Herbs for Ornamentation and more…

Herb Garden | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Herbs in the border (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

Some say “erbs”, others say “herbs,” but no matter how you pronounce it, there’s nothing silent about the presence of herbs in the garden. Herbs not only provide an ornamental and edible aspect to the garden, they’re useful as a critter repellant as well. Since I grow them mainly for their ornamental attributes, I can’t share their many medicinal and culinary benefits from a personal perspective. I can, however, entice you with their visual characteristics. And, if you want to try them for other purposes, all the better!  Here are a few of my favorite hardy herbs for adding visual interest to your garden:

Lovage | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Lovage (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

Plants to grow and Love-age:  I was first attracted to Lovage, Levisticum officinale, because of its dynamic upright form and bright, lemony-green serrated leaves.  Now in its tenth year in my garden, there is so much more to love about this zone 4-8 temptress. As one of the largest of all kitchen herbs, lovage’s striking 4-foot stature displays multiple golden flowers atop far reaching stems every summer. Architecturally, you could consider lovage to be a close runner-up to dramatic forms such as Angelica. This herb is worth the real estate she requires (around 3 feet in diameter) because, in addition to her good looks, she also puts out . . . on the herb front, that is.

Just about every part of lovage is edible, from her flowery head (seeds can be used for seasoning), to her limbs (leaves have a wonderful celery flavoring for soups and salads), right down to her toes (the root can be eaten as a vegetable). No matter how you enjoy lovage, you’ll find she’s worth the space.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare – There is nothing quite like the presence of richly colored bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurescens’) bravely waving its delicately airy foliage among the stronger members in the garden. Bronze fennel weaves its coppery-hued stems into different areas, gently caressing its fellow bed mates as if to say “I’m here if you need me.”

Centuries ago, fennel was also considered an excellent plant for warding off evil spirits, but there are other options for this anise-flavored beauty; both in the taller herb form, which is the one I grow, and the shorter vegetable version.

A Nice Back Stretch in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A swallowtail caterpillar enjoys fennel (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The difference between the two is that the herb form, Foeniculum vulgare, is a pretty reliable perennial (zones 4 – 9) growing up to 4 feet tall, with edible leaves and seeds. The vegetable form, Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum, or common name Florence Fennel, is a shorter annual/biennial (zones 5-9) with an edible bulbous root.  Either one is an attractive garden addition with their unusual feathery texture and both are a preferred food for the black swallowtail caterpillar.


Garlic Allium sativum – Common garlic is a bulbous member of the onion family, and one of my favorite herbs. 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. In my garden, garlic is reserved for ornamentation only, while I buy garlic locally for eating. The reason?

Red bee balm mingles with garlic scapes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Red bee balm mingles with garlic scapes (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I planted some cloves a few years back, telling myself I would harvest them. But when I saw how interesting their scapes were as they swirled and twirled around like happy ballet dancers, I just couldn’t pull them out and eat them. 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?

Container with Zinnia, Curry and Fennel in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Container with Zinnia, Curry, Fennel and caterpillar (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Container Herbs – If your sun or space is limited, you can grow smaller herbs in containers. With proper sun exposure (most prefer at least 6 hours), they’ll provide you with delightful foliage and pleasant scents whenever you’re near.  I grow fennel, thyme, sage, oregano, lemon verbena and lavender in containers combined with annuals in the summer, switching to hardy perennials (such as heuchera, hyssop and dwarf aster) in the fall. Frost-safe container gardens look wonderful until early winter, when you can safely transplant and fill your empty containers with fresh greens until spring.

Over the years, herbs have become some of my favorite garden plants due to their reliability, beauty, easy care and seasonal interest. Many herbs remain dependably attractive for much longer than the most durable perennials. They smell great, feel great and add a much needed textural aspect that foraging critters shun. What could be a better addition to your garden this year ♥

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