Tag: herbs

Rosemary Troubles

I have good luck with most herbs with the exception of rosemary. I cannot seem to get it right. It does okay for a short time, but then it gets gray and dies. I usually transplant into a clay pot using a good grade of potting soil, place in a sunny spot, and water only if it is dry. Rosemary is one of my favorites and I would like to figure out how to grow it successfully.
Kansas City, MO (zone 6)

Well, it certainly sounds like you are doing everything right. As a native of the Mediterranean, rosemary prefers a warm, sunny and dry environment which according to your question is exactly what you are providing.

Because you described the affliction as "gray" I’m suspicious that your rosemary had powdery mildew. It is a white, moldy looking fungus that is a common problem for rosemary. Powdery mildew tends to be more unattractive than fatal, but left unchecked it could kill a plant. Powdery mildew is most active during hot, humid weather. Placing your rosemary where it will get good air circulation will cut down on its occurrence. If it appears again, spray with a fungicide that is safe for edibles such as Garden Safe Fungicide 3. Continue to apply the fungicide every week until the problem is gone. I also recommend testing a small area first before you spray the entire plant.

Another thought is the potting soil is not draining well enough. This is a big concern with rosemary because too much moisture around the roots will cause the leaves and stems to turn brown and the plant will eventually die. Try a grittier mixture such as 1 part good quality potting soil, 1 part sand and 1 part humus.

Typically rosemary will not overwinter in your area. It freezes when temperatures dip below 25 degrees F. But it is an easy herb to grow indoors. Move it inside along with your houseplants in fall. Put it in a sunny window (south facing is ideal) and be careful not to overwater it. The roots can easily rot. An occasional misting can help if it gets too dry in your house.

Herbscaping with Parsley

Everyone is familiar with parsley as a cooking ingredient, but what you might not know is how useful it is as a design element in the garden.

When it comes to cooking, there are two main varieties of parsley and each has its own use. Curly-leaf parsley is mild in flavor and often used as a garnish for soups, salads, and other meals. Flat-leaf, or Italian, parsley is more flavorful and is often used as an active ingredient because it can maintain its flavors despite the cooking process.

This bright green herb is also an excellent source of Vitamins A, B, K and actually contains more Vitamin C than most citrus fruits! It boasts sufficient amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, and iodine its benefits to your health are both diverse and innumerable. It benefits seemingly every part of your body, from strengthening bones to aiding digestion, acting as an anti-inflammatory to preventing heart disease. I like to snip a bit to chew on because it also serves as a great breath freshener. Quite simply, we should all be eating more parsley.

And parsley is a great plant for herbscaping, too. Curly leaf is a bit hardier in the landscape, but both varieties work well as an edging plant for your garden or pathways. You can use one or both in a pattern, and they are a wonderful addition to a butterfly garden. Black swallowtail caterpillars are known to lay their small yellow eggs in the leaves of parsley and the larvae feed on the herb, making its popularity in butterfly gardens so sensible.

Wherever you use it, use it often and enjoy the flavors it adds to your kitchen and garden.

Solo Container

Pot up parsley in a large terra cotta container as a green accent for pathways, terraces and patios.

Planting Parsley with Cool Season Flowers

Parsley is an excellent plant for edging flower borders and raised beds.

Planting Parsley with Cool Season Flowers

Use parsley in plant combos as a green backdrop for colorful blooms or a neutral to bridge contrasting hues.

Herbscaping with Hot & Spicy Oregano

Looking for a little kick in your garden? Try this herbscaping project using the new Hot & Spicy oregano and get ready to spice things up.

Oregano of all varieties is known as a good groundcover and easy-growing, and the Hot & Spicy variety is no exception. What’s great about oregano is that it isn’t picky – it loves to grow in pots where it can spill over the side, but the trailing growing habit also serves well as edging for a path or as a seasonal ground cover. And boy will it spread – Hot & Spicy oregano can reach a height of 2 feet and a width up to 18 inches! In the summer white flowers appear against rich green leaves. It’s a lovely sight and the blooms are a favorite with bees and butterflies!

