There are many legends and stories about magic and romance that involve the herb rosemary, and claims are even made that regular use improves the memory.
However, we are going to forego a discussion of its fascinating medicinal properties and delicious culinary qualities (and here our thoughts stray to roast leg of lamb), because what we are really 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. The narrow leaves are pale green and leathery and the flowers (traditionally blue, but nowadays also pink and white) are small and shy, but pretty.
There are many types of rosemary available with varying growth habits, from spreading and low-growing to fairly large upright shrubs. Some can be planted as a hardy ground cover in difficult growing conditions, such as very hot and dry places with poor soil. With good care, some varieties can be used to form lovely formal or informal hedges. They can also be used between other shrubs as filler plants and they are excellent plants for containers.
A herb and vegetable garden worth its salt would never be without at least one rosemary bush and they are equally welcome in a cut-flower garden – long aromatic rosemary branches are lovely in a mixed bunch of fresh flowers straight from the garden. Dried rosemary twigs and leaves, placed in sachets, can be used to repel insects in linen cupboards and wardrobes. Rosemary plants are also used as companion plants in vegetable gardens, where their strong scent helps to repel pests like aphids, slugs, snails, caterpillars and cutworms.
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 herb can also be grown in areas experiencing 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 (or vice versa) 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 well 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, then the plants won’t need any additional fertilizer. Potted rosemary appreciates regular doses of water-soluble fertilizer. 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 water-wise.
* Indispensable to the herb gardener.
* Good companion for the vegetable garden.