These plants are a great start for your very own cocktail garden. Some require quite a bit of labor to yield beverages, like the agave and hops. But all will help create a fabulous patio haven.
• Blue agave (Agave tequilana). At 6 feet or taller, this large succulent, native to Mexico, can make a handsome smaller specimen plant in a container. It’s drought-tolerant and it needs a sandy or gritty, fast-draining potting medium, a sunny location and winter protection.
• Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Plant in a sunny spot, stake or cage it, and give it plenty of water and regular feeding. Any flavorful tomato produces a good tomato juice; some favorites for juicing include ‘Porter’, ‘Rutgers’, ‘Ponderosa Pink’, ‘Better Boy’ and many beefsteak varieties.
• Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). With glossy, marbled leaves, this plant can reach 5 feet or so in bloom, with a purple thistle flower head. It can be annual or biennial, and is hardy to Zone 7.
• Lovage (Levisticum officinale). This rock-hardy perennial, with its celery taste, can reach 5 feet by midsummer in sun or part shade. Propagate from seed or division.
• Hops (Humulus lupulus). A fast-growing, twining vine for a fence line, this is a perennial hardy to Zone 3. It needs a full-sun location and a deep, rich soil; start it from cuttings, suckers or purchased plants.
• Lime and lemon trees (Citrus hybrids and varieties). These small trees thrive in warm landscapes (Zones 8 and higher), although they are grown in other climates in pots on the patio and brought indoors for the winter, as most won’t tolerate a freeze. Needs a sunny location. Dwarf citrus varieties are available, including a dwarf Meyer lemon; try Makrut lime (C. ×hystrix) leaves, which are often used in Thai cuisine.
• Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). A mint relative with a lemony fragrance, this hardy perennial is best grown in a pot; it can be aggressive in the garden. Easy to grow from seed, cutting or division.
• Spearmint (Mentha spicata). This common garden mint, including such varieties as ‘Kentucky Colonel’, is easy to grow but a bit rambunctious, so it is best grown in a container. Start it from a cutting, a division from a friend, or a transplant from a garden center, as it does not set viable seed; adaptable, can grow in sun or part shade.
• Mojito mint (M. ×villosa), also called Cuban mint or yerba buena, is propagated by cutting or division. Keep your mints in separate containers, and harvest or prune regularly to continually force out new green growth and prevent flowering.
Contributing Editor Kathleen Halloran is a freelance writer and editor living and gardening in beautiful Austin, Texas.
Click here for the main article, Garden Spaces: Grow a Cocktail Garden.