Mother Earth Living

Herbs in the Southern Garden: 10 Great Herbs for Southern Gardens

Create a colorful Southern-style garden
By Tom Peace
March/April 1999
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In high-contrast plant­ings, perilla and silver ­plectranthus make good bedfellows.
Photo by Tom Peace
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10 Great Herbs for Southern Gardens

1. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’. Beautiful silver foliage; tolerates southern heat and humidity.

2. Artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Bold silver foliage for the winter garden.

3. Basils (Ocimum spp.). Herbs that excel in southern gardens; wide range of colors and flavors to choose from.

4. Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus). Its succulent round leaves stand in for regular oregano in humid climates.

5. Double-flowered soapwort (Saponaria officinalis ‘Plena’). Pink flowers light up a shady spot.

6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Spice, medicine, and architectural form in a single plant.

7. Kava-kava (Piper methysticum). Big, heart-shaped leaves for your tropical paradise.

8. Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida). A tarragon substitute with tiny golden marigolds.

9. Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). Clumps of linear green or variegated leaves topped by lavender flowers.

10. Sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas cvs.). Heat-defying foliage in your choice of colors.

Other bold foliage accents for the winter season include Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, bok choy, kale, and cabbage. Depending on how cold it gets where you live, some or all of these plants will add zest to your garden during the cool season while warm-season plants lie dormant. Brilliant ruby-red stems of chard excite the garden and make a lively contrast for annual phlox, California poppies, and bluebonnets. I enjoy the rich bronze tones of mustard leaves such as ‘Osaka Red’, and the luminescent garnet-colored lettuce varieties, which add depth and drama to jewel-toned flowers. Calendula, bluebonnets, and borage make fine bedmates for these red-leaved companions, as do flashy nemesias in frost-free zones.

Although ornamental kale receives a lot of attention at the garden centers, there are more interesting textures and colors to be found in traditional garden edible varieties. The gunmetal leaves of the red cabbage, for instance, are to die for, especially when in the company of winter annuals that reflect their beauty.

The frilled, feathery foliage of green ‘Winterbor’ or purple ‘Redbor’ kale is a joy in the garden and a smashing backdrop for early spring daffodils. ‘Red Russian’ produces pastel blue scalloped leaves that transform to reddish purple in a chill and keep time with the developing linear leaves of Dutch and rhizomatous irises.

Click here for the original article, Herbs in the Southern Garden.

Designer and plantsman Tom Peace splits his time between Texas and Colorado. His book on southern gardening, published by Fulcrum Press, is scheduled to appear in bookstores in 2000.








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