Hot and Spicy Oregano

Of course, this Hot & Spicy variety isn’t just pretty to look at. It has a delicious and strong flavor, like traditional oregano but with greater pungency. You can harvest the flower buds as they begin to form in midsummer, then dry the leaves or freeze them in ice trays or use them fresh! The flavor goes great with Mexican dishes.

Similar to other oreganos, Hot & Spicy thrives in well-drained soil and good sunlight, and in colder zones the plants die down in the winter and re-sprout the following spring.

Tips on Growing Oregano

More about Hot and Spicy Oregano

Growing Mint

Among all of the herbs I grow in my garden, mint requires absolutely the least amount of care.

I grow two main varieties, spearmint and peppermint. You can easily tell them apart by their distinct aromas and by their stems and leaves. Spearmint has a broader leaf, its stem seems to be a bit greener and the leaves are more crinkled. Peppermint on the other hand has a narrower leaf and its stems are a bit redder.

Beyond the traditional spearmint and peppermint there are an unbelievable number of varieties of mint with interesting names and subtle aromas. Like one called ‘Hillary Sweet Lemon Mint’ and for those with a sweet tooth there is chocolate mint. One of my personal favorites is apple mint. I like its fuzzy foliage. It also makes a nice addition to a flower arrangement.

No matter which mint you choose, they all prefer humus rich, consistently moist soil and full sun, although they will also do well in partial shade.

Over time, you may find that your plants can become tall and spindly. If this happens, just cut them back. I use scissors, but if you have a larger plot you can actually mow your mint with a lawn mower. This will cause the plants to produce lots of new tender shoots, where you’ll find the best flavor.

If you’ve ever grown mint, you know a little of this plant can go a long way because it is such a rampant grower. To keep it from invading other parts of your garden plant it in a bottomless plastic nursery pot that is at least 10 inches tall. The aggressive underground stems will be confined within the container. This will keep the mint from overwhelming other plants in your garden and you will still have plenty to use and share with your friends.

Colorful Containers of Mint

Among all of the herbs I grow in my garden, mint requires absolutely the least amount of care. The varieties that most of us are familiar with are spearmint and peppermint but there are an unbelievable number of varieties of mint ranging from fruity to sweet, so why limit yourself?

One of my personal favorites is apple mint. I like its fuzzy foliage, and it also makes a nice addition to a flower arrangement. For those with a sweet tooth, chocolate mint is a treat. It has a strong minty flavor and is often added to desserts or as a garnish. And when it comes to scents, orange mint can’t be beat. It reminds me of candied orange peel, blending a sweet citrus taste with lavender tones, and it is a favorite for scenting perfumes and soaps.

Flavored Mint
Mint does well when planted in containers, and so when I go to plant my mint I like to plant them in different colored pots to remind me which mint is which flavor. I use a brown container for chocolate, red for apple, green for spearmint, and of course orange for orange. No matter which mint you choose, they all prefer humus rich, consistently moist soil and full sun, although they will also do well in partial shade.

Once the mint is potted up, you can actually plant the container itself into the ground. If you leave the lip of the pot exposed the color will help you identify the variety, but the plant will be prevented from taking over.

Visit BonniePlants.com for the how-to on growing mint.

Lavender Selection with Gary Meehan

Gary Meehan and his wife Diane live in a picture perfect landscape at Bonny Doon Farm in Santa Cruz. Their house seems to float on a sea of lavender. The Meehans were kind enough to open their garden and share some of their favorite lavender varieties such as ‘Provence’ for its ease of care and the extra fragrant L. angustifolia.

Allen Smith: Now, Gary, I know you all did a lot of research, and you’ve actually done your own crosses here to find the best lavenders for Bonny Doon.

