Rosmarinus Officinalis – Rosemary

There are many stories told about the magic and romance that involve the fragrant herb Rosemary, including the claim that it helps to restore memory.

However, let’s forego the discussion of both its fascinating medicinal properties and delicious culinary qualities (and here our thoughts stray to roast leg of lamb), because what we are most interested in are the many ways that we can use Rosmarinus officinalis in the garden.

The name Rosmarinus is derived from the Latin word ‘ros’, which means dew, and ‘marinus’, which means ‘ocean’, probably due to the wild coastal habitat the plant inhabited in southern Europe, and claims that this exceptionally aromatic Mediterranean plant can last for a very long time without water as long as the moist sea air blows over it regularly.

Rosemary has pale green, narrow leaves with a leathery texture and the flowers are small and pretty. There are many types of rosemary available with varying growth habits, from spreading and low-growing to fairly large upright shrubs. Traditionally flowering in blue, there is also now a pink and white form available.

Uses in the Garden

Vegetable/herb gardens : A herb and vegetable garden worth its salt would never be without at least one rosemary bush. Rosemary plants are also used as companion plants where their strong scent helps to repel pests like aphids, slugs, snails, caterpillars and cutworms from attacking vegetable crops.

Groundcovers and fillers : Some varieties can be planted as a hardy ground cover in difficult growing conditions, such as very hot and dry places with poor soil. Rosemary can also be grown as a filler between other plants and is an excellent specimen for container gardening. This small shrub is welcome in a cut-flower garden – long aromatic rosemary branches are lovely in a mixed bunch of fresh flowers straight from the garden.

Hedging : Rosemary makes an excellent hedge in either a formal garden or simply to provide some protection from the wind for a vegetable/herb garden. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan blue’ is the variety to choose with its aromatic, lance-shaped leaves and glossy, dark green colour. It bears whorls of blue, tubular flowers from spring to autumn. Space plants at 35 cm intervals. The recommended height is 35 to 50 cm and the suggested base width is 25 to 35 cm. It is an evergreen with a fast growth rate that grows best in areas with low summer humidity. The hedge must receive full sun.

When does it bloom?

Rosemary mostly blooms in spring, but there will usually be some flowers throughout summer into autumn.

Most suitable climate

Rosemary is a good choice for coastal gardens as it doesn’t mind salty air or free-draining, sandy soil. This evergreen shrub can also be grown in areas that experience really low temperatures, provided it is planted in a sheltered position to avoid heavy frost.

What they need

Location: All rosemary varieties prefer full sun. Morning sun and afternoon shade is also acceptable.

Soil: Relatively poor, lime-rich or stony soil is preferred, but rosemary tolerates most soil types, although good drainage is the key to success. If the soil is too heavy, rather grow it in pots filled with potting soil.

Water: Low to medium water, but plants growing in containers from which twigs are harvested often need to be watered regularly to keep them lush. Rosemary is suitable for gardens that are watered with brackish water.

Fertilizing and pruning: If the planting holes were initially prepared with compost and a handful of bone meal, and you sprinkle a new layer of compost around the plants once or twice a year, the plants won’t need any additional fertiliser. Potted rosemary appreciates regular doses of water-soluble fertiliser.

Rosemary is not a fast grower. Plants that are allowed to grow into their natural shape can be trimmed lightly once they have flowered in spring, whereas rosemary hedges and topiaries need regular, but still light pruning sessions during the summer months.

In a nutshell

* Low maintenance;
* Drought-resistant and waterwise;
* Indispensable to the herb gardener;
* Good companion for the vegetable garden

The Gardener