Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme . . .

Tricolor Sage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Tricolor Sage (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

. . . are fabulous herbs, all.  However, by November the parsley is history and rosemary is stored safely inside, leaving sage and thyme to endure whatever Old Man Winter dishes out. During the milder winters, my sage remains evergreen and the thyme doesn’t brown until February.  Every year is a toss up, but whatever happens, these two herbs remain dependably attractive for much longer than the most durable perennials.  They smell great, feel great and add a much needed touch of texture that foraging critters shun.  What could be better during the dormant months ahead?

Berggarten Sage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Berggarten Sage (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Sage (Salvia officinalis), a bluish-grey leaved herb originating from the Mediterranean, savors hot, dry growing conditions.  Sage is not particular about soil quality; simply provide a sunny, well drained location in zones 5-8, and this herb will thrive. I adore Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’, a showy, golden variegated (zone 6) plant that continues to dazzle in a protected corner of our front stone wall.  I am also thrilled with the larger leaved Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’, which originated from the Berggarten mansion in Germany. The flavor of ‘Berggarten’ is substantially stronger than the smaller leaved sages, but I find it far too alluring to eat.  Instead, I pair this bold German introduction with other evergreens such as Euonymus and dwarf juniper, where its smoky leaves can take center stage in the landscape. Both ‘Tricolor’ and ‘Berggarten’ remain attractive through most of the winter in my New England garden, however, the less hardy ‘Tricolor’ tends to peter out after three to four years while ‘Berggarten’ has lasted almost a decade.

Wooly thyme and sedum in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Wooly thyme and sedum along walkway (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Quite the opposite of sage, thyme has tiny leaves and tends to keep to itself at the very edge of a walkway or garden border. Everything about thyme is harmonious; content to be tread upon and live happily on the edge without any care, except an occasional pruning to prevent legginess. If you grow wooly thyme, thymus pseudilanuginosus (try saying that one after a few cocktails), you will find it to be the most gracious, low growing and compact of all the thymes, perfect for foot traffic.  Along with wooly thyme, I also grow English thyme, thymus vulgaris, and I adore (as do my chickens) golden lemon thyme, thymus citriodorus ‘Aureus’ because of the rich lemony scent it emits when brushed with your foot (or beak). Thyme is happy in full sun zones 5-9, but well drained soil is crucial for a long life. Thyme has endured for over a decade in my gravel pathway and the only maintenance is a complete pruning at the end of winter (except for wooly, which doesn’t require any). Annual pruning promotes fresh healthy growth in spring and abundant bee and butterfly attracting flowers in summer.

Over the years, herbs have become some of my favorite garden plants due to their reliability, beauty, easy care and seasonal interest.  If your space is limited, you may grow these plants in a container, as well.  In full sun, they will provide you with interesting foliage and pleasant scents when stroked.  For both taste and texture, adding sage and thyme to your garden is a win-win ♥

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A Garden for All