Gary Meehan: Yes, we have.

Allen: How do you recommend the average home gardener find the best lavender for their space?

Gary: I recommend that they take a look at their offerings of the local garden centers closest to their homes.

These people have gone to a great trouble to have the varieties that are climatized to their area.

Bonny Doon FarmAllen: Gary, is there a variety of lavender that you would recommend to the beginning gardener?

Gary: Absolutely, I’d recommend Provencal over any other variety because of the beautiful color, the traditional look it has.

Allen: It’s done very well for me this year in my mid-South garden where the weather can be quite humid. I had a bumper crop.

Gary: Same with us. Provencal must be the most vigorous plant of all of them. It has the nicest characteristics, truly, when you compare it to all.

Allen: Now, you grow a number of different varieties of lavender here. Which are some of your favorites?

Gary: I’d have to say my very favorite is the L. angustifolia that I believe is still the sweetest of all, maybe with a close second of the Provencal.

Allen: Now, some of these lavenders have more aromatic oils in them than others. Which of the varieties have better oils?

Gary: I would say, as far as the sweetness, you can always depend on L. angustifolia. That’s the variety of lavender that I like to see people cook with.

It’s the sweetest of oils and still enough color to suit most people.

Bonny Doon Farm is not open to the public but you can purchase other heavenly scented soaps and candles made at the farm on their website www.bonnydoonfarm.com.

Growing Lavender

I guess it is my love of the English countryside that makes me so fond of lavender. The fragrance of this plant always takes me back to some of my favorite gardens there.

It is one of those scents, like newly mown summer grass or a fresh snowfall that triggers an emotional response in me. If I had my way I would plant it with abandon, but unfortunately I’ve always struggled to grow it. Not to be defeated I have discovered that if I choose the right variety and plant it in containers I can have this cherished herb in my garden.

There are several species of lavender, with the most popular being English, Spanish, French and the lavandins. In my humid, mid-south garden I have had the most success with a lavandin called ‘Provence’.

No matter what the type, all lavenders thrive in growing conditions similar to their native habitat along the Mediterranean coast. They prefer moist, cool winters and hot, dry summers. Well-drained soil and a full day’s sun are also essential for robust plants and plentiful blooms.

Gardeners in the northern United States should select varieties that are cold tolerant. Some lavenders will survive temperatures as low as -10 degrees F. Another option is to plant your lavender in a container that can be brought indoors for winter. Just make sure that it receives plenty of light while indoors.

An additional perk to planting in containers is that you can control the soil quality. If your garden soil is like mine with heavy clay, potting up lavender is an easy way to satisfy this plant’s need for good drainage. A soil mixture of 1/3 sand, 1/3 topsoil and 1/3 compost works well and if you place a few shards from broken terra cotta pots in the bottom of the container before you add the soil, you will improve the drainage even more.

In the humid South, try Spanish lavender or French lavender. Both seem to be more tolerant of the steamy climate. As an extra precaution, make sure your plants are located where they will receive good air circulation. This will cut down on disease.

Although lavenders are native to the Mediterranean, they are not all that drought tolerant. It is important to give them consistent moisture, especially during the first few years while they establish a strong root system. Water low to the ground to keep moisture off the leaves and in early morning, around 5:00 a.m. is good. If you water during the heat of the day, moisture tends to evaporate before plants can soak up an adequate amount. Many people water in late evening or at night, but I prefer early morning because it gives plants a chance to dry before nightfall. And this can help cut down on problems with disease.

Like most herbs, lavender requires little feeding. You may find that it is beneficial to apply an all-purpose fertilizer in early spring as new growth emerges. It is also a good idea to lightly prune them at this time to keep them in shape. You can cut them back again in summer after they flower.

