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PARSLEY
(Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley

  Parsley is much more than a garnish on the dinner plate. It is one of the most useful as well as oldest of our garden herbs. It was held in high esteem by the ancient Greeks and Romans for its ability to cleanse the breath and to add flavor to foods. A spoonful of finely chopped parsley adds a delightful, tangy flavor to salads, stews, soups and meats. The deep, rich green, fern like appearance of parsley leaves add to the attractiveness of many food dishes.
The plant is a member of the Umbelliferae family, which have a long tap root and produce clusters of umbels, flowers arranged on modified stems in a form resembling an umbrella. There are two primary varieties of parsley available: the tradition “moss curled” type and the flat leaf “Italian” variety (pictured above). While both have excellent culinary use, curled parsley is more decorative and many chefs consider flat leaf parsley to have better flavor.
  Parsley is a biennial. In the spring of its second year, the plant flowers, produces seed, and dies, completing its life cycle. You should replace them every spring to be sure of a steady supply of leaves.

Parsley seeds have a hard coat and often can take a month or more to germinate without special preparation. I soak the seeds in lukewarm water overnight before planting, which can cut germination time to two weeks. The seeds should be planted in finely prepared soil or good potting soil. Parsley has a long tap root which is easily damaged, so plants can be star

Cat Thyme
(Teucrium marum)
Cat Thyme

Despite its name, and appearance, cat thyme is not a thyme at all, but a close relative of germander. Its small, oval leaves give it a thyme like appearance, but the musty scent is quite unlike the delicate aroma of thyme Cat thyme is a mounding, tender perennial with grey-green leaves tipped by fragrant pink flowers in summer. Some, but not all cats prefer it to catnip and will cork screw themselves into the plant in ecstasy. Cat Thyme, a native of Spain, will live through the winter in the open, on a dry soil and in a good situation, when the frosts are not severe, though it is frequently killed in hard winters, if unprotected by mats or other covering. Older plants can shrub 3 or 4 feet high if grown in a mild climate.. It has oval leaves, broader at the base, downy beneath, with uncut margins. The flowers are in one-sided spikes, the corollas are crimson in color. The leaves and younger branches when fresh, on being rubbed emit a volatile, aromatic smell, which excites sneezing, but in taste they are somewhat bitter, accompanied with a sensation of heat.



Konikir Cosmos
(Cosmos sulpheurus)
Konikir
              Cosmos

This species of the common garden annual produces prolific 1-1 ½" blooms throughout the summer. The flowers are usually bright golden orange, but yellow and red striped varieties exists as well. The flowers are edible, and are used in Indonesian cuisine. It is easy to grow, readily becoming naturalized in most climates. The plants grow 3-4 feet tall and benefit from pruning to avoid them become weedy looking.


Fennel
(Foeniculum vulgare)

fennel In the grocery trade, fennel is often confused with anise. It is common to see fennel seeds or even fennel bulbs and stems being sold as anise. The anise plant (Pimpinella anisum) is smaller and has coarser leaves than fennel, although in the flowering stage anise produces new finely divided foliage. The seeds too are often mislabeled by vendors. While both seeds have a similar licorice like flavor, anise seeds are easily distinguishable by a flatter, wider shape than fennel. Fennel is a vigorous herb which can reach 5-6 feet tall. A perennial, fennel is usually grown as an annual. The plant produces umbels of white flowers in summer. It produces prodigious amounts of seed, which readily scatter. As a result, fennel has naturalized throughout the United States, even becoming a pest in some environmentally sensitive areas such as the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California. The entire plant is edible, with the seeds commonly used for baking and the thick, main bulbous stem incorporated in soups.



