In my last post, I focused on just four herbs; this time, I’ve chosen some of my favorites from the wide range of other culinary, aromatic, and medicinal species and their selections. Above is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which I’d planted with the intention of harvesting and drying the flowers for tea. It’s so cute in bloom, though, that I kind of hate to cut them. Here’s it’s planted with ‘Dali Marble’ burnet (usually listed under Sanguisorba menziesii, even though its height, flowers, and bloom time are far more like those of S. officinalis).
I abhor the scent of cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), but I grow it sometimes for a friend who enjoys cooking with it, and it does make a pretty filler in bloom. Above it’s with garlic that’s heading into bloom, and with ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum).
Below is another green-and-white pairing, this one featuring two enthusiastic spreaders: sweetly scented pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’) with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum).
No worries about the combo below, with these two well-behaved partners: variegated ‘Harlequin’ rue (Ruta graveolens) and ‘Cramers’ Plum’ love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena).
The usually blue foliage of ordinary rue is also lovely in combinations.
Above, it’s tucked between silver sage (Salvia argentea) in the foreground and ‘Big Ears’ lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) in back, with a bit of ‘Cora White’ rose periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) on the left.
Below, the rue is next to ‘Sheffield Pink’ chrysanthemum, a bit of aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), and some Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), with crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa) foliage and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and white South African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba ‘Alba’) flowers in front.
In bloom, rue (the yellow flowers on the left, below) can repeat the form and color of euphorbias, such as the Euphorbia oblongata (also sold as E. palustris ‘Zauberflote’) at right. Some other highlights of this early June setting include ‘Argentea Variegata’ sweet iris (Iris pallida), white Ornithogalum magnum, a pink dianthus, variegated ‘Kosmic’ kale, and a patch of gray-blue woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus).
About a week earlier, the striped sweet iris in the border above made a cute combination with another one of my favorite flavorful herbs: common chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
Common chives usually begin flowering in early to mid-May here in southeastern PA and keep their color for about 3 weeks, so they overlap with many spring bulbs and perennials. Below, they’re with orris root (Iris ‘Florentina’), one of the irises whose dried roots are used in perfumes and potpourri.
The pink flowers of common chives are pretty with yellows, too, such as the flowers of Euphorbia oblongata, and with silvers, like the foliage of ‘Parfum d’Ethiopia’ wormwood (Artemisia).
That stunningly silver wormwood was a new one for me last year. It’s supposed to be hardy to Zone 6, but it already looks quite dead, which is disappointing but not that surprising. According to its patent, it’s a selection of Artemisia arborescens, which is said to be one of the parents of ‘Powis Castle’; that hybrid may squeak through a year or two here but usually doesn’t last longer than that. The foliage is so gorgeous, though, that I don’t mind replacing it when it fizzles out. Below, it’s in front of ‘Black Adder’ anise hyssop (Agastache) and ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ basil.
I like the richer flower color (and the name) of ‘Black Adder’ anise hyssop, but ‘Blue Fortune’ is nice too, and its foliage smells as good. Above is a cool combo of ‘Blue Fortune’ with Geranium wlassovianum and ‘Skyracer’ purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea); below, its spikes are mingling with South African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba).
Below, a simple foliage pairing; creeping winter savory (Satureja montana subsp. illyrica) around the base of upright, bushy ‘Lemon Twist’ plectranthus (Plectranthus).
Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) is as vigorous as creeping winter savory is restrained.
It self-sows so freely that it can quickly get out of hand, but it’s so pretty that it’s hard to resist. Above it’s with ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana) and, in the background, ‘Onondaga’ Sargent viburnum (Viburnum sargentii).
To be fair, bronze fennel wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t have a chance to self-sow. But there are so many flowers that it’s hard to keep up with deadheading, and it’s a pity to cut the whole plant down when new flowers are still forming. Sufficient unto the day is the plethora of seedlings thereof; while it’s in bloom, I just enjoy it. Above it’s with Hint of Gold blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Lisaura’), ‘Dancing Flame’ scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata), and love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).
Below is another clump of bronze fennel, this one with ‘Coppelia’ sneezeweed (Helenium) and New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis).
