Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
February, 2001
Regional Report

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Rosemary plants are great for their culinary uses in winter, and the smell of their leaves reminds me of the summer days to come.

Versatile Rosemary

Do you think there is a market for rosemary cologne? When I brush against the plant on my 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.

Where It Grows

If I could grow only one herb, rosemary would be the queen of my garden (okay, I've been known to wax rhapsodic about basil, too). The only negative aspect to rosemary is that it's not hardy in our USDA zones 4 and 5. It's botanically a woody perennial and is native to a zone 8 Mediterranean climate. How I would love to have a rosemary hedge, but I'd have to move to California or Texas to grow it.

Types of Rosemary

Rosemary is typically a small, rounded shrub, although there are countless cultivars available with different habits. 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.

I do covet the trailing types - I think they're marvelous for containers with brilliant trailing petunias, 'Blackie' sweet potato vines, clear white begonias, and any manner of blooming plants.

Rosemary Care

In 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, and most of all, I pretty much ignore it except to take the pot out onto the patio in summer and bring it back to the windowsill in fall. It's thrived for 5 years on my neglect.

Rosemary in Cooking

I do regularly snip the shoots for cooking. It's become an absolutely essential ingredient in my kitchen. Although it can be used dried, there is no match for fresh sprigs laid atop chicken breasts sauteing in wine, steamed shrimp tossed with warm pasta and fresh Romano cheese, or simply added to warmed olive oil for dipping fresh Italian bread or foccacia.

Making More Plants

My plant has a good flush of new growth, so I'm going to take cuttings this month to start new plants for Mother's Day gifts. Everything I've read says that they should root in about 10 days as long as I use a loose potting mix and don't keep the cuttings too wet.

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 makes my dinner companions hungry or if they are intrigued by my new scent.

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