatile and floriferous that they can enhance an established perennial border. These plants are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Tall pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) with its red flowers is loved by hummingbirds. Cottage Gardens in Piasa, Illinois, will have a golden leaved cultivar of pineapple sage this year which sounds very attractive. For the back of a border where there may be some shade, try lovage (Levisticum officinale) with its celery flavored leaves and yellow umbel flowers.

There are many beautiful lavenders (Lavendula angustifolia) to try, both hardy and annual. For hardy, I like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ and even ‘Lady Lavender’ which can be seed propagated. It is essential for lavenders to have very good drainage and air circulation. They perform very well on a slope or in a raised bed.

The scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) with their varying leaf shapes and fragrances are not hardy but can be wintered in a cool room or cool greenhouse. Other “should haves” for the experienced gardener are rosemary (Rosmarinus), both upright and prostrate, lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) with long blooming purple flowers (there is one with chartreuse foliage called ‘Golden Jubilee’), monardas of many colors (Monarda didyma is the classic), heliotrope (Heliotropium peruviana) and calamint (Calamintha nepeta).

For front of the border, low-growing dianthus Dianthus plumarius ‘Sops in Wine’ with mat-like grey foliage and intensely fragrant rosy pink flowers blooms all summer for me into fall. As I write this in January, the foliage is still intact.

Specimen herbs in pots or containers are wonderful for the deck or patio. Dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum) blooms all summer and the forms attractive fruit pods. The hummers love this plant. Make standards of upright rosemary or dwarf myrtle (Myrtus communis cv. ‘Nana’) which has fragrant white flowers. Center a large pot with heliotrope and surround with lime-colored nicotiana or gray-leaved helichrysum.

Joyce Driemeyer says she’s semi-retired after more than 25 years as a professional landscape designer. She is a Master Gardener, and volunteers, lectures and conducts classes at Missouri Botanical Garden, and has actively served in both the St Louis Herb Society and The Herb Society of America.


About Mike Perry

Husband, Father, DIYer, Gardener, Runner, Tea-Drinker, Traditional Wet Shaver...
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