Mediterranean Majesty

Rosemary                        Rosmarinus officinalis            Family Lamiaceae          TAM Photo(68k)
Prostrate Rosemary         R. officinalis var. prostratus                                                    AMWPhoto(42k)
Rosemary is a highly fragrant ornamental and culinary herb whose needle-like green leaves can be used to flavor a wide variety of meats and vegetables.  A native of the Mediterranean region, its name means "dew of the sea", referring to the sweet scent that greets sailors as they return to shore.  Rosemary grows in full sun or partial shade and is drought tolerant.  Charming blue flowers appear during winter and occasionally at other times of the year.  Some varieties have white or pinkish blossoms.  The upright form is a bushing shrub with stiff branches that lend themselves to shaping as hedges or topiary.  The prostrate rosemary is a creeping form that tends to be less hardy than the upright, although both will survive normal Austin, Tx winters.  A number of named varieties of rosemary exist.  'Arp' is known to be one of the most hardy.  In the language of flowers Rosemary is for Remembrance.

Sweet Bay                 Laurus nobilis                   Family Lauraceae
Bay is a beautiful aromatic tree whose leaves are essential to soups and tomato sauces. A fresh bay leaf add an interesting and delicious flavor to a pot of hibiscus tea.  Grow bay in full sun and water when the soil is dry.  It is somewhat difficult to propagate and prices reflect the work the nurserymen undertake.  Sweet bay is slow growing.  If left outdoors during the Austin, Tx winter it may freeze to the ground resulting in a bushy plant.  When a single stem standard is desired, it should be kept in a pot and brought inside during cold weather.  Sweet Bay is often plagued by scale attacks so be alert for the brown patches of this pest along the stems and leaves and gently rub them off when found.  Bay is a symbol of glory and garlands of laurel (bay) leaves were given to the first Olympic champions.

Common Oregano        Origanum vulgare                     Family Lamiaceae     TAMPhoto(94k)
Oregano is an attractive and fast spreading plant with dark green, slightly hairy leaves and cluster of pinkish flowers.  It is less flavorful than other types of oregano, although dry conditions will give it a "spicier" taste.  It requires full sun and is drought tolerant.  O. vulgare is also called "wild marjoram"

Greek Oregano           Origanum heracleoticum                Family Lamiaceae
Often described as "the oregano with bite", this Mediterranean herb livens up many dishes.  The leaves are highly aromatic, slightly pointed and hairy.  Growth is creeping, although more upright forms are seen.  The flowers of Greek Oregano are white.  It will grow best in full sun and dry soil.  The name "oregano" is from the Greek oro (mountain) and ganos (joy).

Common Sage             Salvia officinalis                     Family Lamiaceae          TAM Photo(86k)
Berggarten Sage           S. officinalis 'Berggarten'
Golden Sage               S. officinalis 'Aurea'
Purple Sage                 S. officinalis 'Purpurea'
Tricolor Sage              S. officinalis 'Tricolor'
                                  S. 'Newe Ya'ar'
 Sages are highly aromatic shrubs used to flavor turkey, pork, breads and cheese dishes.  They are susceptible to fungal root disease so must be grown in well drained soil and full sun.  Berggarten Sage and Salvia 'Newe Ya'ar' seem to have fewer problems with root rot.  The varieties listed here differ in appearance, but may be used interchangeably in cooking.  Common Sage is a gray green shrub with attractive violet flowers in the spring.  Golden Sage has striking gold and green mottled leaves and violet flowers.  It is more susceptible to freeze than common sage.  Purple Sage features dark reddish purple leaves.  Tricolor Sage is showy with white, green and pinkish variegation.  Berggarten Sage has leaves that are more rounded and "pebbly" appearing than the other sages.  It has spikes of lavender flowers in the summer but blooms are less frequent than with other S. officinalis cultivars. Salvia 'Newe Ya'ar' is a hybrid of S. officinalis xS. fruticosa developed in Israel.  It is a large growing plant that grows well in Central Texas and has beautiful blooms in the spring.  It is not reliably hardy above zone 8.  Sages are drought tolerant. Sage is traditionally associated with a long life.

Winter Savory        Satureja montana             Family Lamiaceae
Winter Savory is an evergreen perennial native to the Mediterranean region.  It grows about 1 ft high and has stiff, narrow green leaves and small white to lilac flowers that attract bees.  It grows in a spreading fashion but is easily pruned for use in borders and knot gardens.  Winter savory adds a spicy taste to poultry, beans and vegetables.  It will grow best in full sun and well drained soil.  Do not confuse this herb with Summer Savory, Satureja hortensis, which does not do as well in the hot South.  There is also a creeping form of Winter Savory, Satureja repandra, which tends to stay under 5 inches tall.

Dittany of Crete        Origanum dictamnus           Family Lamiaceae        AMWPhotos(42k)
Dittany of Crete is a charming ornamental member of the oregano group that is native to the Isle of Crete.  It is a low growing, grayish plant with round, fuzzy leaves.  In summer the foliage is overwhelmed by sprays of flowers.  The fascinating blossoms themselves are dainty, purple tubular shaped blooms emerging from columns of drooping pale green bracts.  Dittany of Crete must be grown in a well draining location.  It is best displayed as a specimen plant in a pot, in a hanging basket or tucked into the pocket of a rock wall.  It can also be lovely in a rock garden.  Dittany of Crete is winter hardy to zone 6 with protection, but often succumbs during the cool months due to an oversupply of moisture.



 
 
 
 
 

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