Of all the plants we have sold over the years, herbs definitely draw the most attention. And for good reason, the uses are too many to list, most are extremely hardy, and they are beautiful. For a beginner gardener, herbs are a great place to start because of the ease of growing.
Before I get into the different aspects of herb gardening, I would like to clarify some vocabulary words:
Herbs are generally grown in all temperate regions of the planet. For the most part, it is the aerial parts, roots, and blossoms of these plants that are used for cooking, medicine, and fragrance.
Spices, on the other hand, are grown around the equator and it is the seeds that are used for the fragrance, cooking, and medicinal qualities. But then to muddy the waters, you have some plants that are both. Cilantro is an herb as you use the leaves in your cooking but, if you let it go to seed then you have Coriander- a spice.
Now, some herbs are herbaceous and some are not. Herbaceous means that the green plant parts die back to the ground each winter and the roots put out new plants each spring.
Now, let’s get planting. Regardless if your yard or garden is shady, full sun or somewhere in between, there are herbs for you to grow. The things to consider as you choose you plants are their origin, water requirements, growth habits, and their function. Each of these factors will determine what plants you choose and where you put them.
Understanding where herbs come from will tell you a lot about the growing conditions they will need. If a plant originates in the Mediterranean region, you can bet it will be a tough plant that has relatively low water requirements, sun loving, and tolerant of poor soils. Lavender, Rosemary, and Oregano are examples of such plants. I had a Rosemary plant that doubled in size in the worst drought in Texas history with no extra water. Needless to say, when folks come to me asking about tough shrubs that will tolerate our heat- I recommend Rosemary.
On the other end of things, if a plant is naturally found in moist woodlands, you will need to provide a shady spot with rich soil for that herb. Goldenseal is an example of just such an herb. Their origins also point to their water requirements.
Obviously, you don’t want to put a plant that likes dry conditions with a plant that needs regular watering. Thus, mint and lavender are not good roomies. Mint with Calendula or Pineapple Sage are good choices for a container. Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary are good buddies with greek oregano acting as a ground-cover in a sunny spot.
Just as you would plant a flower garden with tall plants being at the back and low growers being located at the front, these same considerations need to be given to the growth habits of herbs. There are so many sizes and shapes to choose from along with blossom color, scent, and function.
Let your imagination be free, there are no rules. If you like the formal gardens with clipped boxwood as edgings, then plant that type of garden. For those of you with free spirits drawn to the rambling, free forms of plants then plant away and enjoy the seed heads blowing and nodding in the breezes. Joy is one of the great harvest reaped from herbs. Some things you plant will die. Don’t let that discourage you, plant again. If it lives and thrives, plant more of it.
Herbs I love in Texas:
Thyme- creeping lemon, Sage (Salvia Officinallis), Italian Oregano, Lemon Balm, Citronella, Mints, Salad Brunet, Parsley, Texas Tarragon, Roses, Lemongrass, Anise Hyssop, Borage, Dandelion, Dill to name a few.