Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
June, 2011
Regional Report

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Rosemary, chives, and garlic from my garden await flavoring fresh roasted fingerlings.

Rosemary in All its Glory

Do you think there is a market for rosemary cologne? When I brush against the plant on the kitchen windowsill while watering my orchids, the scent lingers on my skin and makes me positively light up, at least with culinary possibilities if not romantic ones.

Zone Wars
If I could only grow one herb, rosemary would be the queen of my garden. The only negative aspect to rosemary that I can see is that it is not hardy in our zone 4 and 5 climates. Botanically it's a woody perennial, but its native Mediterranean climate is Zone 8. How I would love to have hedges of rosemary, but I'd have to move to California or Texas and I'm not ready to give up our seasons.

Rosemary Breeds
Rosemary is typically a small, rounded shrub, although there are countless cultivars available with different habits. I understand that there are nurseries in Italy that specialize in breeding rosemary, and some don't sell anything else. My plant is upright and I've no idea about the cultivar since I bought it (yes, I'll admit it) in the grocery store. Seldom does the greengrocer at my local market know much about the horticultural history of the things he sells.

Trailing Rosemary
The trailing types are perfect for pots. Picture the gray-green leaves in a hanging basket with trailing fuchsia petunias, 'Blackie' sweet potato vines, and soft white alyssum. I may just have to find one or two for my pots this summer.

On a Windowsill in Winter
All winter I keep my rosemary in a cool window and water it when I remember (usually about once a week). Many rosemary growers swear by misting the plant to mimic the foggy seacoasts of Spain and Portugal. I don't mist mine, I fertilize it only once in spring. Most of all, I pretty much ignore it except to take the pot out to the patio table in summer and bring it back to the windowsill for the winter. I've had mine about five years.

Cooking with Rosemary
But I do snip and snip and snip. It's absolutely become essential to me for cooking. Although it can be used dried, there is no match for fresh sprigs laid on chicken breasts while sauteing in wine, mixed with steamed shrimp to toss with warm pasta and fresh Romano, or added to warmed olive oil for dipping fresh Italian bread or foccacia.

Take Cuttings
I may try to take cuttings from my plant this year, to let everyone I know enjoy a fresh rosemary plant. And next time I dress to go out for dinner, I may just snip a sprig to dab my wrists and throat. We'll see if it just makes my dinner companions hungry or if they are intrigued by my new scent.

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