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How to create a garden of aromatic plants- part two

Updated on March 16, 2010

Here is the necessary completion of the previous article on the design of a garden of aromatic herbs. Necessary because now, here follow a brief description of the main species of aromatic and medicinal herbs , in which description will be provided brief details on the best types of soils and climates for a strong and impressive growth of these plants so beautiful and generous.

Oxalis acetosella (Wood sorrel)

It is a perennial, has a small rhizome, trefoil leaves very similar to those of clover. The flowers have five petals are pinkish-white with darker streaks.
Is a plant that loves shade, as it naturally grows in shady woods and meadows, especially in northern Italy, so it is a strong plant, resistant to the cold of the winter season, snow and frost. Is a plant that can grows in any terrain, in any case it prefers light soils poor in calcium. It loves the shade, but it is not afraid of the sun. In the gardens, as well as for its aromatic and medicinal virtues, it is grown for its attractive flowering that occurs in the spring.

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)

This plant is also called "devil's claw" ; is a perennial herb with tall and slender stem. The leaves are alternate and finely pinnate and jagged. It blooms during all the summer, its flowers are white, or pink, small and compact. This plant is very strong and durable, I have found it even above 2000 meters altitude in the Alps, it grows wild and is easy to find it in fields and meadows, sometimes for its remarkable expansion is considered as a common weed.
It prefers full sun areas, but it is not reluctant to grow in shaded areas, as it is a very rustic plant that does not require special attention. For cultivation in the gardens, there are particular varieties with red flowers, suitable for the formation of flower broths, or there are also some dwarf varieties that are very appropriate in rock gardens.
This plant is one that needs not a lot of water (just after sowing) and when the climate turns cold, we must cut the base and protect the roots with straw in the event of very cold winters. If the plant is cut at 8cm above the ground, you can get three harvests per season.

Laurus nobilis (Laurel)

It is a dioecious shrub,evergreen, with an ash-colored bark and lance-shaped leaves, slightly wavy on the edges. It can reach 10m in height, appearing as a small tree rather than as a plant. The flowers are very small and white, they appear in spring and are of short duration. The fruit is only found in female specimens, is a berry ovoid, first green and then matured, bluish black, each berry contains only one seed. It prefers sunny areas, it grows spontaneous in Mediterranean climate zones along the coast and near the lakes. It has not special needs, but it prefers surely the areas sheltered from the cold winter winds and it can not tolerate the prolonged cold, although you can grow it in large pots to be removed indoors during the winter. It is also used in gardens for ornamental purposes, for its dense foliage that lends itself very well to the formation of hedges, also because it is not affected negatively by the pruning to give the plant the desired shape.

Anethum graveolens (Dill)

It differs from the wild fennel only for the bitter taste of the leaves. It is an annual plant, has a cable trunk, it is light green. It blooms abundantly from June until September, with small yellow flowers gathered in umbrellas. It originated in Europe, it is found wild in the plains and hills (never more than 600m above the sea level), it prefers grasslands and abandoned lands. It is cultivated for its aromatic properties, but we must have great care in choosing the location to plant it in a garden, because it loves only the sun and heat and it is very much afraid of the cold and of the wind. Always it needs a lot of water so the soil must always be well drained to prevent the formation of rot at the roots, but once that has taken root, this plant becomes "permanent" and reproduce itself, year after year, thanks to its own seeds.

Angelica archangelica (Angelica)

It is a perennial herb, alpine, good looking and it easily reaches large sizes. It has a large root and a tall stem, the leaves are green in the lower page, are very long and have serrated edge. The flowers are white or greenish yellow, are placed on top of the plant, grouped in an umbrella. The flowers appear only in the summer of the second year after birth, and it blooms all summer in mild and temperate cliamtes. Although very often it is cultivated in gardens, it is rare to find it in the wild, in wetlands and mountain meadows. It prefers deep, fertile soils and a temperate climate with mild winters and summers not too dry.

 Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood)

It is a vigorous plant that tends to take on the appearance of shrubs, has an erect stem that can reach the meter in height. The leaves are dark green in the upper side and silvery on the bottom, the whole plant is covered with a thick silver hair. The flowers are small, meeting heads, are yellow, are contained in a green and white wrapper. It grows naturally from the plains to the mountain, in fallow fields and along roads and trails. It prefers arid and rocky soils, very well exposed to the sunlight, and it should not be exposed to excessive cold.

