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Chapter Four - Herbs

The variety and versatility of herbs make them interesting landscaping material. Whole landscapes can be formed with herbal plants; a few tucked in with the vegetables; a couple in flower pots, or even forming special little gardens of their own.

The history of gardening with herbs is long and varied. Indeed, herbs were not grown for interest as we do today, but were grown out of necessity. These plants were used in everyday life. They are plants that were carefully brought to America by early settlers from all over the world, many of these naturalizing and becoming some of today's common weeds.

Herbs are often grown in theme gardens. Some of the more common themes used are culinary, medicinal, tea, aromatic and bee attracting. They even get as exotic as Shakespearian and biblical types. One particularly interesting effect is the silver or moonlight garden of Elizabethan origin, which is planted with just silver or gray colored herbs.

Another interesting historical form is the knot garden. It is an ornamental European garden form which achieved its high point in the sixteenth century. The idea is to arrange texture and colors of foliage in a manner that produces the appearance of cords looping over and under one another. This is a very work intensive garden to maintain, as everything must be pruned and sheared regularly.

Colonial gardens are interesting to recreate. They are often dooryard gardens, and are planted with the same plants the early settlers would have grown. This can include vegetables and fruits as well as a variety of herbs.

Herb gardens may be either formal or informal plots. For the formal garden, symmetry and perfect balance are essential. Elements of equal size and weight balance each other, and they must be neat, trimmed and precise.

The informal garden is casual in effect, but it must be carefully ordered and planned. It must bring into mutual relationship the various characteristics of the garden situation. This does not imply a naturalistic handling of the materials in the sense of unkept wilderness or jungle conditions.

Cultivation

Useful for every situation, there are herbs for sun, shade, dry or moist conditions. Herbs come in many forms: ground covers, shrubs, vines and hedges. Whatever your needs or habitat--there are herbs you can grow.

Herbs take particularly well to organic methods. Heavy fertilization and quick growth fertilizers make a lush, watery plant. Essential oils for which most of the plants are grown, are stronger in plants that grow slowly in a less fertile soil. This does not mean a poor, unfertilized soil, as many books indicate, but a moderately fertile soil. The ideal fertilizers being manure and compost.

The most universal requirement is good drainage. To check your drainage, dig a hole 18 inches deep and wide, fill it with water; if it still has water in it an hour later, your drainage is poor. This can be caused by underlying rock hardpan or a high water table. Adding organic matter to your soil will improve its water holding capacity and drainage. Another solutions can be to use raised beds.

The majority of herbs prefer full sun, but there are also many herbs for shady conditions. The following tables will help you plan your garden.

Herbs that will Grow in Shade or Partial Shade
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Ajuga Ajuga reptans P   Angelica Angelica archangelica B
Bee Balm Monarda didyma P   Catmint Nepeta mussina P
Catnip Nepeta cataria P   Cicely, Sweet Myrrhis oderata P
Comfrey Symphytum officinale P   Costmary Chrysanathemum balsamita P
Elecampane Inula helenium P   Good King Henry Chenopodium bonus Henricus P
Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea P   Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis P
Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria magalis P   Lovage Levisticum officinalis P
Lungwort Sticta pulmonaria P   Mints Mentha sp. P
Parsley Carum petroselinum B   Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium P
Periwinkle Vinca minor P   St. John's Wort Hypericum perforatum P
Sorrel, French Rumex scutatus P   Tarragon Artemisia dracunclus P
Valerian Valeriana officianalis P   Viola Viola tricolor P
Violet Viola odorata P   Woodruff, Sweet Asperula odorata P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbs that can be Grown in Dry Places
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Agrimony Agrimonia Eupatoria P   Bedstraw, Lady's Galium verum P
Blessed Thistle Carbenia benedicta A   Borage Borago officinalis A
Broom, Scotch Cytisus scoparius A   Burnett, Salad Sanguisorba minor P
Catmint Nepeta mussini P   Chamomile, German Matricaria chamomilla A
Chamomile, Roman Anthemis noblis P   Cornflower Centaurea cyanus A
Feverfew Chyrsanthemum parthenium P   Flax Linum usitatissimum P
Fleabane Erigeron speciosus P   Houseleek Sempervivum tectorum P
Mugwort Artemesia vulgaris P   Mullein Verbascum thapsus B
Nettle DeadLamium album P   Primrose, Evening Oenothera biennis B
St. John's Wort Hypericum perforatum P   Sage Salvia officinalis P
Savory, Winter Satureia montana P   Silver King Artemesia ludoviciana var. alba P
Southernwood Artemisia abrotnum P   Speedwell Veronica spicata P
Thyme Thymus vulgaris P   Wormwood Artemisia absinthium P
Yarrow Achillea sp. P  


* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbs that can be Grown in Moist Places
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Angelica Angelica archangelica P   Bee Balm Monarda didyma P
Christmas Rose Helleborus niger P   Cicely, Sweet Myrrhis odorata P
Elecampane Inula helenium P   Flag, Blue Iris veriscolor P
Lady's Mantle Alchemilla vulgaris P   Lovage Levisticum officinale P
Marshmallow Altheae officinalis P   Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria P
Mints Mentha sp. P   Parsley Carum petroselinum B
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium P   Periwinkle Vinica minor P
Poppy, Opium Papaver somniferum A   St. John's Wort Hypericum perferatum P
Speedwell Veronica officinalis P   Valerian Valeriana officianalis P
Viola Viola tricolor A   Violet Viola odorata P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbs for Low Edgings
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Basil, Dwarf Ocimum sp. A   Ajuga Ajuga reptans P
Catmint Nepta mussini P   Chives Allium schoenoprasum P
Germander Teucrium chemaedrys (Prostratum) P   Nettle, Dead Lamium album P
Parsley Carum petroselinum B   Primrose Primula vulgaris P
Savory, Winter Satureia montana P   Silvermound Artemesia schmidtiana nana P
Thyme Thumus vulgaris P   Woodruff, Sweet Asperula odorata A
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbs for High Edgings
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Basil Ociumum sp. A   Feverfew Chrysanthemum partheniun P
Germander Teucrium chamedrys P   Hyssop Hysoppus officinalis P
Lavender Lavendula vera P   Rue Ruta graveolens P
Sage Salvia officinalis P   Southernwood Artemesia abrotanum L. P
Wormwood Artemesia absinthium P  


* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbs for Ground Cover
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Ajuga Ajuga reptans P   Catmint nepeta mussinsi P
Chamomile, Roman Anthemis nobilis P   Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara P
Ground Ivy Glechoma Hederacea P   Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria magalis P
Nettle, Dead Lamium alba P   Periwinkle Vinica minbor P
Speedwell Veronica officinalis P   Viola Viola tricolor A
Violet Viola odorata P   Woodruff, Sweet Asperula odorata P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Tall Herbs for the Back
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Angelica Angelica archangelica B   Catnip Nepeta cataria P
Clary Sage Salvia Sclarea B   Elecampane Inula helenium P
Hollyhock Althea rosea B   Lovage Levisticum officinale P
Marshmallow Althea officinalis P   Mugwort Artemesia vulgaris P
Mullein Verbascum thapsus B   Tansy Tanacetum vulgare P
Valerian Valeriana officinalis P   Wormwood Artemesia absinthium P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbal Vines
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Clemantis Clematis virginia P   Hops Humulus lupulus P
Ivy Hedera helix P   Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Herbal Trees
Name Latin Name   Name Latin Name
Birch Betula alba   Cherry Prunus virginiana
Elder Sambucus nigra   Hawthorn Crataegus sp.
Horsechestnut Aesculus hippocastanum   Juniper Juniperus sp.
Linden Tilia europoea   Mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia
Pine Pinus sp.   Quaking Aspen Pupulus tremuloides
Willow Salix sp.  

