OK, here is my last list of herbs, tender perennials. Let me know if I forgot any favorites. It just works out that in botanical names, lemon verbena is first on my list. For you ladies and gentlemen in the southern climates, these would all be perennials for you. I'm taking a herbal moment here because you are all so very lucky! As I told you in various "mild" winters such as we had this past one, I may have gotten some on this list through the winter. Although none of the scented geraniums outside made it through, my curry plant did make it through as did a lemon verbena. That is very atypical for those plants. My 23 year old plus or minus sweet bay is doing well in its container. I also got two rosemarys through and a pineapple sage inside.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is my favorite herb. It is a native of South America and can grow up to ten feet in its native land. Lemon verbena is propagated by cuttings not by seed. You grow lemon verbena for its leaves not its flowers. I grow it both in my garden and in a pot. It gets to about four feet in the ground in the northern climates. I always try to put one in a container to bring it inside for the winter. Once inside it almost always drops its leaves and goes dormant. Water it every week to ten days inside. It will start leafing out in February or so and you will be able to put it out again in May after the threat of frost. I use lemon verbena leaves fresh in cooking and baking. It is like the bay leaf. You need to take that midrib out of the leaf before you use it to cook. Dried leaves can be used in tea blends or for potpourri. You can plant this mid to back of the herb border and dig it up and bring it back in for the winter. This is a link to my initial post on this magical herb in 2008 called What’s in an Herbal Name.
Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) is a wonderful herb that smells like the curry spice but is not the plant that produces it. Curry is a blend of several herbs together. This is a lovely gray leaved herb that produces yellow button flowers. The one fact that I didn’t know about curry is that it repels bees! I really do like the plant so I will continue to grow it. It would be a front of the herb border plant in my herb garden. Here is a post I did several years ago about the curry plant.
Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis) is a wonderful container plant that can grow to about six feet tall. It is perennial for Zones 8-10. Propagation is from cuttings and that can take many months to root. Healthy trees respond to pruning and shearing. The only real problem with bay trees is that it can get scale. Use the leaves fresh or dried. In both cases for cooking they should be removed before serving the prepared food. Here is a link for a post I did when sweet bay was the herb of the year. I would just plant it in a container if you are in the northern part of the US and forget about using it in a border. Some gardeners dig a hole for the container and then in August or September get it out and start taking it inside to get it accustomed to the changes.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) is considered a tender perennial, but I treat it as an annual in my garden. I have had it comeback in certain years, but that does not happen often. I love it even more than Greek oregano. I love the knotted white flowers in the late summer. You need to be clipping this herb so it doesn’t go to flower too quickly and using it fresh or drying it to use during the winter. I love to make an herbal butter and use it on fresh veggies like corn on the cob. It is a low grower and should be at the front of the border. I talked about sweet marjoram in this post about Shakespeare's herbs.
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium sp.) is a native of South Africa and is considered a tender perennial in zones north of 9, but this is another herb that I treat as an annual. It is very easy to take cuttings and bring them in for the winter. It is nice to have a scented geranium on a windowsill that you can sniff the leaves from time to time. It seems in mild winters that varieties such as coconut or apple will reseed and come back in the garden. You definitely grow them for their leaves and not their flowers. They need full sun with the exception of peppermint-scented scented geraniums that need afternoon shade. Scented geraniums are very good in a container situation. Lemon, rose, peppermint and apple are some of my favorite scents. Used in baking a cake as a liner to the cake pan or dried in a potpourri, scented geraniums are a versatile herb. Because there are many sizes and shapes of scented geraniums, I would use them in the front or mid-range of the herb border. The small sizes are great in a container as shown in this post from my blog in 2009.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a native of the Mediterranean region and is a tender perennial in the northern part of the US. In native lands it can grow to six feet tall. We usually have at least two rosemarys in the garden, one upright variety and one prostrate. Rosemary is just not hardy for us here in the ‘Burgh. Propagation is by layering or stem cuttings. You should provide well-drained soil to prevent root rot and good air circulation to discourage powdery mildew. We usually keep at least one rosemary in a container so it can be brought inside. With the mild winter we had it might even have made it through the winter. If you are going to try to get a rosemary through the winter, go with the 'Arp' variety. This is the year that I didn't leave one in the garden. It would be a front or mid-range herb in the border. This is a post I did from last year called One of My Favorites-Rosemary.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is a tender perennial of the large salvia family. It is about four feet tall in my herb garden and has beautiful red tubular flowers that hummingbirds love as you can see in my post called My Herbal Dream Come True. The leaves have the wonderful scent and taste of pineapple. You must use them fresh because the leaves do not dry well. I usually use them chopped finely in my fruit salads for breakfast in the summer or you can use the fresh leaves in your cold iced tea or lemonade. We had a pineapple sage make it through the winter on a south facing windowsill. Pineapple sage does well in the mid-range to the back of the herb border.
© 2012 Nancy Heraud