Lavenders to Try

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Hidcote’ – silvery grey leaves and deep purple-blue flowers, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Munstead’ – blue-purple flowers, compat grower, long bloom time, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Provence’ – light purple flowers borne on long wands, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grappenhall’ – dark violet flowers, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grosso’ – purple flowers, very fragrant, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, long bloom time, zones 8 -9, good choice for Southern gardens

Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, zones 8 -9, late spring bloom time, good choice for Southern gardens

To learn more about growing lavender, check out my YouTube channel!

Harvesting Lavender

I have planted some lavender and it is growing beautifully! I live in central Florida and I would like to know what I can do with it to get the wonderful aroma in my house. I have cut it and brought it in but it doesn’t seem to have the smell I was hoping for. Can you help me?

I, too, am fond of the aroma of lavender, and over the years I’ve learned a few tips for gathering the blooms for bringing indoors.

I have found that the key is knowing when to harvest the plant. I cut my lavender when the buds are swollen, but have not yet opened. And I collect my lavender mid-morning after the dew has burned off, but before hot temperatures set in. Aromatic oils burn off as the day heats up, reducing the scent.

Dry lavender by spreading it out on a cloth or mat in a warm room with no direct sunlight. The sun tends to bleach the color out.

Kid Friendly Herbs

The best way I can think of to get kids interested in gardening is to give them their own space where they can take ownership of what
they grow. That’s how I got hooked. My dad set aside an area in the backyard for me to grow vegetables. As the family sat around the
table we would name all the supper ingredients that came from my little vegetable patch.


  • Selecting plants is an exciting part of gardening so allow your children to pick out what they want to grow. You can help them by making suggestions of the easier things to grow.
  • Make the connection between the things they like to eat and plants that grow in the garden. Tell them how a tomato equals pizza, peppers make cheese dip and strawberries turn into ice cream.
  • Be sure to nurture their creativity and ideas even if they differ from your own.
  • Do fun projects in the garden like building a tee-pee trellis for vining plants or a scarecrow. Aluminum pie plate wind catchers are entertaining and will keep the birds away.
  • Note your kids’ activities around the garden and what interests them and capitalize on these to make it a positive experience for them.
  • Encourage their imaginations and make sure they have some successes, even if you have to work behind the scenes a little.
  • Most importantly, spend time in the garden with your kids. This is best encouragement of all.

Project: Easy Herb Window Pots

When it comes to plants, herbs are always a good choice for the young gardeners. They are easy to care for and herbs will introduce
children to fragrance, flavor, and texture.

Here’s a project that will get your kids off to a good start in the garden with herbs planted in brightly colored pails.

  • Bright colored metal pails
  • Potting Soil
  • Herbs
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Watering Can
  1. Using the nail and hammer, punch drainage holes into the bottom of the pails.
  2. Fill the pails about two-thirds full with soil.
  3. Plant a single herb in each pail and back fill with soil.
  4. Water well and add more soil as needed.
  5. Place the pails in a spot that will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.

Herbs for Children

All of these herbs from my friends at Bonnie plants have grown with relish in my garden and always delight the kids that come here to visit.

  • Spicy Globe basil has tiny, kid-sized leaves and makes a very tasty pesto.
  • Curly parsley is pretty enough to put in a vase and it freshens breath.
  • Mint grows so easily that sometimes it’s hard to contain but it has a wonderful, refreshing fragrance and flavor that tastes like toothpaste and can be used in candy and is good as a tummy settler.
  • Lemon thyme has a fragrance and flavor that youngsters will love, like lemonade in the summertime.
  • Sage has lovely blue flowers and has a strong connection to our friend the turkey and Thanksgiving.
  • Pineapple sage flowers smell and taste like chewing gum and butterflies love it.
  • Stevia, sometimes known as sweetleaf, is amazing when paired with other herbs and tasted together.

