Glamorize your Garden with Spring’s Herbal Starlets

Gather inspiration for your spring garden with these uncommon treasures.

| December/January 2007

Since childhood, I’ve had a passion for exciting new herbs in my garden, exotic aromas and flavors in my cooking, and plenty of travel to see what other people are growing in their gardens.

As you might imagine, this quest has resulted in a repertoire that is rich and deep. Here are a few of my newer favorites, selected because they are showy, exotic or a complete treat for the senses.

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri). Other names include brahmi and moneywort. It has been used as a medicinal herb to improve mental clarity and memory. (This plant is different from the flowering bacopa that is commonly grown in hanging baskets.) In India, it has been used traditionally as a remedy for the treatment of epilepsy and insanity. Herbalists have used it for swollen mucus membranes, bronchitis, diarrhea and rheumatism. Bacopa is a fast-growing succulent, an annual creeping herb found in wet places throughout the Indian subcontinent. Easy to grow in pots, it is hardy to Zone 8 and in colder climates can be grown outdoors as a summer annual.

Note: Bacopa is a restricted noxious weed in California. Check with your county extension office for regulations in your area.

‘Primadonna’ echinacea (Echinacea purpurea ‘Primadonna’). Echinacea grows across the Ozarks as a native plant. It’s tough, growing in rocky soil where not many other plants will grow. In midsummer, when the weather is hot and the days are long and contrary, 24- to 30-inch bloom spikes arise, the flowers unfurling into daisylike blossoms that stay in bloom for weeks. This impressive new series of echinacea from Germany has an abundance of large flowers and, like its native parents, has good heat and drought tolerance. ‘Primadonna’ attracts butterflies and is an excellent cut flower. You have the choice of deep rose and white ‘Primadonna’ echinacea, both of which will be stunning additions to your summer garden. Hardy to Zone 3.

‘Nectar’ hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘Nectar’). This excellent new hyssop is hardy in Zones 3 through 9 and is easy to grow from seed. The plant’s highly fragrant flowers appear the first season if sown early and are excellent for cut flowers or dried arrangements. ‘Nectar’ is available in blue, rose and white, and you can grow all three colors in one bed for a delightful color combination. Like many hyssops, ‘Nectar’ attracts butterflies and is a tasty tea plant, as well.

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