Pretty plants in the landscape are great – and it’s even better when you can use them in cooking. Since in a few short weeks it will be time for fall planting – here are three lovely herbs for your landscape, and for pollinators too.
Plan to Plant in Fall
Once it no longer gets into the triple digits, it is time to think about planting in your landscape. Plant in fall and these plants will have a chance to become well established before the heat of next summer hits.
Three Herbs for the Landscape
A list of landscape herbs would go on extensively – and I love sharing them with you. (Be sure you are signed up for my “El Sol” newsletter to stay informed!)
This week we will look at three herbs that come to us from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. Why these three? Because on their native rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, they receive winter rains – in fact only winter rains, and then just hang out and tolerate summer drought. Don’t get me wrong – they will appreciate summer water! But they are very drought adapted for our region. I like to call them “Herculean Herbs” because they come from the lands where Hercules once roamed, and they are as tough as he was!
Herculean Herbs are Critter Proof
Not only tough and durable, these three herbs are good landscape plants if you have issues with javelina, bunnies, and other furry desert denizens. Once the plants are established, the critters leave these strongly scented herbs alone. (Freshly planted anything needs protection from critters for the first few months.)
The three Herculean Herbs discussed today are bay laurel, wall germander, and rosemary.
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is a lovely, slow growing evergreen tree – or tall shrub – with bright glossy leaves. Ancient bay trees that are centuries old still guard ancient Greek temples. If a citrus tree is too messy for you (like near a pool), try a bay tree. More pool-scaping here.
Unfortunatly for some readers, bay is cold sensitive, and if it dips below 26, some of the branch tips may die. This makes it fine for Low and Middle Desert landscapes. In Upper Elevations (even USDA zone 4) you can grow a bay tree in a container and bring it indoors for a houseplant in winter, if you have a sunny room. Looks much like a ficus tree, only edible.
If you don’t have room for a tree, no matter how small, how about a small shrub or groundcover? Germander and rosemary are low evergreens that are available in nurseries in both shrub and groundcover forms. Which you use depends on what look you want in your landscape.
Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) has small, round, shiny green leaves and pretty purple flowers that pollinators adore. There are also some silver leaved forms and a creeping form that fills in nicely as a groundcover. Germander is a touch heat sensitive and better for Middle Desert and even Upper Elevations (it snows in Greece!) In cooking, use germander anywhere you would use rosemary.
A popular landscape herb, rosemary is tough indeed. I have seen it in parking lots even, surrounded by hot asphalt and hanging in there. Rosemary has more of a blue-green color and needle-like leaves. If your eye longs for forest green and not the darker shades of rosemary, use germander instead in your landscape.
Rosemary comes in both upright (bushy) and creeping forms, so be sure you get the right one for the spot in your landscape.
Herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwestern landscape are numerous. I have already discussed some, like aloysia, the Mexican oregano – here. Be sure to visit Savor the Southwest (savortheSW.com) where a team of Savorists (including me) share how to use these herbs you grow in cooking.
There are a number of annual herbs you can plant in fall. They live through the winter and include many members of the carrot family – anise, caraway, dill, fennel, and parsley. Cilantro, so great in Mexican cooking, is also known as Chinese parsley or coriander. Posts on annual herbs coming soon!
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Read more about herbs in my book “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today” (Tierra del Sol Press). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Magic Garden, Mostly Books, Rillito Nursery, Tohono Chul, and Tucson Botanical Gardens. Call first to make sure they have copies left.
You can also buy Father Kino’s Herbs on Amazon (link). If you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.
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