Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials – Choosing Herb Garden Plants
Herb garden plants come in annuals, perennials, and biennials. So many different types of herbs exist and yet each one is unique. One way to learn much about herbs is to choose one type of herb and research it to completely understand the proper care and use of it. Read on to discover the different types and their use and purpose.
Basil, cilantro, and summer savory are annuals. These need to be planted from a seed or small plant every year and will not survive a frost.
Perennials are marked by the ability to withstand colder temperatures and returns each spring. Winter savory and sage are examples of perennial herbs.
Interestingly, biennial herbs produce leaves in the first year of growth and flowers and seed in the second year, and then die. Parsley, angelica, and caraway are examples of biennial herbs. These should be sown directly in the garden in late spring.
Turn the soil (with amendments if necessary), keeping it damp while doing so, until it is very fine. Plant the seeds in shallow rows, cover and gently tamp the soil to cover, careful not to compact the soil. When working with very fine seed it sometimes helps to mix it with sand to spread it more evenly. Cover the planted area with wet burlap or newspaper to hold in moisture until germination.
Herb categories help us to understand the primary use of each. Culinary herbs are very common in the garden and used primarily in cooking. Parsley is used as a garnish and is very popular. Savory, sage, marjoram, basil, thyme, and chives have strong flavors and are used in small quantities in cooking.
Pleasant smelling flowers or foliage are characteristics of a group called aromatic herbs. Rosemary, mint, and lovage are aromatic herbs having oils which are used in scented products such as perfumes or toilet water. Some aromatic herbs are used in whole pieces to scent linens and clothing. Potpourri is made from dried aromatic herbs. Dried herbs have an extended fragrance life. Lemon verbena and lavender are common herbs used in potpourri.
There are many herbs that are used in medical applications. Throughout history, and in many cultures and civilizations, herbs have been thought to have curative powers. Modern medical knowledge understands that some herbs compliment one’s health, while others are exaggerated in their curative powers. Medicinal herbs should be used very carefully. Most herbs are harmless; however, others can be harmful or fatal if eaten.
This group is all about looking good, i.e. just being beautiful. Many ornamental herbs have brightly colored flowers or foliage. Valerian displays crimson flowers while borage and chicory produce beautiful blue flowers.
We categorize herbs into different categories of purpose but remember many herbs have multiple uses. Mint, for example, is used in cooking, herbal tea, and garden pest control. No matter your purpose in growing herbs, your ability to choose the herb with the most use for you is enhanced with your understanding the different plants.