Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) in Washington, D.C., wants home gardeners to know that there are many useful and fascinating herbs to grow in the home garden besides the usual suspects. Here are her suggestions for 10 out-of-the-ordinary herbs that deserve space in your garden or on your windowsill.
Although the curry tree is only hardy in warm climates, I love to grow it for the intensely flavorful and fragrant leaves that are used in Indian cuisine -- especially curries.
The delicious lemon scent of this herb makes your mouth water! Great for beverages, food, and just for the enjoyment of it's amazing fragrance.
These leaves have a rich lemony taste and fragrance. I use the leaves in Thai food, soups, and curries. Since it is not hardy, I grow it in a container and bring it indoors for the winter.
Sorghum vulgare var. technicum
Broomcorn is a tall plant with texture. The fibrous seed branches are used to make whisk brooms, and if not for brooms, the branches work great cut and dried for inside decoration.
This poppy is a gorgeous annual that is easy to grow. The seeds are used on breads, and it is the source of opium and related medicines. The seed heads are great for indoor arrangements as well.
Ocimum tenuiflorum (formerly O. sanctum)
This purple form of holy basil is extremely interesting, attractive and pleasantly fragrant -- the fragrance is a complex spicy clove combination. There are both green- and purple-leaved forms available in the trade. Most often, this herb is seen in gardens in India where it is considered to be a sacred plant, often grown in a "tulsi pot" placed by the front door. It is also showing great promise as a medicinal plant.
Mentha x gracilis 'Madeline Hill'
This is the best mint to use in cooking! It blends the flavor of spearmint and peppermint, makes a fabulous tea, works great for salads, and is easy to grow. I grow it in a huge container on my roof garden.
Monarda fistulosa 'Rose' (sometimes sold as 'Sweet')
This native plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall and has tousled pink and purple flowers that attract hummingbirds and bees. The interesting clone in this photograph, rose-scented bergamot originated in Manitoba, Canada, and is high in geraniol, which gives it the scent of roses. The leaves and flowers make an excellent tea, both hot and cold.
Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline'
I love this particular cultivar of bee balm because the leaves are less prone to getting powdery mildew. Additionally, it is great for attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds and evening visitors, like sphinx moths.