Herbs for Ornamentation and more…

Herb Garden | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Herbs Together (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

Some pronounce it “erbs”, some say “herbs”.  Whatever.  There are some phenomenal herbs out there that are both beneficial and beautiful in the garden setting, no matter how you pronounce them.  Since I grow them ornamentally, I can’t share their medicinal and culinary benefits from a personal perspective.  But I can certainly entice you with their visual attributes!   And, if you want to try them for other purposes, all the better.  Here are a few of my favorite herbs to add visual interest to your garden:

Lovage | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Lovage (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

Plant to grow and Lov-age:   I was attracted to Lovage  Levisticum officinale because of its interesting upright form and lemony-green serrated edged leaves.  Now in its second year in my garden, there is so much more to love.  Said to be one of the largest of all kitchen herbs, this striking plant has grown to over 4′ tall and is now producing multiple golden flowers at the top of its far reaching stems.  I would consider it to be a close runner up to angelica as far as architectural form goes.  As a habitual crowder that loves to “pack ’em in,” this is NOT the plant.  Lovage stakes its claim on a garden territory, makes its presence known to the surrounding plants and no one dares to invade its space!

There are numerous recipes and other great facts and tips for Lovage, far too many to list in a paragraph.  Here are a few highlights; leaves can be used in salads or soups and the root can be eaten as a vegetable.  The seeds can be used to season foods and if left on the plant you can expect to see some baby lovages in your garden next year.  The flavor resembles celery and is called the Maggi plant (after the seasoning) in Europe.

Fennel- Foeniculum vulgare – My choice is the bolder colored Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurescens’) with extremely showy, delicate airy foliage that complements the bolder forms in the garden.  Fennel floats into different areas of the garden, gently caressing its fellow bed mates as if to say “I’m here if you need me.”   Bronze fennel was so adored by the Spanish explorers of the 1600’s that they spread seed from one end of California to the other in order to ensure its future there.  Evidently, it is so prolific now that it is considered a weed.  Centuries ago, fennel was also considered an excellent plant to ward off evil spirits.

Fennel | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Fennel (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

My present day discovery was that there is an herb form-this is the one I grow-and a vegetable form.  Here is the difference: the herb form, called Foeniculum vulgare, is a perennial (zones 4 – 9) that grows to about 4′ tall and the leaves and the seeds are used for cooking.  The vegetable form, called Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum, or common name Florence Fennel, is a shorter annual/biennial with an edible bulbous root.  Either one is an attractive addition with their unusual feathery texture and both will attract the Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Garlic for ornamental reasons– Garlic is one of my favorite herbs, so much so that there isn’t much I don’t use it with.  I cook it mixed with broccoli rabe, insert it in pork and beef roasts before cooking, mashed potatoes, salad dressing, well, just about everything but ice cream and cereal.  But, I grow garlic for ornamentation only in my gardens and I buy garlic at the stores for eating.  The reason?  I planted some cloves a few years back, telling myself I would harvest them.  But when I saw how neat they were as they swirl and twirl around like happy ballet dancers, well I just couldn’t do it.  Pull them out and eat them, that is.  Instead, I enjoy them from afar and delight at the way they create such an uninhibited form in the garden.  Although I sometimes ponder how delicious those old bulbs would be …

To plant garlic, simply purchase fresh locally grown garlic and plant the individual cloves a few inches under the soil in the late fall.  You should be able to harvest next summer, but will you????

(Update:  I just got back from the farmers market where garlic ‘scapes’ abound.  Scapes are the swirly stems I’ve been talking about.  If you’re willing to cut a few, according to the folks I talked with, they pack almost as much wallop as a fresh garlic clove and can be used the same way: in salads, pesto, on bread, etc.) ♥

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