Betony
(Stachys officinalis)

betony

This rather petite herb was once regarded as having magical curative properties. The Romans attributed some 47 curative properties to it, including use as a salve for battle wounds. Today, Betony's primary use is as an ornamental and as an excellent herbal substitute for black tea.
Betony is closely related to the hairy leafed ornamental Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantium). However, Betony is much more compact and non-invasive. This hardy perennial plant produces a fairly symmetrical clump of dark green, elongated heart shaped leaves which often grows no more than 6 inches high. In summer, Betony produces its crowning glory, a spike with multiple whorls of red violet tubular flowers

 

Lavender Cotton
(Santolina chamaecyparissus)

lavender cotton This pungent perennial is a favorite for edging herb gardens or rose beds. The silvery gray foliage has a curly texture, and the plant eventually grows into a mound 1-2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The flowers are small yellow buttons on 6 inch stalks in summer. The plant is primarily decorative, but can be used in sachets and potpourri. Lavender cotton grows well in hot, dry summers, and  is subject to fungal disease in wet soil.


St. John's-Wort
(Hypericum perforatum)

st. john's wort

This plant was named for St. John the Baptist, and in Medieval times was thought to have the power to drive out the devil. Tradition has it that the plant always blooms on St. John the Baptist's birthday, June 24. St. John's-wort is an early summer blooming plant, although bloom times will vary according to

weather.
St. John's-wort has become well known in recent years not for driving out devils but for its active ingredient, hypericin, which some clinical studies have indicated helps alleviate depression. As a result, herbal supplements made from St. John's-wort have ben hugely successful, although these unregulated herbal medications can vary enormously in strength and quality. The scientific jury is still out on whether St. John's-wort is at all effective, as some studies have found no appreciable effect. If you suffer from depression, you definitely should talk to your doctor before trying this or any herbal supplement. The hypericin in St.-John's-wort can have side effects, particularly causing hyper- photosensitivity, which can be problematic for light skinned persons and those with a need to avoid excess UV radiation.

Regardless of it's psychotropic values, St.-John's-wort is an attractive creeping addition to the garden, with cute sprays of bright yellow flowers. A hardy perennial, the plant can reach two feet in height but often spreads out more than it grows up. It can grow in average soil in full or part sun.


Lemon Verbena
(Aloysia triphylla)
kemon
                        verbena

This tender perennial shrub may get a bit ungainly when it reaches 5-6 ft., but its leaves provide one of the best lemon flavored herbal teas. Lemon verbena is a deciduous woody shrub with a distinctive lemon fragrance. The tiny, tubular lavender flowers appear in clusters in spring. A native of South America, it was first brought to Europe in the 17th Century. In herbal medicine it is used for stomach ache and to stimulate digestion.

Leptosperum
(Leptosperum scoparium)
leptospermumThis bush might not attract much attention but for its striking, profuse display of beguiling pink to purple flowers.  Also known as New Zealand tea tree, Leptosperum is a tender perennial which blooms exuberantly through spring and summer.  The plant can reach heights of 6-10 feet, but can pruned to more manageable size.  It is mainly grown as an ornamental, but the leaves can be brewed into a fragrant tea.


Garden Stepping Stones
  Say goodbye to those STEPPING STONEboring, featureless square blocks of concrete in your yard!  A real garden deserves stepping stones that flatter the natural beauty to which they provide access.  Despite the poor selection at most home and garden centers, there are probably as many different designs of stepping stones with real character as there are nurseries!  Most can only be obtained only by nosing around in expensive catalogs or obscure statutory shops, but many can be made at home with a little elbow grease by buying resuable molds.  The rose at right are but one example! For further information on making or purchasing stepping stones for your garden, email us!



Rose Campion
(Lychnis coronaria)
ROSE CAMPIONThis relative of the carnation grows 2 to 3 feet tall and is best in a sunny location. The flowers are purplish, white or pink and appear during summer. The silvery-gray leaves are hairy.  Rose Campion is a wonderful silver plant for any flower, herb or rock garden.



Opium or Bread Seed Poppy
(Papaver somniferum)
Opium PoppyIn many politically correct American seed catalogs, this annual is generally referred to as "Bread Seed Poppy."  The beautiful, short-lived flowers produce round seed pods which open at the top when ripe like a salt shaker, making it easy to shake out the small poppy seeds which are widely used in baking breads and pastries.  But the same plant, or at least special varieties thereof, are cultivated in the middle and far east for their unripe pods, not the seeds.  When cut, the green pods ooze a milky sap which is processed to produce opium and similar opiate drugs, both legal and illegal.  In the United States, it is illegal to transport the sap or green plants in interstate commerce or otherwise produce opium, but there is no restriction on the seed, and the plants have been grown by millions of gardeners.  The tall plants add a wonderful show of color in any herb or flower garden, followed by a bountiful supply of delicious poppy seeds. 


