The Essence of Rosemary: Rosemary Hall of Fame

The signature scent of the season can boost your mood, flavor food and, possibly, make you smarter.

| December/January 2009

  • For superior flavor, try 'Tuscan Blue.'
    Saxon Holt
  • 'Taylor's Blue' can be shaped to form a holiday evergreen.
    Saxon Holt
  • 'Joyce DeBaggio' adds showy color to garden beds and borders.
    Saxon Holt

Rosemary is easy to grow in the garden or pot. Give this Mediterranean native full sun and well-drained, slightly alkaline soil and it will be quite content. The difficult part is choosing which rosemary to grow.

With more than 30 varieties from which to choose, finding the best rosemary for your gardening and cooking plans can be daunting. The varieties described here are a good start, but also check with a local greenhouse grower. You might discover locally popular strains with original names. Where I live, for example, the most widely planted trailing rosemary is ‘Over the Edge’.

Most Beautiful

For good branching structure in a container, try ‘Herb Cottage’ or ‘Blue Spires’. Both are easy to keep trimmed and tidy. Young plants of most varieties of rosemary can be trained to wire topiary forms; the twisted stems of ‘Blue Lady’ are fun to grow as dramatic bonsai plants.

In the garden, the white stems and flowers of ‘Alba’ create a luminous glow that can be used to great effect when contrasted with red basils or mounds of dark green curly parsley. If you dare, try the opposite approach by placing the chartreuse leaves of ‘Joyce DeBaggio’ against a dark green background. And, although truly huge specimens can only be grown in Zones 8 and 9, head-high hedges of ‘Tuscan Blue’ are year-round workhorses in Sun Belt landscapes.

Creeping rosemary billowing over a stone wall or carpeting the edges of a hypertufa container is a mesmerizing sight. Creeping rosemary tends to have plenty of piney scent but lacks the cold tolerance and balanced sweet/savory flavor of upright varieties. For a spreading growth habit and good flavor, consider a semi-upright grower, such as white-flowering ‘Nancy Howard’ or ‘Mrs. Howard’s Creeping’, which produces repeat flushes of blue blossoms.

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