Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
October, 2003
Regional Report

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Mexican mint marigold doubles as a culinary herb with licorice-scented foliage, and a beautiful fall-blooming ornamental. Bay shrubs frame the entrance to this kitchen garden.

Now Is Prime Time for Planting Herbs

Herbs are wonderful plants with a lot to offer our gardens and landscapes. Here in the south, we can grow many wonderful herbs. In addition to their many culinary (and medicinal) benefits, herbs can be absolutely beautiful.

I love the red blooms of my pineapple sage (as do hummingbirds and several species of beneficial wasps). A tidy ground-hugging carpet of thyme; the burgundy/bronze, billowy foliage of bronze fennel; and the yellow fall blooms of Mexican mint marigold are a wonderful addition to our landscape.

Fall is prime planting season for many types of herbs. Perennial herbs planted now will have a head start when warm weather returns next spring and summer. Annual herbs can be grown in a bright windowsill or sunroom for ornamental and culinary use over the winter season.

Making a Place for Herbs in the Landscape
Many people plant herbs in the traditional geometric style garden. I prefer something of an eclectic design, or to mix them into the landscape. Either way, an herb garden invites visitors to slow down and stop to smell the, well ... the rosemary.

If you don't have space for a formal herb garden, there are still many ways to include herbs in your landscape plan. Many herbs work very well as ornamentals. Rosemary makes a great shrub, and the prostrate forms are quite decorative spilling over a rock wall. Other trailing herbs like thyme and oregano also make great spillover plantings.

Some herbs are great specimen plants. I love the wispy foliage of bronze fennel. Used as a backdrop for lower plants, its dark purplish color makes a dramatic impact in the landscape. Mexican mint marigold is another specimen herb. With the arrival of fall its green foliage bursts forth with a spray of yellow blooms, making it a focal point in the garden.

I like to include herbs in our decorative container plantings. Many are especially well suited to containers. This increases their versatility. By selecting containers of various shape and sizes, I create a grouping to turn a porch, patio, or walkway into a beautiful garden spot.

Herbs offer another benefit not often mentioned in articles promoting their use. They can be quite attractive to beneficial insects. Look closely at the tiny bloom stalks of thyme or cilantro, the daisy-like blossoms of chamomile, or the umbrella bloom clusters of fennel, tansy, or dill, and you'll notice a host of beneficial insects stopping in for a meal of pollen. Tiny parasitic and predatory wasp species, hover flies, and predatory bugs love these plants. I always interplant a few selected herbs in my gardens to hedge against many types of pests.

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