For Father’s Day 2003, I mentioned some landscape herbs you could give the Dad that likes to cook. I did get several reader calls on that one, so I thought perhaps I ought to revisit and expand on the topic, since there are a number of low-water herbs easily grown in the landscape. As far as I know, even the HOAs approve of all of these.
Rosemary. Potatoes quartered and baked in a casserole with a little olive oil and sprigs of rosemary are sumptuous. For the guy with the grill, cut a few rosemary branches and rub them over the grill to knock off the leftover chunks from the last grilling, then toss the branches on the coals. Or lay the branches on the grate, and put your steaks on top. The heat sends the oils out of the rosemary and into the meat. Also, trim large branches into shish-kabob skewers.
Native to the dry rocky slopes of Greece, rosemary plants can take our climate. That’s why it’s planted in parking lots and medians. Once plants are established, they need little water, except in hot dry summers.
Germander. A cousin to rosemary, it can be used in all the same ways. It has a slightly stronger flavor however, so use less. There are a number of germander species. Creeping germander looks great in the landscape, with bright, glossy, green leaves. I prefer it over the blue green needle-like leaves of rosemary. Creeping germander also stays lower than rosemary and makes a beautiful, lush-looking groundcover. Still a fine xeriscape groundcover. Still a fine xeriscape plant, germander does require more water than rosemary.
Society garlic and garlic chives are sprightly little plants. Society garlic is so named because you can eat the mild garlic flavored leaves at a high society dinner, and not offend the other diners afterwards with garlic breath. Garlic chives are so named because you use the leaves, not the bulbs, same as chives are used. Unlike bulbs of garlic, the leaves of both species are above ground all year. Cut a few leaves off anytime and add to salads, omelets, stir-fry or soups. A few fresh leaves also taste great in meat or cheese sandwiches. Their colorful flowers are edible, too.
Both of these garlics are in the lily family and form graceful, arching clusters of strap-like leaves. Society garlic is available in bright green or a beautiful grey-green and white variegated form. They flower in summer with clusters of small violet flowers. They do best with mid-day shade in summer. Garlic chives only come in green, and form large globes of white flowers in spring and fall. They can take full, even reflected sun.
Mint is not a low-water plant, but is easily grown here in pots of well-drained potting soil. They do best with afternoon shade and ample water.
Oregano, marjoram, and dittany of Crete are all similar in flavor. Oregano and marjoram are low ground covers, while dittany is more shrubby. Oregano and dittany can take full sun, but marjoram does best in part shade.
Lemon verbena and lemon grass provide lemony flavors for dishes or drinks. Both are tropical in origin and need protection from cold below 25 degrees. I grow mine in pots and put them on the porch in winter. No need to cover them this way.