by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Many herbs can be planted once and left to grow for years. Perennial herbs take some of the heavy lifting out of garden design by coming back year after year, and they are always some of the best-looking plants in the yard. A perennial bed allows you to divide and expand your herbal plants for free.
These are the plants for a long-lasting herb garden:
#1 Sage is a wonderfully versatile herb for your garden. It comes in many colorful varieties and growth habits. Try using it as a graceful filler around other tall garden plants. Sage will grow for many years, returning after even the harshest winter conditions.
The only drawback in allowing sage to grow for years is that it can become woody with leaves growing only at the ends of the stems. Avoid this by keeping it pruned back to encourage new growth. Leaves will grow close to the cuts and result in a fuller, more beautiful specimen.
If you have more than one sage in your garden, you can replace the woody plant with another, more attractive sage from your own landscape.
#2 Echinacea is not only for healing, but is also a beautiful accent for any garden. Echinacea,
also known as purple coneflower, grows in virtually any garden situation. From moist, fertile soil, to dry and arid conditions, echinacea has the right variety that will show off and thrive.
To help your echinacea spread out into the garden, wait until the coneflowers dry up completely. Then, remove the spent flowers and separate all the pointy black seeds that are left behind. Be sure to use gloves because the seeds are sharp! Spread the seeds everywhere in the garden that you wish to have more echinaceas.
#3 Thyme is one of the herbs that will grow in any garden. It’s perfect for gardeners who aren’t
particularly ‘hands-on’ because the less you fuss with this herb, the healthier it becomes. We have several varieties here at Watters Garden Center, some grow upright or some with trailing habits. There is one to fit almost any garden situation or design.
Use thyme as a filler between your stones in a walkway. It offers the classic herbal scent when stepped on and can handle foot traffic. Thyme grows well in areas that are too dry and poor for many other plants.
Thyme loves to be pruned back. It can easily be trimmed into decorative shapes for a more formal look. If you want to multiply your thyme, merely divide up a healthy plant or take a cutting.
#4 Mint is invasive, but it is also an essential addition to any hard to cultivate garden. It will
spread anywhere you allow and many places you don’t!
Consider planting your mint in a container that is buried. This usually does a fair job in containing the plant.
Mint is a refreshing, pleasantly scented, gentle, tea herb. Try growing many varieties if you’re really interested in using mint for tea. Don’t allow mint varieties to mingle; allow plenty of room between each variety. This helps ensure that bees and butterflies do not cross-pollinate your plants. Some gardeners choose to plant mint beds out of sight of one another which seems to be an effective way to keep them pure to their flavor.
#5 Lavender is used for everything from cooking to healing. Try growing this elegant herb
alongside your best flowers, or independently in a beautiful glazed pot. From shades of pink, purple, blue to white, lavender is a genuinely beautiful perennial herb.
Be sure to plant lavender with some growing room. You will be pleasantly surprised at how large the plants can become after a few years.
You will be shocked at how little water this herb really needs. This is why it does so well in the driest parts of the landscape. In fact, it’s not the cold of winter that can stress lavenders, but winter dampness, so give your plants plenty of drainage.
Designing Around Perennials
Perennial herbs are a great way to grow your landscape with far less effort than replanting each year. Consider sketching your garden design and include all of your permanent herb locations. This makes easy work of planning where the annual plants can fill in the empty spaces between the perennials.
If you have read this far, you definitely will be interested in the Free Gardening Class about herbs next Saturday here at Watters Garden Center.
August 11 @ 9:30 am “Herbs from Garden to Table” with guest instructor and local celebrity chef Deborah Maranville, owner of The Natural Healing Garden. She knows her herbs and uses them to create health-centered food choices that focus on utilizing local produce and delicious organic food. Join Deborah for a tantalizing cooking demonstration that will focus on the best techniques to get the herbs from your garden to spice up your cooking.
August 4 @ 9:30 am “Easy to Grow Roses” There are so many different roses to choose from–more than our grandmothers ever knew existed! Learn the differences between hybrid tea, floribunda, shrub, carpet, etc. Students will understand the best rose varieties, care, and placement for non-stop blooms. Free to local gardeners that want more fragrance & color in their yards.
If you can’t attend this class join the 1000+ viewers that watch the Livestream on Facebook. ‘Like’ the Watters page to be notified when we go Live.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners plant the freshest herbs, all available here at Watters Garden Center.