There are a couple of earworms I can’t get rid of when I’m puttering with herbs in my garden -- Simon & Garfunkel’s “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” and Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints.” Unfortunately, I can’t remember many of the lyrics to either song, so the same refrains play over and over in my head, like a stuck record. And yes, I have both on vinyl.
Kitchen herbs can be grown in pots or a bed near the kitchen door for easy harvesting and use. Herbs also can be surprisingly formal in a Victorian-style knot garden, or be used informally by salting herbs into annual or perennial borders for cottage-garden appeal and used to edge vegetable gardens.
While most herbs are attractive, we usually think of them as green plants with small, insignificant flowers. Basil, chives, sage, parsley, rosemary, lavender and thyme are among fragrant herbs we harvest for cooking or making teas, potpourris and sachets.
But there some that produce lovely flowers and are worth growing for looks alone.
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- Echinacea. Coneflowers have undergone a revolution in color and form in the past 10 years, but the familiar purple coneflower has medicinal properties that ease cold and flu symptoms. These are tough, long-flowering prairie plants that can withstand drought conditions, but perform their best with regular moisture. They form deep taproots, which means propagating by root cuttings in the fall is better than division. You can find quart or gallon-sized plants or sow seeds.
- Feverfew. It merrily re-seeds itself throughout my garden, particularly along the edges of borders and beds. I yank out a fair few, but leave the rest because of the daisy-like flowers — white petals perfectly arrayed around a small yellow disc. I’ll gather stems for flower bouquets.
- Chamomile. Another daisy doppelganger, fragrant chamomile is popular in teas for calming nerves and has other uses, but I grow it for its charm and fragrance. Chamomile shows up a lot in shampoo formulations. There are two kinds, German and Roman. German is the upright type I grow, while Roman is a ground cover.
- Johnny Jump-up. These old-fashioned violas are considered medicinal herbs, also called “heart’s ease” or “heartsease.” They bloom in spring, fade in summer, and sometimes return for a flush of color in fall. You can encourage this rebloom by shearing back the plants in summer.
- St. John’s Wort. Well-known as a healing herb, St. John’s Wort has cheerful yellow blooms set against shiny green foliage. It’s easy to grow and thrives in sun and light shade. Be warned: It can be aggressive.