Arugula
(Eruca vesicaria sativa)

ArugulaAlso known as Roquette, this cruciferous leafy vegetable has strong tasting leaves that are a popular addition to gourmet salads.  They are common in Mediterranean markets and spreading to trendy restaurants in the U.S.  The vitamin rich leaves can also be boiled for  spinach like dish.  An annual, the plants grow to 2-3 feet tall and produce white, cross shaped four petal flowers in summer.


 

Pineapple Sage
(Salvia elegans)

Pineapple SageThis has to be just about my favorite herb plant!  The light green, serrated leaves have an unmistakable scent of pineapple, yet can be used just like garden sage.  The plant is perennial and produces spikes of red flowers in fall.  Unlike most sages, it is sensitive to drought, but will usually come back readily if watered and pruned.  The plant is so pretty you might want to plant it in a prominent spot in the garden even if you don't plan to cook with it.

Catnip
                                                                      (Nepeta cataria)
CATNIPCatnip is legendary as a feline aphrodisiac.  Not all cats have the genetic trait that causes them to go into ecstasy at its scent, but those that do can happily roll around on a plant for hours.  Our brains are wired differently, so we can only experience the pleasure vicariously.
    Still, catnip has been used by humans since at least the time of ancient Rome.  The mint like leaves can make a pleasant herbal tea, which has long been used by herbalists for sore throat and as a mild sedative.  For the adventurous, fresh leaves can be added to salads to add an herbal touch.
    Catnip is a hardy perennial growing 1-3 feet tall.  It produces spikes of small, tubular flowers in summer.  A native of Europe, it has become naturalized throughout North America. 


Sweet Woodruff 
        {Galium odoratum}

Sweetwoodruff.jpgThis cute, shade loving, spreading perennial appears somewhat delicate, which it is, since it is only a few inches high and sensitive to heat.  The vanilla scented leaves have long been used to flavor punches, especially traditional May Wine in Europe.  The leaves have also been used in some herbal remedies.  In late spring the plant produces delicate white flowers.
 
 


 

California Poppy
(Eschscholtzia californica)

CALIFORNIA POPPYThe State flower of California, the California Golden Poppy is ubiquitous in spring from the California coast all the way to the Mojave Desert. According to legend, early sixteenth century sailors who sailed along the California coast in the 1600's were ecstatic when the saw coastal hills apparently planted with shimmering sheets of gold. Alas, but on putting to shore, the disappointed mariners found only fields of California poppies rippling in the breeze. But what a beautiful flower to behold, even if its gold is but a flowery mirage!  The plant is an annual, which readily reseeds itself.  The petals are found in shades of orange, and less commonly yellow, red and white.  The flowers close at night and remain closed on cloudy days.

 



Stevia - "Sweet Leaf Plant"
(Stevia rebaudiana)

steviaStevia is an annual herb native to Peru. It has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries and is a common sugar replacement in many countries.   It has virtually no calories and doesn't promote tooth decay!  Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve it for commercial sale as a sweetener in this country, perhaps because of pressure from the sugar and artificial sweetener manufacturers.  However, it is legal to grow and use!  The active compound, Stevioside, is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.  The leaves of the plant can be used fresh, dried, or ground in powdered form to sweeten beverages and food. Stevia makes a great container plant as it grows about 12" tall. It requires sun with partial shade and is a tender perennial when grown in zones 9 and 10. The plant produces tiny white flowers in the summer (which should be removed to keep the plant growing) and has toothed, alternating leaves like many other members of the mint family, Labiatae.  The plant is best started from seed indoors in a sunny window or under grow lights.


Tricolor Sage
(Salvia officinalis "Tricolor")
tricolor sageSage, in all it's variety, adds spice and color to the herb garden.  Tricolor sage is one of most attractive and best-behaved culinary salvias.  This beautiful plant shares the same flavoring properties as its more ungainly cousin, garden sage (Salvia officinalis), but has a low, compact, gently spreading quality that works well in the foreground.  This variety does not set true seed, so plants must be propagated by cuttings or divisions.



