Rosemary for any length of time without gloves and your fingers become covered
with a sticky black resin. Actually, it is oil. And, for lovers of Rosemary this
as good as gold. It is this black gold that gives Rosemary its aromatic,
flavorful, and healthful properties. With over a thousand different kinds of
herbs and perennials available to us here at Mountain Valley Growers it might
seem difficult to choose a favorite, but for me it is definitely Rosemary.
Disappointed? If you knew Rosemary, the way I know Rosemary you wouldn’t be.
The uses for Rosemary are endless. It’s versatility and ruggedness make it the perfect California landscape scapegoat. In
cooking, Rosemary is perfect for everything from
benefits of Rosemary are being brought to light as scientists research
constituents found in the black gold.
With Rosemary Plants
experience with using Rosemary in the landscape is extensive. It was one of the first plants
purchased for the nursery. Planted over 20 years ago from a three inch
pot, the original Rosemary plant now measures almost five feet high and
twenty feet wide. This one small Rosemary plant became the
parent to many others that eventually were planted with it and they, too,
quickly became a permanent part of our landscape. Who knows, if we watered them
more often they might even be bigger, but these Rosemary plants receive only 2 or 3 deep waterings in the summer. Summers here run about 105 degrees. One summer, this
planting of Rosemary was watered only once. While the Rosemary plants did suffer from this abuse, losing several
branches in their struggle for survival, several weeks after watering the
plants were healthy and green once again. Rosemary lets you know when it is critically dry
by turning yellow green. Chances are even under this extreme stress the Rosemary
would not die completely.
Later after the original
planting was several years old, we planted the driveway at
Mountain Valley Growers, which is over 300 feet long, with more
three inch pots of Rosemary. In the beginning, we wanted the Rosemary on
the driveway to form a formal hedge. Every two years the Rosemary plants were
suppose to be pruned to their most upright spires. All the undergrowth was
to be removed, giving the appearance that the plant just touches the
ground. They were pruned this way twice over four years. Removing the
sprawling horizontal growth forced more of the plant to grow upright. This
formed a wall about three feet high, and the overall appearance became a
more solid display of color because the stems are standing together rather
than splayed in all directions. However, as time passed and the Rosemary
became wider and wider, the pruning effort became too labor intensive
and the Rosemary plants were allowed to naturalize.
This mass planting is now going on
its 20th year. Now most of the
bushes are 3 to 5 feet tall and and many reach 20 feet wide. The Rosemary
stems have touched the ground and rooted in hundreds of spaces. They root like
this during the wet months and survive with minimum water throughout the
The dark blue flower of our
upright Rosemary provides a rich hued mural
of blue for many weeks in late winter/early spring. Visitors are often very surprised to
discover the plant they are so taken with is Rosemary. Even though many have
never grown Rosemary it seems to conjure up some boring picture in their mind.
Sort of like never having tasted turnips but innately knowing they are not going
to be first choice for dinner tonight. Maybe, this misconception comes from viewing poorly maintained parking lot plantings, often butchered by
electric trimmers or driven over by some careless motorist. Perhaps, our tall
regal variety of Rosemary is not readily available at the nursery where they shop. Whatever
the reason, attitudes toward Rosemary change when our Rosemary driveway is in bloom.
tempting to say there aren’t any rules for Rosemary. It is that easy to grow.
Like most Mediterranean plants, Rosemary likes to be high and dry. If you plant
it in the garden, choose a location with all day sun and a soil rich in organic compost that drains well. If you have wet summers, try raising your Rosemary plants up
off the ground, which will help to reduce humidity and increase drainage. Also, don’t
crowd your Rosemary plants. With a few exceptions they are large plants and need space.