Herbal Shrubs
Name Latin Name   Name Latin Name
Scotch Broom Cytisus scoparius   Highbush Cranberry Viburnum opulus
Juniper Juniperus sp.   Oregon Grape Berberis sp.
Rose Rosa sp.   Raspberry Rubus idaeus

Propagation

Since we are discussing such a wide range of plants, the ease of progagation has a wide range; from the ridiculously easy to extremely challenging. The majority of common herbs are fairly easy to propagate. Most can be grown from seed, some being seeded outdoors and some indoors. A plant should be obtained for some herbs as they either do not set seed or do not come true to the mother plant. These include tarragon, sorrel, comfrey and the mints.

Most seed is planted in the spring. The exceptions to this are sweet cicely, sweet woodruff and angelica, these should be planted in the fall to germinate in the spring.

The following table indicates plants that are most easily grown from seed. A name in italics indicates which plants should be sown indoors and then set outside after the danger of frost is past.

Herbs Grown from Seed
Name Latin Name Type*   Name Latin Name Type*
Alfalfa Meticago sativa P   Angelica Angelica archangelica B
Anise Pimpinella anisum B   Basil Ocimum basiliicum A
Calendula Calendula officinalis A   Catnip Nepeta cateria P
Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla A   Chamomile Anthemis noblis P
Chervil Anthricus cerefolium A   Chives Allium schoenoprasum P
Clary Sage Salvia sclarea B   Coriander Coriandrum sativum A
Dill Anethum graveolens A   Echinacea Echinacea purpureum P
Feverfew Chrsanthemum parthenium P   Florence Fennel Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce A
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis P   Lavender Lavendula vera P
Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis P   Marjoram Origanum majoranana A
Marshmallow Althaea officinalis P   Mullein Verbascum thapsis B
Oregano Oreganum vulgare A   Parsley Carum petroselinum B
Sage Salvia officianalis P   Summer Savory Satureja hortensis A
Thyme Thymus vulgaris P   Valerian Valeriana officinalis P
Viola Viola tricolor A   Violets Viola odorata P
* A=annual, P=perennial, B=biannual

Stem cuttings taken spring and early summer are the best method of propagation for other plants. Use of a rooting horomone, such as Rootone, will increase your success. The following tables indicates plants that root easily, all are perennials.

Herbs Grown from Stem Cuttings
Name Latin Name   Name Latin Name
Lavender Lavendula vera   Mints Mentha sp.
Oregano Oreganum vulgare   Pennyroyal Menta pulegium
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis   Sages Salvia sp.
Southernwood Artemesia abrotanum   Tarragon Artemesia dracunculus
Thymes Thymus sp.   Winter Savory Satureja montana

Herbs Grown from Root Cuttings, Bulbs or Corms
Name Latin Name   Name Latin Name
Autumn Crocus Colchicum autumnale   Comfrey Symphytum officinale
Garlic Allium sativum   Horseradish Cochlearia armoracia
Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria magalis   Orris Root Iris germanica
Tarragon Artemesia dracunculus  

Division is a good way to increase your plants. It is recommended that the majority of perennials be divided every three years. Some herbs are rampant growers and will need to be dug more frequently to keep them within the bound of your garden.

Herbs Grown from Division
Name Latin Name   Name Latin Name
Ajuga Ajuga reptans   Catmint Nepeta mussini
Chamomile Anthemis nobilis   Chives allium schoenoprasum
Comfrey Symphytum officinale   Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea
Hops Humulus lupulus   Lady's Mantle Alchemilla vulgaris
Lemon Balm Mellisa officianalis   Lovage Levisticum officianlis
Mints Mentha sp.   Mugwort Artemesia vulgaris
Periwinkle Vinica minor   Sorrel Rumex acetosa
Sweet Woodruff Asperula odorata   Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Thyme Thymus sp.   Tarragon Artemesia dracunculus
Valerian Valeriana officinalis   Violet Viola odorata
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium   Yarrow Achillea sp.
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