Grow Rosemary in the Home Garden
I love rosemary as an herb for its fragrance; it makes me think of clean, fresh pine woods and the time just before dawn when the air holds the hint of promise. It has a long and venerable history in the plant kingdom. Among the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, rosemary symbolized fidelity.
My rosemary is tucked in between the chives and oregano and as always, the oregano threatens to consume it in its mad passion to take over the raised bed entirely. Not to be outdone, the lemon balm beside it also vies for prominence. The catnip all the while laughs; although I hacked it back to the ground, it has regained its vigor, believing in the motto “what does not kill me makes me stronger.” Even the catnip plants I pulled up by the roots and tossed into the woods managed to take hold and grow again…..I have enough catnip for Pierre and all his country cousins this year.
Grow Rosemary for Remembrance
It was also thought to enhance memory – “rosemary for remembrance” is a common folk saying. Because of its associations with fidelity, loyalty and memory, it was used at both weddings and funerals. Brides wore wreaths of rosemary and one of Henry VIII’s ill-fated brides, Anne of Cleves, wore a wreath of rosemary. Wedding guests were given a small bouquet of rosemary too, the way we give sugar coated almonds or other small gifts or favors to guests today.
Reasons to Grow Rosemary
There is some limited scientific evidence that rosemary, along with herbs such as sage (salvia) and lemon balm (melissa), enhance and improve cognitive function. Unless you are allergic to any of these herbs, it won’t hurt to add them to your cooking or brew a tea using these herbs.
Rosemary adds to lamb, fish, and chicken dishes, and the French include it in the bouquet garni so often used in Provence cooking.
How to Grow Rosemary
To grow rosemary, full sun is a must, you need well-drained soil. Sandy soil is fine, but if you have clay soil, add plenty of compost to enhance drainage.
It’s a Mediterranean plant and doesn’t like the cold. In New York, I wintered mine over in the raised beds by using a simple homemade cloche. Cloche is Frenchch word for bell, and a cloche is a bell like covering in the garden. Fancy ones are made of glass but here’s my frugal secret: I use empty soda pop bottles, the big 2 or 3 liter kind. I clean them will, remove the labels, and cut off the pouring and. Then I have a nice little mini greenhouse to slip over my rosemary plants. Just remember to remove them on warmer winter days. Precooking rosemary is not recommend!
Prune rosemary regularly to enhance its shape. Pruning encourages it to grow outward rather than tall and lanky.
You can dry rosemary quite easily. I’ve hung up bunches of rosemary in the garage, let it air dry in the heat, then picked the thin needles off. Best of all, tuck some fresh rosemary around the house. If you enjoy the scent, it’s a great treat.
Most gardeners can easily grow rosemary and it’s a treat to have the fragrance and taste of fresh rosemary in the house. Add it to your garden this year and “remember” to grow rosemary!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.