Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A List of Annual Herbs

I wanted to add to the list of perennials I gave a few weeks ago with a list of annual herbs.  These herbs can be planted early for those of you who live in the southern parts of the United States.  Gardeners in the northern parts of the US have to wait for warmer temperatures to plant some of these because of frost dangers.  Any of the herbs that I am calling tender perennial for the northern parts of the US, should be perennial for gardeners in the southern parts of the US.  Everyone should be using these annuals to enhance their herb gardens because the flowers I have chosen bloom almost all summer long.  Annuals are grouped into three categories based on how they tolerate cold weather:  hardy, half-hardy or tender.  Hardy annuals tolerate low temperatures and even frost.  Half-hardy annuals tolerate a light frost but will be killed by a heavy one.  Tender annuals have no frost tolerance and suffer if the temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing.  This list is alphabetical by botanical name.  I know some of you do not like the botanical name, but if you know the botanical name, it is the same in any language.  It is important to learn them.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is easily started from seed in full sun.  You should plant succession plantings to provide lots of leaves.  I personally love dill.  It brings a lot of beneficial insects into the garden, especially the striped caterpillars that become black swallowtail butterflies.  Compact varieties are ‘Bouquet’ and ‘Fernleaf’.  Slow bolting varieties are ‘Tetra’ or ‘Dukat’.  Harvest leaves at 12” and harvest seeds when they turn brown.  Depending on the variety you can use it in the front for the compact varieties or in a container.  The larger varieties should be in the back of the border.  You can see a photo of dill in bloom in this post that I wrote in 2011 called Growing Dill.

Chervil (Anthriscus cereifolium) does better in cool, mild weather.  It can stand a bit of shade.  It bolts in the heat.  I have heard it called French parsley.  It has a mild anise flavor with white flowers.  You should sow seeds in spring and fall and make sure you plant it where you want it to grow because it is difficult to transplant.  It isn’t very tall.  I would say about the size of a parsley plant.  I do not grow it enough in the garden.  It would do well in a container or in the front of the border.

Borage (Borago officinalis) is in my garden called an herbal space hog.  Borage needs full sun and does not do as well in shade.  It is easily sown from seed.  It is a prolific self sower.  I’m picking seedlings out of prime vegetable gardening space as we speak.  Young leaves are cucumber scented and can be used in salads if you can get passed the fuzziness.  Has beautiful star shaped flowers that start pink (Thought I had the wrong plant!) and then turn to blue.  You need to keep pinching it back if you don’t like floppy plants or stake it.  The flowers can be frozen in ice cube trays for summer drinks.  It is a back of the border kind of herb.  It does have a way of sneaking up to the front.  Here is a post I did called An Herbal Space Hog.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a very easy annual to grow from seed and once established, it will self-sow very gently around the garden.  It grows up to 18” tall.  Calendulas also do better in mild, cool weather in full sun or light shade.  You should keep deadheading the flowers to keep them blooming.  It is called poor man’s saffron because in the olden times it was used to color food like saffron does with a golden yellow color.  It does not give a saffron flavor.  Calendulas are also an edible flower.  Use the petals to decorate a salad.  I also add the petals to cookies.  Plant these in the middle or front of the herb border.
Check out what I wrote about calendulas on my blog called  Herb of the Year-Calendula.

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a plant that you only need one of in the garden.  It will reseed if it likes where it is planted.  It will grow well in full sun or part shade.  It will also do well in morning sun with afternoon shade.  It is a very pungent (camphor) smelling herb and is used freshly chopped in the last 10 minutes of cooking a pot of beans to take away the gas.  Here is a link for a post I wrote about epazote called appropriately enough E is for Epazote.  It would be good in the back of the border.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is a mild weather plant that does best in full sun.  It would be considered a tender annual.  You can sow the seeds in the early to late spring and start harvesting leaves as soon as there are enough.  Once the days heat up, the cilantro will flower and go to seed and then you can collect the seeds and use them in cooking and baking.  The plant in flower can reach 3’ high.  Just like the dill, you need to successively seed to get continuous crops of leaves.  Use the leaves in Mexican, Caribbean and Oriental dishes.  Use ground seeds in baked goods, soups, casseroles or potpourri.  I would plant this mid border or to the front of the border.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tender perennial in the northern half of the US and can be grown in a container and brought inside for the winter.  It can also be treated as an annual.  Lemongrass prefers to be grown in a hot and sunny location in very well drained, sandy, moist soil.  Be sure to water thoroughly and more frequently during dry, hot spells.  It adds a grass like quality in the herb garden.  It is very easily dried and used in tea blends.  Use the leaves fresh in fish and chicken dishes or into soup.  Lemongrass in the garden can grow to about 3’ tall and about 2’ wide and should be placed in the mid-range of the herb border.

