Our rosemary has been yielding incredible spikes of icy blue flowers since early November, one reason why it is among my must-have flowers. If you always thought of rosemary as a tasty herb for poultry or pork, you’d be correct – but it offers the landscape much more.
Perhaps no plant offers as much fragrance when touched or brushed against. Not only is rosemary a fixture in the herb garden, but you can also use it as a backdrop for seasonal flowers such as pansies, in much the same way you might use a dwarf conifer.
Rosemary prefers full sun in soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic. Since it is native to the Mediterranean region, it likes soil moisture slightly on the dry side. To prepare the soil for planting, add 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, such as fine composted pine bark or humus with 1 pound of slow release 5-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of planting area.
Turn the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches and plant rosemary at the same depth it is growing in its container. Rosemary is often sold in larger 1- and 2-gallon sizes, which will give them some added cold protection. They are normally reliably hardy in zones 8-10, and I have had good luck in zone 7, which encompasses much of the Triangle. In colder parts of zone 7 (and if you are a Zone 6 gambler), plant in a protected location or in containers that you can move indoors as needed.
Though tough in the summer heat, rosemary will need water until it gets established. Rosemary is not a heavy feeder and most experts recommend feeding sparingly, if at all. It makes a great informal hedge and can be pruned after blooming to maintain desired size and shape. Christmas-tree shaped rosemary topiaries have become very popular, showing up at garden centers in November.
In the herb garden, group rosemary with plants that like it dry, such as artemisia, oregano and santolina. In the landscape, it can reach 4 to 6 feet tall, making it a perfect partner with a variety of plants. We used pansies as companions during the cool seasons, but drought-tolerant flowers such as All Around Purple gomphrena, New Gold lantana and Bombay Blue scaevola make ideal summer partners.
Rosemary is exceptional in floral arrangement. Tie it in bundles with Mexican bush sage and a couple of fresh cinnamon sticks to give your kitchen a nice fragrance.
Believe it or not, there are named selections of rosemary. Arp, Hardy Hill and Salem are known to exhibit a little extra cold hardiness. If you want a picturesque variety for tumbling down a rock wall or ornate tub, look for Irene.