Rosmarinus officinalis, sometimes known as the “wonder-herb” has been used variously as a medicine, body perfume, anti-inflammatory, food preservative, stimulant, hair conditioner, memory enhancer, ornamental shrub, and of course as a culinary ingredient. Being a member of the Mint family Lamiaceae, it is closely related to the Sages and bears many of the same characteristics: opposite leaves, aromatic foliage, and attractiveness to bees. Additionally, we can take a clue from its native habitat of dry scrub lands in the Mediterranean region and include it in our drought tolerant landscape plans.
Rosemary is one of the most prized culinary herbs, and is especially popular in Mediterranean cuisine. The leaves have a bitter, astringent taste which complements fatty foods such as lamb and oily fish. It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes but is most often used as a dressing for roast meats. In Italy butchers often include free sprigs of rosemary when selling meat. Its branches are also used as an aromatic herb to add flavor when grilling or smoking. Our favorite varieties for this purpose are ‘Tuscan Blue’, and ‘Barbecue’.
This tough Mediterranean shrub needs a sunny position and soil that doesn’t become waterlogged. It is accustomed to long, hot summers in its natural home and can withstand periods of drought, making it suitable for containers as well as sunny borders. The new growth is soft and flexible but older stems become woody and this plant can form a substantial trunk in time. It makes a great companion with sages and thymes, luring bees and occasionally hummingbirds to sip its nectar.
The trailing varieties ‘prostrata’ and ‘Irene’ can drape down over a wall. Upright varieties can be sheared into hedges. Pine scented varieties add an olfactory forest. And pink or white varieties contrast nicely with the more common lavender blues. All are beloved by honeybees, so a word of caution to small, grabbing hands, or people with sting allergies.
Berkeley Hort stocks a nice selection of varieties in both 4 inch, and one gallon sizes. Come have a look!