Nasturtium
(Trapaelolum majus)
nasturtiumIs it an herb or a flower?  It's both!  The flowers and leaves are both edible and provide a peppery addition to any salad. This is an attractive, fast growing flowering herb with unusual round somewhat fleshy leaves.  The flowers range from reds to yellows.  It grows best in cool weather but can stand some heat if it receives frequent watering and some shade. Nasturtiums are annual but readily reseed.



Rosemary
(Rosmarinus officinalis)
rosemaryRosemary is one of the oldest herbs in western culture.  It was highly treasured as a culinary and healing herb in the Roman empire. There are two primary forms: upright, which produces a large bush that can eventually be shaped into a small tree, and creeping, which produces a spreading mound one  to two feet high.  Both varieties have pungent leaves and small spikes of blue flowers.  Rosemary is used for its essential oil and is an excellent herb for breads and poultry.  The tender perennial is easy to grow but may not survive in cold winter areas.

Majoricum
(Teucrium majoricum)
majoricum
A very attractive perennial ground cover, majoricum is surprisingly difficult to find in nurseries.  The plant only grows a few inches high but rapidly grows to a cover an area 12" - 24" across.  It has mildly fragrant blue gray leaves with short spikes of purple flowers.  The plant is related to Germander and is probably not suitable for kitchen use.  The leaves make a delightful addition to potpourri.  Majoricum is quite drought tolerant once established.  It tends to thrive in sunny, well drained soils.



Hyacinth Bean
(Dolichos lablab)
hyacinth beanAttractive, fast growing flowering vine. The plant has compound leaves like beans and purple flowers followed by wide purple pods. Best planted in Spring in most climates, but seed can be stored for several years.  The vine is grown as an annual in most parts of the U.S. but this perennial will live many years in mild winter areas of Zones 9-10.  The vine grows ten feet or more and will quickly cover a fence or arbor.

Garlic Chives
garlic chivesAllium tuberosum has flat leaves with a hint of garlic. It is a tender perennial with clusters of white flowers in Spring or Summer.  (or in winter during La Nina in Southern California, as in photo).  The plant is decorative and easy to grow, and easy to propagate from divisions once established.  These seeds are from I plant I bought at a Vietnamese market in Little Saigon several years ago.




Calendula
  
calendula
Calendula officinalis, also known as Pot Marigold, is an attractive, easy, flowering herb, 12-18" high.  Flowers are single or double, color ranges from pale yellow to orange, and are up to 3" in diameter.  Grown as an annual in most climates but will readily naturalize in almost any sunny location.  Calendula is perennial in warm winter areas (USDA Zones 9-10).  The photo above was taken in mid December in my Southern California garden!
    Calendula is considered a multi-purpose herb.  The flowers are edible and can be used to yield a yellow dye for cloth or hair highlighting.  Traditional medicine uses the flowers for various ailments.  I just use them to add color in the garden!


World's Smallest Tomato
Spoon
                Tomato
   This tomato (Lycopersicon pimpinifollium) is only about the size of a pea; up to ten can fit on a teaspoon!  The fruits are sweet and great in salads.  Kids love them and they make a great conversation piece as probably the world's smallest tomato.  They are a variety descended from the original wild tomato of South America






Mexican Bush Sage
   Mexican Bush SageSalvia leucantha is a drought tolerant Mediterranean garden staple.  The long lived perennial has a bushy habit and blooms profusely much of the year.  The leaves are sword shaped with a distinctive odor.  The plant is related to garden sage but is not edible.  Plants are usually three to four feet tall, and do well when pruned severely after blooming cycles. 





Lamb's Ear: Great Ground Cover
Lambs Ear
   Stachys byzantium is an unusual perennial herb used mainly as a decorative ground cover.  The leaves are soft and fuzzy to the touch, as suggested by its common name.  Plants are usually under six inches high, except for occasional spikes of purple flowers.  It grows and spreads rapidly with little care.  It is drought tolerant once established.


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