By Erica Glasener – networx.com
I admit it, I live to eat. I also enjoy cooking and having fresh herbs to use for soups, stews and salads. With this in mind I grow herbs in pots and in the ground. As far as I’m concerned one can never have too much basil, parsley or rosemary. The good news is that many of these large herbs are easy to grow and not only are they tasty but they are pretty in pots whether you grow them on their own or combine them with other herbs and flowers.
For best growth and production most herbs need full sun (4 to 6 hours of direct sun) and excellent drainage but you don’t have to have a big garden to grow them. A balcony or window box will suffice. Depending on what part of the country you live in there are annual, biennial and perennial types.
1. Giant Italian Parsley
Giant Italian parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial in Zones 6 to 9, but often grown as an annual. I prefer the taste and look of this giant flat leaf parsley to that of the more common curly parsley. Plants get large and bushy and produce many leaves. In mild climates it stays evergreen all winter.
Another evergreen herb, native to the Mediterranean, is rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). A perennial in Zones 8 to 10, it is great for seasoning meats and vegetables. Its delightful scented leaves make it a welcome addition to flower arrangements too. While often seen in small starter pots, rosemary plants will become bush-size if allowed to flourish.
Winter hardy in Zones 5 to 10, sage (Salvia officinalis) can grow 2 to 3’ tall or taller and 2’ wide. This aromatic herb is popular for seasoning meats, sauces and vegetable dishes.
4. Lemon Balm
Also known for its fragrance is the perennial herb lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) hardy in Zones 4 to 9. The lemon scented leaves are popular for making teas or adding to baths for a calming effect. Plants easily grow to 2’ tall.
If you love lavender scented soaps and sachets, try growing some of your own lavender, including the cold hardy English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia); perennial in Zones 5 to 9 and popular as a companion for roses. Spanish or French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has large showy purple flowers and is also aromatic. Both of these lavenders are good candidates for containers.
6. Large Leaf Italian Basil
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a popular herb used (both fresh and dried) for Italian cooking including pizzas, salads, sauces and pesto. Large leaf Italian or lettuce leaf basil (Ocimum basilicum var. crispum) has leaves that look lettuce-like and can be up to 3 to 4 inches long on plants that grow up to 2’ tall. This annual can be started from seed indoors (under grow lights) in late winter and transplanted to the garden or a container outdoors, once the fear of frost is passed. For a contrast try growing the large purple sweet basil too.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a perennial herb in Zones 4 to 9. The aromatic leaves are used to season soups, salads, liqueurs and stews. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Like rosemary, this herb will grow as high and wide as a small bush.
About the Author
Erica Glasener is an Atlanta gardener and horticulturist.