Spice up your life – grow herbs

A unique way to grow and display small herbs is in a strawberry jar.

KUSA - Herbs are the "useful plants." We use them for cooking, brewing tea, treating bug bites and even medicinally. Be careful if you use herbal remedies and know what you're doing or you could kill yourself.

Most herbs need sun. If you're a balcony gardener, they can be grown in pots. This makes it easier to bring the tender ones inside in winter anyway.

Herbs are versatile in the landscape. They can be intermingled throughout the garden or concentrated in a more formal setting such as my parterre. A parterre is a geometric layout of plants with the design outlined with an edging plant such as a clipped, low hedge. I use thyme. This is definitely a "Scarborough Fair" garden with parsley, sage, rosemary and--of course--thyme. You can create your own cooks garden by planting the herbs you use most often, such as garlic, basil, oregano, chives, tarragon, fennel and dill.

No herb garden is complete without lavender. After a light pruning earlier this season, the plants are full and blooming well. Rosemary is another quintessential herb. The new cultivar 'Arp' is a hardy form than can generally survive a Colorado winter. Tender herbs such as lemon verbena and bay laurel must be lifted in fall (if they're not already in pots) and grown in a sunny window each winter.

A unique way to grow and display small herbs is in a strawberry jar. These pots have "pockets" and while they're not all that great for strawberries since they're difficult to keep moist, they work for herbs with lower water requirements. Thyme, savory, marjoram and parsley are all suitable for planting in a strawberry jar. Mine are planted with hen-and-chicks and santolina.

Hen-and-chicks is a succulent plant (Sempervirens) with a central "hen" rosette of leaves and offsets surrounding it called "chicks." The sap from the leaves is an old remedy for bug bites while working in the garden. In Europe, hens-and-chicks are sometimes planted on tile roofs to plug leaks. They're the superglue of the plant world.

Santolina, sometimes called lavender cotton, is a silver-gray plant with small yellow flowers and a pleasant aromatic scent that insects do not like. The French call it "guarde robe" and use it in place of mothballs.

When you plant a strawberry jar, start from the bottom. Fill the pot with soil up to the lowest set of pockets. Moisten the soil ahead of time and compress it lightly as you work, knowing that it will sink when watered. Plant the herbs in the lowest pockets. Fill with more soil up to the next set of pockets, plant and continue. It's like making lasagna or a layer cake.

A strawberry jar planted with hardy perennial herbs can be left outside over winter if kept in a sheltered location. If planted with tender herbs it should be brought inside where it can provide fresh sprigs of herbs for your cooking pleasure.

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