This is especially important if you have humid summers, because it allows air to
move more freely around the plant. If your soil is rich in organic matter, you
should never need to fertilize. If your Rosemary is already planted and you want
to improve the soil, layer compost three to four inches around the base of the
Rosemary plant and do it often. Very small plants should not be mulched right up
to their bases; a three inch air space of bare ground around the little Rosemary
plant will keep it from becoming composted. If you spray no harmful chemicals and use only organic fertilizers, the
critters at ground level and below will take your compost to the Rosemary plant's roots
and nourish the plants and the soil.
can be left to grow without pruning which provides a wild naturalized look or
they can be pruned to almost any shape. In fact, Rosemary is often used to make
topiaries. Be sure to prune your Rosemary plants right after they have bloomed. As new growth
occurs, flower buds for the next year are already being set. Late season pruning
of Rosemary stems will cause a decrease in the number of flowers. When
plants are small, it might be tempting to prune them hard. As they get
bigger the folly of this becomes apparent. As with any plant, dead stems
or stems that are in your way, can be pruned at anytime. We have pruned
Rosemary in almost every season with no detriment to the Rosemary plant
itself (other than the decrease in bloom mentioned above).
If Rosemary has an
Achilles heel, it would be temperature. Ours have done well as temperatures
plunge into the teens and even for a brief time at 5 degrees. Most Rosemary
varieties are rated to take 10 degrees. Arp Rosemary and Madeline Hill
Rosemary can take up to minus 15. Where the winters are below minus 15 then you either must bring your
Rosemary in or treat it as an annual. If you want to over winter your
Rosemary plants in the house,
grow them as container plants outside after danger of frost and then bring them
in before temperatures go below 15. Rosemary planted in containers can
get colder than Rosemary planted in the ground.
Container grown Rosemary
should be planted in a good potting mix with sufficient texture to allow large
air spaces in the soil. Adding 25 to 30 percent perlite and an all purpose organic fertilizer
to the soil mix at planting is preferred. A three inch pot of Rosemary should be
placed into at least a gallon of soil. We do not recommend combining Rosemary
with other herbs unless you have a really big pot. Planting perennial herbs
together can make it difficult to repot when the plants are root bound. Each spring,
after danger of frost, move your Rosemary to a larger pot or root prune and
refill the container with fresh soil. Bring your Rosemary pot in before the
first frost and give it as much light as possible. Be careful not to let it get
too close to ice cold window panes. Fluorescent lighting can be used by placing
the lights about three inches above the tops of the Rosemary plants and leaving the lights on for
about 14 hours. Watch the water. Only water when the soil is dry. Use either a
water meter or a pencil to test the soil before you water. Insert your pencil as
far into the soil near the Rosemary roots as it will go. If it comes out with just a few crumbs, then go
ahead and water. Don’t let the pot sit in a saucer with water and use room
temperature water to avoid shocking the plant. In the spring after danger of
frost has passed, move your pot of Rosemary outside by gradually
exposing it to the outdoors. Place the container in a sunny location and
give it a few more hours of sunlight each
Varieties of Rosemary
Plants and Their Uses
There are so many kinds of Rosemary
available now that choosing one might seem daunting. But, in fact many
of the named varieties are very similar to each other. We have chosen to
offer Rosemary varieties that are very different from each other
Rosemary does not have to be pruned at all.
It flows outward forming a
perfect circle that can measure between six and eight feet (or more over time)
in diameter and two feet or more in height. This produces a very
pleasing natural look, requires no maintenance at all and makes the
perfect companion for the native landscape. Low water requirements mean
low weed germination during the dry months. And as this Rosemary
grows to cover the ground it smothers all weeds under it. Eight feet of weed
cover from one Rosemary plant is a lot of value for your dollar. Sprawling branches and a
tough, extensive root system are also ideal for hillside retention. Mass
planting can fill a large expanse with rich colors. While all Rosemary varieties
used for cooking, this Rosemary is particularly nice because of its large leaves
and all the black gold they contain.
Rosemary is a tall ground cover that can cover eight or ten feet
in diameter in a very short period of time. It can also trail down eight or ten feet. It
makes a most beautiful planter box for a second story balcony. It falls all the way to the ground and
is covered with pale blue flowers. Or, planted on a hot southern facing wall this man made waterfall
is a welcome
relief from the heat. Creeping Rosemary, also known as Santa Barbara Trailing
Rosemary, gets a little taller each year as it grows over older
Scented Rosemary has finely
textured leaves that are easily chopped up. This plus an excellent flavor make this
Rosemary the variety many chefs prefer. Pine Scented Rosemary is a different
species than our other Rosemary plants and it shows. Other Rosemary varieties have such coarse leaves that using them fresh can be a problem. Even chopped
fine they are very tough, but this Rosemary's leaves are soft, like cilantro or
parsley which make it more suitable for fresh use. A very pretty plant in the landscape, Pine Scented Rosemary is a soft
sea green that grows to about three to four feet high by about four or more feet wide.
