AS WE SEE an increase in COVID-19 cases coupled with the natural pandemic protocol procedures, everyone knew the Lavender Festival would be ultimately different this year. But this viral condition does not alter the fact that we here on the Peninsula are the lavender capital of North America … and for good reason.
Let us first establish what a Mediterranean climate is, to better understand how well-suited these plants are for us on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Mediterranean climate is characterized by warm to hot, but very dry summers, which in turn are followed by cool, wet autumns and winters that are wet, but with little snow that only lasts for short periods of time.
Furthermore, the plants associated with this Mediterranean climate are adapted to recover quickly from drought, fire and flood.
This means they will respond perfectly to your backyard because our natural climate cycle here offers ideal conditions, with little or no additional care required by you.
Their suitability to our location gets even better.
These plants adore not only coastal locations, but those areas that have nutrient poor, rocky, sandy soil profiles that drain or runoff easily.
Is that not your yard?
If that is not enough to convince you, let me then remind each of you that the Olympic Peninsula holds the title of lavender capital of North America precisely because this very fragrant and useful Mediterranean herb is so perfectly suited for here.
With that said — and the fact that these herbs flower gorgeously, smell heavenly, make your food taste divine, need a little watering to thrive and require almost no soil preparation or nutrient — let us plow through a list of popular Mediterranean herbs usually available for you to acquire.
Tranquility, purity and cleanliness are associated with lavender, and there many varieties ranging in size and colors.
Lavender is prized for its culinary, cosmetic, medicinal and aromatic qualities.
Artemisia was the wife of a Persian king in the Third Century, B.C., and a famous botanist to which this genus of over 200 plants get their name.
Artemisia is very ornamental and usually comes in shades of white — which is a great contrast for your yard, especially with their serrated leaves.
Sage has been valued for centuries as a means to longevity.
I highly value sage for its evergreen value and beautiful colored leaves, which can be yellow, purple, red and numerous shades of green.
Not only decorative, sage is great as a culinary additive to salads, soups, various meats, vinegars and flavored butters.
The Spanish revered this herb because it concealed the Virgin Mary on her flight from Egypt.
But for many it is truly the essence of the herb garden.
Rosemary comes in both upright and pendulous forms, and can be grown as a hedge, topiary or specimen plant.
It is highly aromatic, used medicinally, cosmetically, as a decorative plant and, culinary wise, it is ideal with lamb, pork, flavored butters and salads.
Marjoram and oregano
The Greeks called this plant “oros ganos” which means “joy of the mountain” because of its flowers and scent that covered the local hillsides.
A low-growing and spreading herb, these plants come in a variety of colors.
Origamum species attract bees as well as butterflies, and are a must for Italian cooking.
Kipling wrote “wind bit thyme that smells of dawn in Paradise.”
For the Greeks and Romans, it meant “courage” and they would bathe in it before battle.
For your yard, it means low, gorgeous beds of fitted color as thymus species bloom beautiful shades of mauve, purple, red, white and burgundy.
Thyme is great in stuffings, soups, marinades and goes well with food cooked slowly in wine.
It also is wonderful in potpourri.
There are certainly more Mediterranean herbs, but this list should get you growing.
Let me finish by emphasizing once more just how perfect our climate and soil profile is for Mediterranean herbs.
And perfectly, I hope for everyone to “stay well all.”
Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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).