A GROWING CONCERN: Make thyme to add herbs to your garden

SINCE I GAVE you a large to-do list two weeks in a row, let me pile on yet another chore.

As you know, Lavender Fest is next month and for a good reason.

Mediterranean herbs do phenomenally well here on the Peninsula and especially in your yard.

Lavender is so wonderful here because of our soil conditions.

In fact, there are a host of Mediterranean herbs that would be spectacular in your yard.

The reasons are quite simple.

First, the vast majority of Mediterranean herbs are semi-hardy and die in areas that have cold winters.

Our relatively mild winters are perfect for them.

Next, the geographical herb group thrives in areas of low humidity, another characteristic of the North Olympic Peninsula.

Also, Mediterranean herbs like sunny regions with moderate rainfall, which the peninsula’s rainshadow provides.

Lastly, these herbs flourish in poor soil with high rocky content — exactly like your yard.

The thing to remember is that these plants have well drained, not moist, sandy soils.

Long experience and numerous field trails have shown that compost is perhaps the best form of fertilization for these plants.

In addition, most herbs have a high resistance to many bugs and diseases, and they can actually repel certain bugs.

Here is a list of some heat tolerant, drought-resistant Mediterranean varieties to spice up your ornamental garden, enhance your foods and add aromatic pleasure to your home.

Atremesia

Artemesia was the wife and sister of the great Persian king Mousolus.

After his death, she had built the tomb of Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the world.

She was also a botanist and medical researcher, and this family of more than 200 plants was named in her honor.

Artemsias have great visual effect with lovely, finely cut, silver leaves.

Great varieties are wormwood, tree Artemesia, silver king and the delightful 4-inch creeping evergreen.

Mint

As Greek mythology goes, there was a nymph named Minthe who was loved by the god Pluto.

In a jealous rage, Pluto’s wife, Persephone, transformed Minthe into this plant which now bears her name.

Pluto could not undo Persephone’s actions, but he was able to soften the blow by giving Minthe an appealing scent, so that the more she was walked on, the sweeter the smell.

A family of more than 600 varieties, mint does divinely well here on the Peninsula.

There are variegated forms, such as apple mint or ginger mint, and bronze forms, like raripila spearmint and “citrata” or eau de cologne mint.

The hundreds of varieties of mint are used for cooking teas, flavoring, baking and bathing.

Oregano and marjoram

The Greeks gave the name oro ganus (oregano) which means “joy of the mountain” to this herb because of the pleasurable scent and beautiful floral displays it produced as it covered the hillsides of ancient Greece.

Marjoram was used by bridal couples to embellish a crown of garlands and departing spirits were given cuttings of the plant placed on tombs.

Oregano and marjoram should be placed all over the yard; they are beautiful flowering plants that smell great and they superbly flavor sauces, meats, teas and salads.

In the beds I have planted here on the Peninsula, marjoram is one of the favorites.

Sage

The word sage comes from the Latin “salvere” — to be in good health.

Your garden will be in perfect vigor with the addition of sage. They are a great choice for making sachets. They dry very well and are unbeatable in flavoring meats, stews and soups.

In the garden, they add nice texture and range to plantings.

The tri-colored, purpurea varigata, along with icterina (gold varigated) and the very nice red sage, purpurea, add exceptional beauty.

Rosemary

Meaning “dew of the sea” rosemary is revered as the bush associated with the Virgin Mary.

It was also burned in sick chambers to purify the air or carried in bags and sniffed.

Today, you should buy this herb for its magnificent blue flowers and its aroma.

The creeping forms, which cascade down rock or wall facing, blooms from winter to late spring.

There are also pink blooming varieties [majorca] as well as white [Miss Jessups, upright and alba] along with many fine blue forms [Suffolk blue and Athens blue spires].

Thyme

Thymus derives from the Greek word for courage. Later, Roman soldiers bathed in thyme water to give them vigor.

I fill my gardens with thymus for the delicate way they intertwine and grow.

Thyme is perfect for the rock garden and herb pot. They bloom in very bright colors and are most prolific.

The woolly thyme is notable for its hairy leaves.

Great short varieties that creep along as ground cover include mauve and pink thymes.

In upright versions, the lemon thyme and the silver lemon thyme stand out.

And that is all the thyme I have today.

To everyone, happy Father’s Day.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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