Herbs are not just for cooking — many of them make beautiful ornamental plants for your landscape! Instead of planting a separate herb garden, you can incorporate herb plants into your flower beds, use them to line your sidewalk or driveway as an edging plant or even use them as evergreen shrubs! Think outside the traditional landscaping box by combining an edible plant’s functionality with its ornamental versatility.
An Herbal Evergreen Shrub…for the BBQ!
Barbeque Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbeque’) is so multi-talented that it could go on tour and entertain the masses! Fragrant, flavorful and flowering are three words that often describe rosemary. But did you know you can also plant this herb as an evergreen shrub in your landscape if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-10? Pruning takes on an all-new meaning with this plant when you cut the straight and sturdy stems to make naturally herbal-infused barbeque skewers!
Not your Typical “Lawn Grass”
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a staple in Asian cuisine, which you can grow in your own backyard! In the warmer climates of USDA zones 9-11, you can grow this herb year-round, and if you live outside this range, you can overwinter it indoors. Simmered in soups and stews, steamed with vegetables or steeped for tea, lemon grass lives up to its herbal tradition. But this grassy plant — a cousin to the turfgrass in your yard — is also an ornamental landscaping gem. The tall (up to 4 feet) arching leaves form a grassy backdrop in your flower beds or a cascading foliage accent in containers. Place lemon grass in the center of a large container as an upright plant, and use trailing plants on the outside of the container. If you use lemon grass in a container arrangement outdoors, you can more easily move the pots indoors over the winter.
A Blonde Bombshell Bursting with Possibilities
Platinum Blonde Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia ‘Platinum Blonde’) is a new introduction to the lavender family. Forget the mental image you have of “traditional lavender plants,” because this plant has a look all its own. Although Platinum Blonde Lavender has beautiful purple flowers that are similar to other lavender plants’ blossoms, it marches to the beat of a different drummer with less-than-conventional variegated leaves! Each green leaf is outlined by a creamy-white margin, making Platinum Blonde a superior ornamental plant. Use the dried flowers and leaves in sachets or potpourri bowls to savor the fragrance year-round.
Edible Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a coveted culinary and medicinal herb. Unlike other herbs, which are valued for their leaves and stems, the fleshy rhizomes of ginger that grow at ground level are what you purchase as “ginger root” at the market to use in your favorite dishes. The part of the plant that you see above ground — the three-to-four-foot foliage — is the ornamental treasure of this herb. Use ginger’s foliage to give a tropical look to a semi-shady garden or container. As the rhizomes multiply over the plant’s long growing season, they send up more leaves to fill in a garden area or container.
Tips & Helps
- Most herbs like the soil a little on the dry side; too much water means the early death of plants like rosemary and lavender. But even lemon grass, which prefers soil a bit moister, grows best in well-draining soil that other herbs also require.
- Raised beds and container gardens are herb-friendly environments. Because they’re elevated, beds and containers give herbs the drainage they need.
- Even though some herbs, such as rosemary, have tiny flowers, butterflies love them! Consider adding herbs to your butterfly garden to complement other annual and perennial flowers.
- Skip the chemical pesticides. Most herbs are naturally pest-resistant, plus if you’re going to harvest your herbs to use in the kitchen, you may not want to infuse pesticides into your food!