Fresh-from-the-garden herbs add flavor and fragrance to foods. Try these easy-care garden favorites.
With dozens of types to choose from, basil satisfies almost any palate. It's best known as the main ingredient in pesto, but some varieties impart anise, lemon, mint, cinnamon, or clove flavors to foods. Selections that have purple foliage or attractive blooms are especially ornamental. Grow basil in full sun, tucking a few plants into flowerbeds or into container gardens.
Chive blossoms are pretty enough to fit in any perennial border. Whether you grow them with your flowers or your herbs, you can harvest chive blooms or the tubular stems to add a delicate onion flavor to dishes. Chives grow best in sunny, well-drained sites and also thrive in container gardens. Deadhead faded flowers to prevent them from self-seeding.
Dill's tangy flavor is synonymous with pungent pickles. Use the seeds, flowers, and ferny foliage to season foods. Harvest leaves as needed, the flowers as they open, and the seeds just as they ripen. Grow dill in full sun. If some seeds are allowed to ripen on the plant, it will self-seed and volunteer seedlings will appear in the garden the next year.
Fennel's fine-texture foliage resembles dill leaves. But this easy-growing plant comes in green or bronze varieties. The herb provides a soft, nutty version of anise in the kitchen. Use fennel's texture to soften sections of your perennial border. It looks particularly good among ornamental grasses.
Garlic's pungent bulbs have long been used for flavoring food and in medicines. It's even been grown with roses, where it reportedly repels aphids. Garlic grows in full sun or part shade. Plant cloves of garlic in late summer, and mulch over winter for harvest the following summer.
English lavender is the most widely grown form of this delightful shrubby herb. It is perennial to Zone 5, where it grows in full sun in well-drained soil. Other types of lavender are hardy in Zones 6-9, but may be grown as annuals in colder regions. Enjoy the purple, pink, or white blooms of lavender fresh or dried. Grow it in the flower garden, in an herbal knot garden, or in containers.
You might describe lemon balm as having a strong lemony scent (and flavor) that''s touched with mint. It is a perennial to Zone 4. Remove the flowers of lemon balm to prevent it from self-seeding and becoming weedy. It grows in full sun to part shade, and, as seen here, makes a handsome container plant.
Spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint are just a few of the many mint varieties available. All are rapid spreaders, making them suitable as groundcovers in confined areas, such as a parking strip or an area bounded by a foundation and sidewalk. Or grow it in a container to prevent it overtaking garden neighbors. Mint prefers partial shade but tolerates full sun.
The main herb in pizza and spaghetti sauce brings good looks to gardens, too. Varieties vary in flavor; Greek oregano is one of the most intense. Oregano bears white or mauve flowers in late summer. Grow it in well-drained soil in full sun. It also works well in container gardens.
Garnish, breath freshener, and cooking spice, parsley is available in curled and flat-leaf forms. The flat-leaf type is preferred for cooking, while the curled version makes a more decorative garnish. The plant is a favorite of the swallowtail butterfly, so plant enough to feed your family and swallowtail caterpillars that feed on the leaves. Grow parsley in full sun to partial shade.
This shrubby evergreen is hardy to Zone 7. Train it to grow upright as a treelike standard or a large shrub; or select a trailing form to grow down a wall or as a groundcover. Rosemary grows well in containers, and you can bring it indoors over winter in cold climates. Grow rosemary in a hot, dry, sunny location.
Sage's textured gray-green leaves are perfect for adding a rich flavor to foods. The tubular blue flowers are also edible. More than 900 varieties of sage are available, and many have variegated foliage that looks attractive in flower borders or container combinations. Grow sage in full sun with well-drained soil.
Close relatives of the brightly colored bedding geranium, scented geraniums are grown primarily for their textured, aromatic foliage. Fragrances range from fruity to spicy, and even chocolate. Those most used in the kitchen have a rose or lemon scent. Grow scented geraniums in full sun to partial shade. They also make great houseplants when grown in containers.
Ground-hugging thyme is an ingredient in hundreds of culinary and medicinal staples. In landscapes, it makes a wonderful groundcover, lawn substitute, edging plant in a border, or filler between cracks in pavers. Its trailing habit also works well spilling over the edge of container gardens. Common thyme grows about 1 foot tall and bears pinkish lavender blooms in summer. Grow thyme in full sun.
Savory's peppery, thymelike flavor combines well with legumes, meats, or eggs. Winter savory, pictured here, is a semievergreen perennial to Zone 4 bearing white to lavender blooms in summer. It has a slightly stronger flavor than summer savory, which is an annual. Grow savory in full sun in a kitchen garden or mixed border. It also grows well in containers.