Spice Up Your Garden

Broaden your approach to gardening by growing easy-to-care-for herbs to use in your home.  Plant exotic culinary herbs, like coriander for enhancing Mexican food and cumin for Indian, or simply plant herbs you can use for everyday meal preparation.  Save money on scented products for the home by growing fragrant herbs like lavender, which can be cut for wreaths, potpourri and sachets.  Or make your own teas from dried herbs like mint.  Most herbs thrive in full sun and require at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight per day.  Whichever you choose, herbs are easy to grow and maintain – the more you harvest, the more the plant grows.

3 Great Ways to Grow Herbs

Raised Herb Garden DesignHerb Garden
Select a sunny spot to create this kitchen garden combination of dill, feverfew ‘Golden Ball’, red-leaf lettuce and purple cabbage.

1.    House herbs in a framed box made from 2 x 12 inch lengths of weather-resistant wood.

2.    Fill the box with nutrient-rich bagged soil and compost.

3.    Plant feverfew ‘Golden Ball’ or French marigolds along the edge of the bed to create a border.  Both plants have the added benefit of having aromatic oils that repel insects.

4.    Add to the center of the bed fast-growing dill, purple cabbage and red-leaf lettuce.

5.    Harvest dill seeds once the blossoms fade and use them in fish, egg or cucumber dishes.

Red Window Box Planted with HerbsHerb and Flower Window Box
Mix herbs and flowering annuals to create a window box that is both beautiful and practical.

1.    Buy herbs and flowers in 3- and 4-inch pots so you don’t end up with plants that are too big for the box you’re planting.

2.    Choose a window box made of decay-resistant material that is at least 6 inches deep by 6 inches wide.

3.    Put potting soil into the box until it is two-thirds full and then arrange the plants in the box to determine how to position them.

4.    Place tall, upright plants in the back, round and full plants in the middle, and trailing plants along the edges.

5.    After finding the right placement, take plants from pots and plant them in the desired spots.

6.    Fill in holes between plants with more soil, but make sure to keep it level an inch below the top of the container to avoid soil runover when watering.

Pots of LavenderSingle Planting Containers
Containers potted up solo style create a sophisticated way to display your herbs.  This method is also good if you only want to grow a few herbs or the plant has special growing requirements.

1.    Try container planting if you have limited space.  Just choose your favorite herbs and pop them in a pot.

2.    Use containers for finicky herbs, such as Spanish lavender, which require exceptional soil drainage and protection during cold weather.

3.    For the budget conscious, start out slow – try growing just a few herbs at a time.

Discover a World of Flavors

Pineapple Mint – Add the cream and green leaves of pineapple mint to chopped green and fruit salads, or use it as a pretty garnish for summer drinks.

Salvia ‘Icterina’ – Substitute salvia ‘Icterina’ for any recipe that calls for sage.  Its fresh leaves make a tasty addition to roast chicken or turkey.

Thyme ‘Doone Valley’ – Garnish light summer meals and salads with the fold-streaked leaves and delicate pink blossoms of thyme ‘Doone Valley’.

Lavender ‘Quasti’ – Flavor desserts like cakes, sorbets and ice cream with lavender ‘Quasti’, or use the highly fragrant foliage in potpourri or wreaths.

Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’ – Perk up grilled chicken with the drought-tolerant rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’.  The spiky leaves’ distinct taste enhances roasted potatoes as well.

Basil ‘African Blue’ – Grow basil ‘African Blue’ in containers – its flowers make a dramatic addition to a culinary bouquet.  Or use the leaves to top a favorite pasta.

Variegated Scented Geranium – Spike puddings and cakes with the range of fragrances (from lemon and lime to ginger or nutmeg) of variegated geranium leaves.

Chives – Use chive leaves and blossoms in your favorite dishes.  Chives are a mild-flavored relative of (and great substitute for) onions, garlic, and shallots.

Pineapple Sage ‘Golden Delicious’ – Try the bright yellow-green foliage of pineapple sage ‘Golden Delicious’ (it smells of pineapple) on pizza, focaccia, gnocchi or pasta.