We were roasting lamb the other day and I headed out to the garden for a few sprigs of rosemary, as you do. For ages after cutting, the gorgeous aroma clung to my hands, reminding me yet again what a super plant this is – so much so that I think it deserves a Gardenwise column all to itself.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance’, says Ophelia in Hamlet. Since at least Shakespeare’s time then, and likely long before that, this evergreen herb has been associated with remembrance as well as culinary use. Apparently that’s because it’s so aromatic that the fragrance stays on your hands long after you have handled it – as I so recently noticed myself. Just as well it’s a lovely one then!
Like many aromatic evergreens, rosemary likes well-drained soil, so adding lots of organic matter or grit is a good idea if your soil is heavy, or you could consider growing it in a raised bed, where drainage is usually better. It can grow to quite a hefty – sized shrub in just a few years, so if space is tight, there’s always Rosmarinus ‘Prostratus’, the prostrate rosemary, which spreads into a small mound and stays compact. Most varieties will produce small, sky-blue flowers in late spring, but its real value in the garden is as an evergreen that (along with thymes and sages ) will give you winter colour and structure, and can be mingled very successfully with other ornamental plants in a mixed border, as well as in a dedicated herb garden.
As well as the classic pairing with lamb, rosemary is good with all kinds of roast things including vegetables – and works surprisingly well with sweet things too. If you’re into baking, there’s a Rosemary Loaf Cake in Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ that will surprise you if you’ve only ever thought of rosemary in connection with savoury things. It’s delicious, and definitely one to remember!
An evergreen that likes good drainage, plant with ornamentals or as seen here, as part of a herb garden
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