I am the happiest person in Haddon Heights. No sass; no sarcasm, just the truth. I say this because I am genuinely delighted we have had over an inch of rain within a week’s time so therefore I will not have to perform advanced yoga postures while managing the hose to water the garden. Despite the inconsistent rain of this season, I think the garden still looks pretty and I am satisfied. The hot color palate is ready to move in with the black-eyed Susans about to burst and the dahlias in bud. The squirrel-planted sunflowers are fully opened and gold finches feeding on them, the two bright yellows vibrant to the strong south-facing garden orientation.

The photo above, rue, is such a pretty garden plant–forget for just a minute that it is an herb. I would describe the yellow of the rue flowers as a charming yellow. Not a bright in-your-face yellow but rather just enough color to say it is yellow. Subtle. Understated.  — sounds more like an ad for Pinot than a flower.

Rue is a perfect herb for the garden not only for the flower but because its medicinal properties are supposed to help sciatica, pains in the joints (every gardener I know could use some relief here) and to ward off noxious biting insects including fleas. This is great for Southern New Jersey where most every outdoor experience after June is a battle against some flying and/or biting insect. (Info from A Modern Herbal.)  I planed Rue because the flower floats above the garden bed on a slender stem, not for herbal use. I admit to having zero practical knowledge of plant apothecary; I just think it’s fun to read about. 

1. Basil. You might have read a previous post called “Why Pesto is Better than Sex.” If not, it is still available to read on my blog. Basil is one of my favorite garden herbs and not just for pesto. Big leaves placed on a slice of mozzarella, tomato and toasted garlic baguette is just about a perfect summer supper. My family makes fun of me because I pronounce it “baaaasil,” not “bay-sil” even though both are listed in Webster’s as correct pronunciation. I usually plant several a few weeks apart for optimum harvests and they are in the garden in front of the echinacea in the mixed border;
2. Thyme. A front-row hero. Tiny pink flowers. Scent when you walk on it. Texture. And so many uses in the kitchen: my favorite is a generous sprinkle into sautéed yellow squash–which have just come in last week, BTW and I’m happy about that, too;
3. Sage. The fuzzy, oval, silvery-green leaf look beautiful next to spiky foliages like sedges or grass. My favorite way to cook them is to first brown some high-quality unsalted butter and toss in about seven leaves long enough to bring out the fragrance. Remove the leaves and toss the butter mixture along with some grated parmesan into your favorite pasta–I like gnocchi;
4. Fennel. A bit of a thug, since they re-seed all over the garden, but the bronze variety is graceful, lacey and pollinator insects adore it. The fragrance is very noticeable after rain or when the breeze blows across. Fennel is tall so it should go toward the mid or back part of the border where it can help balance-out the heavier structure of woody shrubs;
5. Germander. This herb is so under-utilized in the garden. The foliage is semi-evergreen and the deep pink flowers bloom beginning in May. Germander makes an excellent little soft hedge at the front of the planting bed. It is supposed to be helpful against melancholy and dullness of spirit.  (Also from Modern Botanical.) So does the overall activity of gardening.

From a design POV, herbs in the garden really work well becuase the color of their foliages marry-up so well with the rest of the mixed border plants. Most of them are the perfect height to go along a walkway so you can experience their fragrance when you brush or walk by them. Nearly all are full-sun plants and the list above, with the exception of basil, are perennial. Herbs are great in containers, too. Just be sure to keep up with the organic fertilizer throughout the season to keep them from turning stringy. Herbs are like the girls in the chorus–you need them for song and support and they are beautiful in their own right without being a drama queen.  Deer and bunnies don’t like them and they are rarely troubled by a pest or disease.

You will not “rue the day” when you plant a few herbs….

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