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Rosemary Provides Landscape Variety, Culinary Delight

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Rosemary Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is an attractive, drought-tolerant perennial that should be part of everyone’s landscape or herb garden. Steeped in thousands of years of myth and tradition, and known as the herb of love and remembrance, rosemary delih1ghts both beginners and seasoned gardeners.

Many varieties exist, with some hardy to -10 degrees F as long as they have some time to slowly harden off in the fall. Classified as either upright or creeping, some varieties grow tall and upright, others low and bushy. The upright varieties make a good, informal hedge. Prostrate varieties look best in pots or cascading over masonry or rock walls or in rock gardens where the individual branches create interesting edge patterns. These also can be shaped by selective pruning. All varieties are evergreen and most will bear tiny white or blue flowers intermittently, making it a decorative shrub. Put this together with its value as an herb and this plant is a winner.

Native to coastal regions of the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Latin name Rosmarinus means dew of the sea, a reference to the shimmering blue flowers that cover the plant. Like most Mediterranean plants, it needs good drainage and a hot, sunny site.

'Tuscan Blue' Photo by Robert E. Lyons

‘Tuscan Blue’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Popular rosemary cultivars that grow upright include ‘Gorizia’, ‘Tuscan Blue’, ‘Salem’, and ‘Arp’. ‘Gorizia’ has leaves that are double the size of more ordinary varieties. Mature plants may grow to 5 feet tall and wide. ‘Tuscan Blue’ has strong, upright thick stems and can reach heights of 7 feet or more. ‘Salem’ grows to 4 or 5 feet with dark blue flowers reminiscent of common rosemary. ‘Arp’ is referred to as the winter hardy variety and grows to about 5 feet. For the best-looking prostrate rosemary, consider ‘Blue Boy’.

One of the best places to sample rosemary with your eyes and nose is the Paradise Garden in the JC Raulston Arboretum. A soldier row presentation of these plants, rigid in formation, is protecting the fort, situated along the west border of the Paradise Garden. Learn more at