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a wonderful apple-scented plant with daisy like flowers that grows to about 2’ tall.  It grows easily from seed which should be sown in the early spring and again in summer for a succession of harvests.  Harvest flowers when their petals start to turn downward to use fresh or dried in teas.  The plants fade quickly after flowering.  In my experience if you harvest the flowers, they keep producing more flowers.  If you let the flowers go by meaning not harvesting them, the plant will die.  So you have to be on top of harvesting the flowers especially in the hot weather.  It is a front of the border plant. 

Lemon Mint (Monarda citriodora) is an annual flower that I just love in the garden.  It is a triple bee balm like flower sitting on top of one another.  The variety is called “Lambada”.   I just love it planted with sage.  It is an attractor of hummingbirds and all good insects in the garden.  It is easily started from seed and you can buy the seeds from Vermont Wildflower Farm.  I have never used the flowers or leaves.  The red variety of bee balm flowers is the more delicious one, but the leaves have a lemon scent when crushed.  Lemon mint grows to be at least 2’ or 3’ tall.  This link from Bluestone Perennials is a really good image.  However, it is a monarda, but it isn’t a bee balm as they say because bee balm is (Monarda didyma).  So this is a lesson in botanical names, please learn and use them as often as you can.  This herb should be in the mid border area.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of my favorite annual herbs.  OK, you are catching on to my herbal drift, they are all my favorites, but this one is very special.  Plant seeds and plants in full sun and after the soil temperatures are at least 60˚F.  If you plant it early than that, it will just stall and not grow.  Basil resents cold temperatures and if we continue to have up and down weather, it may get caught in a freeze warning and then it is done so consider it a tender annual.  Basil also needs more moisture in dry, hot summers.  Pinch off flower heads to prolong harvest and keep plants bushy.  There are lots of different flavors and sizes of basil.  Some of my favorites are lemon basil ‘Mrs. Burns’, cinnamon basil, sweet basil, spicy globe basil, ‘Purple Ruffles’, ‘African Blue’, ‘Siam Queen’ and ‘Green Pepper.’  There is a blog site you should check out called Ramona’s Basil Garden Love Your Basil.  She is a guest blogger for The Herb Companion and while she isn’t always blogging, she has an e-book available and it is full of information and recipes about basil.  The majority of basils should be toward the front so you can deadhead them easily.

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.

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.  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.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a true biennial which means it goes to flower and seed almost immediately in the second season.  You can delay that from happening by clipping off the flowers, but really what I like to do is have additional first year plants that give you leaves and the second year plants are larval food for the caterpillars of the swallow tail butterflies.  Parsley can be grown from seed, but soak the seed in hot water or freeze it overnight to jump start it because it is a slow germinator.  Plant it where you want it to grow because of the taproot makes it difficult to transplant.  Flat-leaf or Italian parsley is favored but curly parsley is ornamental and is just as flavorful.  I have said it in the past, if you can only grow one herb, it should be parsley.  You harvest the outer leaves and leave the inner plant or crown intact to keep it producing.  At the end of the season, just harvest everything and put it in the freezer for winter use.  Even though it is a short lived plant, the curly parsley makes a lovely looking hedge.  This is definitely a front of the border type herb.

Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) is the annual partner of winter savory which is the perennial version.  Known as the bean herb, I really love it best in a Saturday summer omelet with other summer herbs.  If you let it flower and seed, it will self sow.  In a hot summer, it will flower and go to seed quickly.  So it must be watched and harvest leaves before it flowers as you do with all herbs.  It has tiny pink or purple flowers.  It also makes a lovely hedge in the front of the border, but you could use it as an accent herb mid border as well. 

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is grown in full sun to partial shade.  It is an herbal sugar substitute.  It contains steviol glycosides compounds that are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.  Seeding stevia can be difficult because of poor germination rates.  Stevia has the most impact planted in groups.  You should start with new plants.  The leaves are not aromatic but are sweet to the taste.  Harvest the leaves before flowering to ensure the highest concentration of glycosides.  I have harvested the leaves after flowering and dried with great results.  So don’t be too concerned if you find that it has already flowered.  Stevia does not breakdown when heated, so it can be used in cooking or baking without a problem.  Stevia gets around 3’-4’ in flower so mid-range in the herb border would be appropriate.  Here is a post about a mystery herb in my garden called stevia.

Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) is an annual for those of us in the northern tier of the US and a half-hardy perennial for those of you in the southern part of the country.  This is a substitution for French tarragon in the south.  I have grown this occasionally and it dries very well unlike French tarragon that does not dry as well.  It also has very nice yellow marigold like flowers.  I think if I'm able to find Mexican tarragon, I will buy several plants and use it dried this coming winter.  I have used it as an anise flavor in some of my tea blends.  It is about one foot to two feet tall in bloom.  The flowers do attract pollinators.  Here is a link to a photo of Mexican Tarragon from Bonnie Plants.

‘Lemon Gem’ Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) is the marigold that has a dwarf habit and would be the only marigold that I would eat.  They bloom better in full sun.  I had a marigold hedge (Like those herbal hedges!) one season in the vegetable garden.  They bring in a lot of beneficial insects to the garden.  I love this flower because it blooms until frost.  I use the whole flowers to decorate a pasta salad with cherry tomatoes.  I would only eat the petals though.  Because of people’s allergies, the center of the flower which has the pollen could be a problem.  I would use this as an edging plant or an accent in the front of the herb border.  Here is a post I did in 2008 about the powerhouse annual, 'Lemon Gem' marigolds.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is a very easy annual herbal flower that is native to Peru and grows very well from seeds.  The seeds are fun for the kids to plant and have them take care of in the garden.  Both flowers and leaves are edible and peppery in flavor.  I love to fill the flowers with guacamole for an appetizer or for lunch.  They are both vining and clump forms.  They seem to like a bit of shade in very hot and dry summers.  They really take off here in the fall and bloom until frost.  The ‘Alaska’ cultivar has variegated leaves and the ‘Whirlybird’ cultivar has no spur on the flower so it is a bit milder in flavor.  This link is for a guest post that I did on nasturtiums for The Herb Companion magazine called:  Edible Delights:  3 Nasturtium Recipes.

These are some of my most favorite annuals.  Most of them are in my gardens every season.  Some are not in it enough.  Please let me know if I left an herb out!  I will make this post a page under my banner photo so you will always have access to it.  I have one more list in the works and you may have guess it, tender perennials.   Hope you have had a great day.  Talk to you later.


The Herbalist's Cottage said...

Great list!!!

I didn't know I could use borage leaves - will have to try. The borage plant always makes me smile. Dill I didn't grow this year mmmm not sure why. Epazote is new to me - thanks I will hunt it out.
Love leanne

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

You're very welcome, Leanne!

Herbaholic said...

Lovely post Nancy, just what I needed to read on this wet rainy day! Reminded me of a post I did on Mr Will http://herbal-haven.co.uk/blog/2009/02/shakespeares-herbs/

I can't wait for the Shakespeare rose to be back in flower in my garden this summer, a delight to the senses, just like this post!

Much herby love from across the pond - Debs x

PeggyR said...

I love them all. My dill has been reseeding itself every year.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Thanks Debs! I will definitely check out your Shakespeare post!

I do as well Peggy! My dill quit seeding itself.:( Can't explain why. Hope you are both having a great day. xxoo Nancy