Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lavender, Sage, Rosemary & Time


Gardening was never my first love, I don't think it would even crack the top 20. In my dictionary, "garden" is a noun, not a verb. Nevertheless, I often find myself thinking about my dream-garden and what plants I would put in it.* Perhaps partly due to my aversion to actual hands-on gardening, my dream garden is what's known as a perennial garden.

Plants tend to fall into one of two camps: annuals or perennials.** Annuals are generally the ones you see making a big splash of color on racks outside the garden department of the home store. They are often bright, brash, and bedazzling. Picture petunias, pansies, marigolds and impatiens. They also need to be replaced every year. Annually. They are the pop stars of the garden. The flashes in the pan.

Long Live The Perennials!
Unlike annuals, perennials are described with words like consistency and continuity. Think of buddleia (butterfly bush), hydrangea, or peonies. They keep on keepin' on. Perennially. They are the Dave Brubeck of the plant world. They are Ella Fitzgerald in bloom. There is something so comforting about being in a mature perennial garden; a real feeling of stability and history. Perennials are survivors. Below ground are deep strong roots, holding the soil together and supporting the new growth and seasonal changes taking place up above.

My garden (real and dream version) is never complete without my absolute favorite perennials: lavender, sage, rosemary, and lemon verbena. Not only are they strong and deep and beautiful, they are full of powerful oils and essences that can flavor, invigorate, refresh, calm, and heal. Known as woody perennials, these gifted and generous plants neither burn out nor fade away, but instead become more interesting with each passing year... they are Lyle Lovett and Paul Simon, horticultural-y speaking that is.

LAVENDER: calming scent... it's especially nice in sachets that you can tuck into your pillow at night; I use dried lavender (along with rosemary) for Hubby's favorite hair rinse, flavor my black tea with it, and use it in baked goods (like these Lavender-Walnut Scones). It plays nicely with citrus, earl grey tea, and chocolate flavors. (Keep in mind: a little lavender goes a long long way.)

SAGE: Earthy and herbal... it goes well with roasted meats, poultry, mushrooms, walnuts, etc. I use sage primarily in savory dishes; it's a natural in stuffings and biscuits, and is equally great with eggs. I like to infuse honey with sage to help relieve a cough or sore throat (plus it tastes really good in tea!).

ROSEMARY: invigorating and slightly pine-y... it's wonderful in marinades for grilled meats, can be used as an impromptu BBQ brush, or as a skewer for kebabs. Here's a lovely appetizer with rosemary and walnuts, and one of my favorite no-knead bread variations with rosemary, Parmesan, and green olives. Rosemary can even be used in baked goods like this cake, or these crackers.

LEMON VERBENA: naturally sweet and lemony... smells like lemon candy; use the leaves as a sweetener or steep them for a tisane (especially refreshing over ice). Bake up some Lemon Verbena Cookies. Make an infused syrup to flavor and sweeten iced tea, lemonade, or cocktails. Substitute lemon verbena for mint leaves or lemon zest in favorite recipes.

*I should point out here that other than honey bees, butterflies, and ladybugs, there are no insects in my dream-garden.
**There are actually zillions of different plant camps: deciduous perennials, tender perennials, hardy annuals, self-seeding annuals, herbaceous perennials, biennials, etc. And much of this sub-categorization depends upon your location/climate... my annual might just be your perennial. 

***Photo by Scott
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2 comments:

  1. mmmmm...I can smell it from here (500mi away)! nice photo hubs

    ReplyDelete
  2. @SharkBait: Lavender is sure potent stuff. Our garage never smelled so good!

    ReplyDelete

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