Rosemary is one of the
Rosemary varieties to choose if you live where winter
temperatures are frequently in the teens or less. Discovered on a cold snowy day
by veteran herb pioneer Madeline Hill in the Texas town of Arp, this Rosemary
has survived several winters in the Case Western University Botanic Garden in
Cleveland, Ohio, where they must take their other kinds of Rosemary in for the winter.
Madalene Hill Rosemary is also a cold hardy Rosemary. Both of these are rated to survive minus 15
degrees. And, both are erect, growing to about three feet. Their flowers are a
Rosemary has the thinnest leaves of all
our Rosmarinus officinalis plants. Gracefully curved branches are punctuated by short spires that rise
randomly like exclamation marks. Even though the flower color is pale, there are
so many flowers that they combine and provide a respectable cloud of pink,
especially when viewed at a distance. Growing quickly to two feet this Pink
be enjoyed in its natural whirlwind state or pruned into a hedge. Pink
narrow leaves are flavorful but because they are small it is the best choice if
you want to do a lot of cooking.
Rosemary is visually
different This is a beautiful very erect Rosemary plant
with fat succulent leaves and white flowers that have just a spot of blue in the
throat. The branches of White Rosemary are reminiscent of candelabras and give the plant an open
and airy look.
Rosemary has weeping foliage
that can brighten a semi
shady spot or offer an interesting specimen in a gold garden. Located among too
many green plants it can look in need of fertilizer. The golden hue turns darker
green over summer and returns with cooler weather.
Rosemary is the smallest of
all the Rosemary varieties. Small leaves and little light blue pearls
for flowers makes Blue Boy Rosemary a good choice for a container or
near the front of the garden. Blue Boy Rosemary grows very slowly but it
will eventually reach two feet wide and two feet high. It can
be used for cooking but because the needles are so small it will take several
stems to equal one large stem of a regularly sized Rosemary.
Spice Islands Rosemary has
thick juicy looking leaves and very upright growth with a nice dark blue
flower. It is perfect to use as a barbecue skewer. Spice Islands Rosemary
has become one of our favorites in the garden and in the kitchen.
fragrance emitted from Rosemary plants on a hot sultry day can cool and refresh. The
sound of the bees busily working the Rosemary flowers is music to our freeway tired ears.
Snapping a few branches and winding them in a loose wreath we take the herb
into the kitchen to contemplate the possibilities. No matter how much
we enjoy Rosemary in the garden, Rosemary in the kitchen is what it is all
about. Cooking with Rosemary is a true delight. As it flavors our food, Rosemary
perfumes our home. And while some prefer to use Rosemary dried, fresh is best. Any
Rosemary can be used for cooking; we prefer our Upright Rosemary
for both fresh and dried use, our Pine Scented Rosemary for fresh use and
Spice Islands for providing lots to dry in each fat leaf.
Stew with fresh Rosemary
dish for a cold winter day this was served many years ago by an excellent cook
who included meat in his recipe. Over the years it has evolved into a vegetable
stew. This makes a wonderful lunch served with fresh sourdough bread or an
excellent side dish for pot roast or even hamburgers.
3 or 4 large potatoes washed
and cut into chunks
5 or 6 large carrots washed
and cut into chunks
2-15 ounce cans tomato sauce
2-15 ounce cans stewed
Salt and Pepper to taste
2-8 inch Sprigs Rosemary
Cook carrots, sauce and tomatoes over low heat for about an hour. Add
potatoes and rosemary and cook over low heat until the vegetables are
tender, about another hour. The process can be speeded up by increasing
the heat and both vegetables can be added at the same time. Add the
rosemary during the last half hour of cooking. It also works well in a
crockpot. Just add the rosemary during the last hour.