Add Zest to the Garden

The green leaves so dear to cooks are the first plants that come to most people’s minds when they hear the word herb, but the truth is that many of our colorful perennials and annuals fall into the herbal category, too, and deserve a place in the gar
den.  Peonies, whose glorious flowers and enticing fragrance announce the early days of summer, still give up their roots to Chinese herbalists treating liver ailments.  Stately foxgloves, who joyously self-seed through the garden if the conditions are right, yield digitalis for ailing hearts.  Purple coneflower (echinacea) enhances the immune system to fight colds and more; lavender sends ordinary headaches on their way; and glorious, old-fashioned roses soothe the skin and impart their fragrance to perfumes.

This is just the beginning of a long list of colorful herbal plants, both perennial and annual.  Here are a few to put into play in the garden for maximum eye-appeal.

1.   Edge your borders with lady’s mantle for the airy chartreuse blooms that are a brilliant counterpoint to blues and purples.

2.   Establish a stand of hollyhocks in a sunny spot.  The colors range from pretty pastels through bright pinks and reds to nearly black.

3.   Rely on beebalm for its brilliant scarlett flowers.

4.   Let nasturtiums bloom in pots, climb up a trellis, or edge a path.

5.   Use catmints like Nepata Walker’s Low and Nepata Six Hills Giant for their graceful spikes of purple blooms, especially in spots where watering is problematical.

6.   Spike up the herb garden with the brilliant orange of calendula and edible tangerine and lemon marigolds.

7.   Fill in the back of the border or the edge of a meadow with Joe Pye Weed’s soft rosy flowers.

8.   Allow  the button flowers of santolina to form a mound of color.

9.  Plant anise hyssop.  The flowers will add a shot of purple to mid-to-late summer gardens and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

10. If you have the energy to keep it under control, include the pale pink phlox-like flowers of soapwort.  But be warned:  it spreads by underground runners with great determination.

  1. 11. Grow yarrow or cultivated goldenrod for a blast of yellow.

  2. 12. Let elecampane color the back of the border with its sunflower like blooms.

When you’re saturated with color, let the white flowers of feverfew, valerian, or sweet cicely and the silvery foliage of artemisia, sage, and lamb’s ears tone it down.


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© photos Chris Mead; drawings Don Wise, text Emelie Tolley


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