Yes! You can have hardy, long bloom-time, even steppable, draught-tolerant perennials… that you can eat! Indeed, many have made even my mediocre home-cooked meals taste decent! We’re talking efficiency here, folks. Not just planting with a purpose, but many purposes. These guys are low maintenance and so, so much more.
But I digress: here are some of my favorites that are looking great this summer.
We’ll start with the most obvious first – Lavendula. There are many tried and true varieties of Lavender out there – some of which are Provence, Munsted, Hidcote, just to name a few – but there are many more. All are rounded and compact, just some more so than others. I was inspired by The Biltmore’s hedge of lavender in their scented garden within the walled garden. Typically when you think of an herb garden, you just plop down a little bit of everything, right? But a whole hedge of mature lavender? Glorious. Mine is not nearly as mature or as long, but it gets the job done. Its slivery leaves are technically evergreen and, by technically, I mean they can really look rough in late winter. But come April, it’s noticeably perking up.
And come June – I think the picture speaks for itself. The flowers are edible and, once dried, go well in an Herbs De Provence mix. (For those of you like me – newish or slightly lazy to this whole cooking yourself thing – Herbs De Provence makes any chicken meal taste great!)
Thyme is another biggie. There many varieties here as well, but let’s just try to get through some of them. All are steppable – meaning you can step on it and not destroy it. It works nicely bordering a path of a walkway; when you brush past it, it lets off a nice scent. Some varieties, such as English Thyme or Mother of Thyme are edible. Wooly thyme, however, is giving me dry mouth just typing it out. Although it does have a great color a unique texture to it. And man does it fill in gracefully.
Magic carpet is another variety which is used more for its long bloom time rather than ingesting, that also happens to be steppable. It also fills in nicely without being aggressive.
Lemon thyme is probably my favorite of all the thyme varieties. It is steppable, has a great yellow and green variegation and tastes pretty amazing. And when it’s in bloom those honey bees seem to really like it.
Dill: This guy I didn’t initially have great expectations for. In fact, I would have never planted it in the first place if it wasn’t for one of Oakland Nursery’s interns. He’s a little obsessed with it, perhaps because it’s the only herb he uses in his limited – but delicious – repertoire. We’re talking only potatoes here. I planted it hoping it would make him feel a little less home sick and I fell in love with this plant. It’s an annual, but it will seed out and pop up in great unexpected places the next year. You don’t even have to brush it as you pass by to get a pleasing whiff. It’s beautiful and will heighten your mashed potatoes to a level you didn’t even know existed.
Arugula will bolt (flower and then the leaves will then taste terrible) as soon as our summer weather hits. It’s what we call a cool weather crop. It does best when planted from seed in early spring and again in later summer for fall harvest. I “let” mine go to seed this summer, hoping it will re-seed itself this fall for me. It has a nice white flower to it and fills in nicely, getting taller than I thought it would. It has been able to withstand our recent heat with little rain (I’m not bothering to water it) and the blooms seem to be lasting more than two weeks.
So happy to see those honey bees out there modeling for a photo shoot. Happy Gardening!