I originally started with meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) in its variegated form (‘Variegata’), for its cream-marked leaves. In fact, I cut the flowers off for the first few years, because I thought they detracted from the foliage. Eventually, the clump reverted to solid green, so I finally let it bloom, and the abundance of creamy white flowers and powerful, sweet scent made it a true delight. Since then, I’ve divided that original patch so I could spread the pieces throughout my gardens. Below is one piece just coming into bloom, in front of ‘Ambassador’ allium and Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘NCHA1’).
Golden feverfew (F. ulmaria ‘Aurea’) is much less vigorous and doesn’t flower as freely, but the brilliant foliage color has been consistently beautiful. In the shot below, it’s with variegated pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’) and almost-open ‘Montenegro’ Asiatic lily (Lilium).
I can get away with keeping golden meadowsweet in full sun because my soil is on the damp side–at least until July or August, when we get dry spells and the foliage scorches; then I usually cut it back and let it resprout. A yellow-leaved herb that’s much better suited to sun is golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’). Below, it’s with magenta-flowered winecups (Callirhoe involucrata), ‘Oehme’ palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis), purple ‘Redbor’ kale, red valerian (Centranthus ruber), peachy ‘Terra Cotta’ yarrow (Achillea), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and, in the very back, ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum).
Like bronze fennel, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is one of those herbs that can end up everywhere through self-sowing if you don’t cut it back before the flowers finish. On the bronze fennel, at least, it’s obvious when the plants are in bloom; on lemon balm, you have to look closely to see the tiny white blooms, so it’s easy to miss them. On the plus side, the seedlings of ‘All Gold’ are as bright yellow as their parents, and they have the same lovely lemony scent, as well, so it’s not a hardship to have a lot of them around. Below is one that seeded next to a clump of ‘Creme Brulee’ heuchera.
Above is a clump of ‘All Gold lemon balm along a path, in front of ‘Espresso’ wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha). Below is another section of the same border later in the season, with the lemon balm in front of ‘Oehme’ palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis) and some sprawled seedheads of ‘Lemon Queen’ perennial sunflower (Helianthus).
And one more shot of it above: ‘All Gold’ with hot pink ‘Profusion Cherry’ zinnia and ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas). If you’re interested in trying this beauty for yourself, be aware that you may instead find it listed as Melissa officinalis ‘Gold Leaf’ or as ‘Aurea’, though the latter name is also sometimes used for the version with yellow-splashed green leaves (technically ‘Variegata’), so read the description carefully.
Ah, glorious ‘Axminster Gold’ Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum). Above, it’s in leaf with ‘Queen of Night’ Single Late tulip, plus some variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and Chocolate Chip ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’). Below, it’s in bloom with Guinevere (‘HARbadge’) floribunda rose.
And last, one of my top-10 plants: ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). As with ‘Axminster Gold’ comfrey, the flowers of ‘Isla Gold’ are not nearly as showy as the foliage.
The foliage holds its color from the time it sprouts through the rest of the growing season. Above is ‘Isla Gold’ in early July with ‘Desert Coral’ coreopsis (Coreopsis) and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet.
These last two shots are of ‘Isla Gold’ in bloom in late August/early September. Above, it’s with ‘Jester’ purple millet (Pennisetum glaucum), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), tall ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), and Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia), with some ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata), ‘Coppelia’ sneezeweed (Helenium), and ‘Mahogany Splendor’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), and golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’) at the very back.
Below is the same clump but in a different year and from a different angle, with cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), tall ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), ‘Henry Eilers’ sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Canna indica ‘Purpurea’, and golden catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’).
‘Isla Gold’ tansy can be tricky to find, but it’s not as elusive as ‘Axminster Gold’ comfrey, thank goodness. Some online sources for this one include Colonial Creek Farm (they also carry “golden lemon balm” plants, by the way), Digging Dog, Plant Delights, and Romence Gardens. (I have no personal connection to any of these sources–just found them through a Google search–so I suggest checking their listings on Garden Watchdog before you order from them or any other online nursery.)
Well, that’s it for the herb combos. I’ll be back on March 15th: for Bloom Day, if there’s anything springing here (which seems unlikely at the moment), or with another topic in case we’re still frozen. In the meantime, thanks for visiting!