Fragrant Herbs

By Joyce Driemeyer

Anise HyssopFrom spring through fall, herbs provide multifaceted appeal. They possess distinguishing scents, distinguishing flavors (culinary), and distinguishing appearances making them versatile plants. Eye-appealing and fragrant bouquets of blooming dianthus, lavenders, sweet marjoram, oregano, heliotrope, sages and basils and anise hyssop can be used throughout the house or on the breakfast room table. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), with its lilac blue-spiked flower stem is beautiful combined with purple-leaved basil in the border and is loved by bees.

The gray-leaved artemisias can all provide a cooling accent in the garden for the color of other blooming plants, herbs or otherwise. Low-growing, A. schmidtiana ‘Dana’ is lovely in the front of a border with its feathery soft foliage. A. abrotanum ‘Southernwood’ has a soft appearance and fragrance, and the tall A. vulgaris ‘Variegata’ has handsome gray and white foliage for back of the border, but may possibly need restraining! The artemisias all can be made into beautiful, fragrant wreathes. They are best propagated by cuttings or division. The dried foliage of the artemisias, as well as rosemary and lavender, can all be used in closets and for sweater storage.

Other plants with fragrant green foliage not to be ignored are the wonderful scented geraniums (pelargoniums). There are many scents from rose to citrus to apple to nutmeg. True myrtle (Myrtus communis), (I grow the dwarf) and bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) can all be grown in pots and wintered inside. Our hardy bay (Myrica pennsylvanica) will provide fragrant foliage and blue berries for use in potpourri.

A plant with an exotic history, which I am growing for the first time is patchouli (Pogostemon cablin). The foliage is fuzzy with a mix of sandalwood and mint scent. It has a long history of use in potpourri and the perfume industry. Since it is not hardy here, I shall try doing some cuttings.

While we are on cuttings, if you have kept your oreganos and thymes clipped, and they remain bushy and thrifty, you can still harvest and dry some foliage for storing over winter in glass containers. Since basil does not dry or freeze well, make pesto, pour into an ice cube tray and when frozen , bag cubes in freezer bags. Also, I have successfully cut leaves, especially of the small-leaved bush basil, and frozen those with water in ice cube trays and bagged those cubes which can then be used in soups, stews and sauces for flavoring.

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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