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Flowers and Fragrances | Spring 2011 Out Here Magazine

If you're new to growing, try herbs, which are practically foolproof. All they really need is a sunny spot.

Have plenty of both with a little herb garden


By Peter V. Fossel
Photography by iStock


A garden, to me, should be so enchanting that, upon entering it, you don't want to leave. Such it is with herb gardens. The colors, flavors, fragrances, and varieties are not only beyond equal, but almost foolproof. Virtually all herbs have one foot in the wild and are carefree. All they need is a sunny spot. Never mind soil conditions; herbs don't much care.


If you've never grown herbs, try starting with these. They're easy to grow and are common in many recipes.




L'herb royale, as the French say. An annual, basil loves heat. You can start from seeds or buy plants. The leaves are for pesto, any Italian or tomato dish, or in Asian cooking. Allow a good two square feet for each plant. I store leaves in olive oil in the freezer for winter pesto.




This biennial herb is perhaps the most nutritious thing you can eat, makes a great breath freshener, and a garnish of course. It's so easy to grow I used it once as a low border around garden beds.




A low-growing perennial, thyme works well in almost any dish; meats, eggs, or vegetables. Its subtle flavor doesn't overwhelm, so combine it with other herbs and spices. It's rugged enough to walk on, and wooly thyme is nice in the cracks of a stone or brick walk. Grow from plants or cuttings.


You must grow dill. Its tall, airy foliage, and big flower heads are beautiful in any garden. Give it a permanent place because it self-seeds. Dill is delicious with soups, salads, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and many vegetables, including potatoes. It's about as versatile an herb as you'll find.


This bold, graceful plant is lovely alone or in any garden, growing to 3 feet in most areas. It's not winterhardy in northern climates, however. The leaves are both fragrant and culinary, adding a sweet pungent flavor to poultry, fish, and meat roasts — as well as tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, squash, cheese, eggs, and much more. Grow from plants or cuttings.


This is another handsome perennial, growing to 3 feet, with lovely blue flowers in June and highly fragrant silvery-soft leaves. Young leaves are delicious in omelets, soups, with most meats, potatoes, and vegetables. Dried sage is stronger than fresh. Grow from plants or cuttings. Branches are nice in wreaths.


This is one of the prettiest, tastiest, and most carefree perennial herbs you'll find. It's hard to think of a dish that sweet, mild onion flavor doesn't enhance, and its flowers are lovely. Eat fresh; drying is hard to do. Can be dug up and brought indoors for winter dining after being allowed to freeze and go dormant in the pot outside.

Bee Balm

This tall herb is often grown just for its lovely flowers, which can also add an edible color splash to salads or summer punch. Its gentle citrus flavor is lovely in tea, with fresh fruits, or with poultry, pork, meat dishes, and curries.

Peter V. Fossel has grown herbs from Massachusetts to Colorado.