fennel in the summer with caterpillar in right corner
I grow fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, in my Virginia garden for many reasons. First of all, it is easy to grow from seed. In the garden, the plants can be showstoppers at five feet tall but sometimes they bend from the weight to weave among the perennials and shrubs. Their tubular stems mingle with the pumpkin vines on the ground or rest on top of the chrysanthemum shrubs while their green, fern-like foliage peak through the zinnias.
Throughout the summer, I can harvest the foliage for use in the kitchen. The leaves have an anise flavor and are good for flavoring fish and chicken dishes and root vegetables. Snips of the foliage can be sprinkled on salads, soup, eggs, and tuna salad sandwiches. Continue reading
Mint is a great plant to have, as long as you grow it in containers. It is very versatile — there are so many uses plus it is easy to propagate and make gift plants. Hardy to zone 5, they survive the winters well in containers here in Virginia. Continue reading
Happy Days! My breeding better herbs article was just published in the March/April issue of the American Gardener, the magazine of the American Horticultural Society (AHS). AHS is a great organization to join plus they have a bimonthly magazine, webinars, events, trips and a reciprocal admission program to public gardens. Here is the article and here is a link to the entire issue. Thank you AHS for publishing this!
Bunch of lemongrass culms wrapped in plastic
Every year at this time, I visit a local Asian supermarket and pick up a few turmeric and ginger rhizomes and a couple of lemon grass stalks. For a few dollars, you can grow these tropical herbs for the summer. It is important to start early inside as ginger and turmeric have very long growing seasons. It can take 8 to 10 months for the plants to fully develop in order to be able to harvest the rhizomes. Fortunately, they do not need the type of light structures you use to start seeds indoors. Continue reading
Anise hyssop (Agastache) is a pollinator magnet.
As you peruse the seed catalogs and plan your garden for 2022, keep the herbs in mind. There is sage advice that gardeners must plant native plants to support pollinators. While that is not bad advice, I have noticed that the culinary herbs I grow in my Virginia garden, the majority of which are not native to this country, attract bees, butterflies, and moths.
I have a few native herbs such as bee balm (Monarda) and hyssop (Agastache), which I grow for tea and edible flowers. But most of my culinary herbs, my garden staples, originate from abroad. Rosemary and lavender are from the Mediterranean area, lovage and salad burnet are from Europe, and oregano and savory are from the Middle East.
Anise hyssop (Agastache) is a bee magnet.
As we enter the fall season our thoughts turn to saving the plants we can and knowing where to cut our losses. Many people who have been growing herbs, especially in containers, are wondering how to overwinter them for next year. On Facebook, they are asking questions such as: Will the herbs make it over the winter, should they be removed or cut back, can they be saved somehow for next year? To answer these questions, there are three things to consider. Continue reading
Years ago, I was interviewing a long-time member of my local herb club for our newsletter. I asked her what her favorite herb was and she replied, “lovage.” I was surprised, Lovage is hardly a popular herb in this country. But she explained that lovage had many uses in the kitchen and was a good salt substitute. Ever since then I have been interested in growing and using lovage.
Anise hyssop or Agastache is a pollinator magnet.
This week, June 21-27, is Pollinator Week. Pollinator Week is an annual event celebrated internationally to support pollinator health. It is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what can be done to protect them. Here in the United States, people are often told to plant native plants to support pollinators. While that is not bad advice, I have noticed that the culinary herbs I grow in my Virginia garden, the majority of which are not native to this country, let alone Virginia, attract bees, butterflies, and moths. Continue reading
Cilantro in early spring
I love cilantro and I plant it every year. It is easy to grow from seed although one can find small plants at local nurseries. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a member of the carrot family. Because of its tap root, it is best to sow seeds directly in the garden bed or in a container. Often called Chinese parsley, the leaves do look like parsley but if you rub the foliage you will smell a citrusy/woodsy scent.
Known as the queen of lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena has the clearest, sharpest lemon scent in the world of herbs. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a tropical plant that we grow as an annual in the mid-Atlantic area. Native to South America, the Spanish brought the plant to Europe where it was primarily used in perfume. In fact, lemon verbena is mentioned in the famous book/movie, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Scarlett O’Hara’s mother Ellen used lemon verbena as her signature fragrance: “The faint of lemon verbena surrounded her, floating gently from Eleanor Butler’s silk gown and silken hair. It was the fragrance that had always been part of Ellen O’Hara, the scent for Scarlett of comfort, of safety, of love, of life before the War.” Continue reading