Rosemary is a magnificent plant with a long history.
Dioscorides, the first-century Greek physician, recommended it for its "warming faculty." Christians associated the plant with Mary, who, according to legend, draped her cloak over a rosemary bush on the Holy Family's flight to Egypt. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance...." Today, we think of rosemary primarily as a kitchen herb. It is outstanding with lamb or chicken, great with baked potato spears, and makes a refreshing summer drink. Whatever your interest--medicinal, cultural, or the table--there's bound to be a rosemary connection with it.
There are many varieties of rosemary from which to choose, but letís first look at two basic types. Rosmarinis officinalis commonly refers to the upright varieties of rosemary. These usually grow 18-24 inches high. While they may get bushy, their main direction of growth is vertical. R. officinalis prostratis refers to prostrate or creeping rosemary which, as its name suggests, tends to grow close to the ground. It is a useful plant for rock gardens and hanging baskets. Both varieties are great for cooking.
About two dozen upright and a dozen creeping rosemarys are commonly for sale. The upright varieties include Miss Jessup, Tuscan Blue, White, Benedin Blue, and Pink. Miss Jessup is one of the most vertical varieties and has rather larger leaves than the others. It has excellent blue flowers. Tuscan Blue and Benedin Blue also have blue blossoms, but their leaves tend to be smaller than Miss Jessup, something you may want to consider if you need to chop a lot of rosemary for a recipe. The White and Pink varieties are interesting for their unusual flowers. Plant rosemary in a sunny area with well-drained soil.
One of the most interesting prostrate rosemarys is Collingwood Inghram (also sold simply as Inghram). A vigorous grower, it has exquisite dark blue--sometimes almost purple--flowers. It usually flowers in August and is an excellent plant for a hanging basket.
Most rosemary is hardy to 15-20 degrees. In regions of the country where temperatures permit, rosemary makes a superb landscape plant. In southern California, creeping rosemary is commonly used as a ground cover. And at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill some long-lived upright varieties are four feet high and five or six feet in diameter. A few varieties--Arp, Hillís Hardy, and Furneaux Hardy--are hardy to minus 10 degrees. They benefit from being planted in a protected location next to a wall or fence, or from being wrapped or mulched for the winter. In March, these plants should be trimmed back by about one third and shaped. Give them a little balanced fertilizer and watch them grow!
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Willow Pond Farm Herbs & Everlastings
home of Lavender Festival "Lite," June 8 & 15, 2013
Tom and Madeline Wajda, proprietors
145 Tract Road, Fairfield, PA 17320 USA
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