How to Grow Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis)
- Plant: perennial
- Hardy to 0°C
- Height: 0.6-2m
- Soil: dry, poor, well drained
- Exposure: sun
- Propagation: seeds, cuttings
- Uses: culinary
Where winters are mild enough, rosemary is an outstanding shrubby
perennial for permanent landscape use. Where it would winterkill
outdoors, grow it in containers and bring plants inside during the cold
There are several varieties of Rosmarinus officinalis that grow
between 60cm - 2m high (depending on variety) and can he used for
ground covers and hedges.
The leaves of all varieties are narrow and needle-like (similar to pine
needles) and are glossy green on the top and a lighter, gray-green
underneath. Their aroma is resinous and pine-like. Small clusters of
light lavender-blue flowers 30cm wide cover the foliage in summer and
spring, although you nearly always will find a few flowers throughout
the rest of the year. With age, the stems become woody and gnarled,
giving plants a rugged appearance.
The variety Trostratus' is the lowest growing to about 60cm and makes
an excellent ground cover or low hedge. Its branches twist and curve and
will gracefully spill over a wall or creep around rocks. Rigid, upright
branches and darker blue flowers are typical of 'Tuscan Blue'. The
varieties 'Collingwood Ingram' and 'Lockwood de Forest' both have bluer
flowers than the species and are lower growing.
Rosemary has several associations with the Virgin Mary. The flowers
are said to have received their color when she placed her sky blue cloak
over a rosemary bush to dry after washing it. It is also thought that
she sought cover behind a bush of rosemary while fleeing to Egypt.
Boughs of rosemary have had many uses in the past. They were carried at
weddings and placed on coffins at funerals. Because the fragrance was
thought to be disinfectant, rosemary branches were strewn on the floors
of prisons and courts of justice to counteract the diseases that
prisoners carried. The ancient Greeks and Romans burned the leaves as
incense. Rosemary also was used to prevent balding and to condition
hair. The leaves were sometimes placed under pillows to prevent
nightmares. Rosemary is also the herb of memory, and the leaves were
supposed to quicken the mind and prevent forgetfulness.
endure poor soil, as long as it is well drained, and hot sun. Except in
very hot climates, it requires little water once it is established. It
responds well to container culture and can be grown indoors.
Use the leaves fresh or dried with chicken, meats (especially lamb),
stews, and vegetables. A tea can also be brewed from them. Use a branch
of rosemary as a brush for applying barbecue sauce to chicken and burn
sprigs in the coals just before the chicken is done—the smoke will
impart rosemary's characteristic flavor to the meat.
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