 Ocymum basilicum (Basil)

It is an annual plant, the stem is erect and branched. The leaves differ depending on the variety, for the shape and the size, however, they are usually oval pointed, opposite and darker on top. The flowers are small but very beautiful, white or pink, and appear in summer. This plant is very delicate and sensitive to frost, so if you live in cold areas, it is best to plant it in large pots that can be brought inside when the temperature drops below 10 degrees. Its only requirement concerns the climate, because, for the rest, it is a plant very resistant to diseases and it has a very fast growing and flourishing.

 Borrago officinalis (Borage)

It is an annual plant, its trunk is hollow, fleshy and covered with whitish hairs. The leaves are alternate, covered with white hairs, the flowers are beautiful, a deep purple color or blue, star-shaped, arranged in clusters. It blooms from May to September. It grows in the wild especially in fallow fields and along the edges of roads in all the Mediterranean countries in temperate climate (Greece, southern Italy, Spain etc..). It is a plant that was appreciated a lot in the past, now it is grown in gardens a little 'less, it is very rustic and has not any special need. Only it wants well-drained soil and plenty of sun exposure, of  which it is a great lover, it does not fear too much the cold but, like all aromatic herbs, want lots of light and ample space to be able to reproduce itself from its seeds.

Calendula officinalis (Marigold)

It is also called "carnation of Spain". It is an herbaceous plant, perennial or annual, with branched stems, often forming large bushes. The flowers can have a diameter up to 10cm, are yellow orange, while budding they have a very pleasant smell but then became uncomfortable when they are dry. The whole plant is covered with soft hair and, if rubbed, gives off a very pleasant fragrance. It grows easily in the wild, but very often it is cultivated mainly for ornamental purposes, thanks to its long flowering ranging from late winter to early autumn. It requires a land not too dry and a sunny position, it does not fear the winter, but it must be protected from the excessive moisture.

 Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile)

It is an annual plant with tall, erect and much branched stem. Its leaves are light green and bi-pinnate. The flowers appear from May to September, are very numerous and very fragrant, with a yellow heart surrounded by small white petals. It is frequently found in the wild in Mediterranean countries, on dry land, in fallow lands, particularly along the country lanes. It can be easily confused with the Chamomilla inodora, but this one does not smell nor have any medicinal property.
It is easy to cultivate, on the plains and hills, but you have to choose a dry land, with excellent exposure to the sun, the soil must be very dry and slightly chalky. Often, once it has been sown, it multiplies spontaneously.

Coriandrum sativum (Coriander)

It is an annual plant, it has an erect stem. The leaves can have different forms but all give off an unpleasant odor. The flowers are white or pink, gathered in umbrellas, they appear in spring or early summer. Now it's almost impossible to find it in the wild, if that happens it is only because some seeds escaped from cultivated specimens.
Not require a particular ground, the only thing it needs is a continuous exposure to the sun. Depending on the region's climate, one must carefully choose the variety to be cultivated: one must avoid the varieties with large fruits, in the mountains and hills where are possible late frosts, and therefore in this case are preferred varieties with  smaller fruits, more rustic and resistant. The seeds, freshly harvested, have the same unpleasant odor of the plant, but, when dried, they have the unmistakable sweet smell of the spice.

 Carum curvi (Caraway)

It is a biennial, herbaceous plant with an erect and thin stem, much branched from the ground up. The flowers appear in May / June, are white or greenish and are collected in umbrellas. In the wild it grows in meadows and pastures in the submontane area and on mountain climber. It prefers neutral soils or slightly alkaline, sandy and very sunny. It does not need much water, except after sowing and in the case of very dry summers, and it does not fear neither cold nor frost, once it has already reached two years of age.

 Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon)

It is an herbaceous perennial plant, deciduous, it forms frequently large bushes up to almost one meter high. The leaves are light green, linear, long and thin. The flowering season is from July to October, with small but very fragrant flowers, yellow, collected in panicles. The Tarragon is of two varieties: one comes from Russia, it is found in the wild  when some seeds escape from family farming; the other comes from France, but it is sterile and can not be found naturally in the wild but must be played for division of assets . The first type is more rustic and robust, while the second is more subtle but definitely better in terms of aroma.
The best soil for its cultivation must be deep and fertile, well sheltered from the wind and constantly exposed to sunlight, because this plant is very much afraid of the frost.

 Hyssopus officinalis (Hyssop)

It is a perennial plant, bushy, whose stems are thick, thin and erect. Flowers (vaguely reminiscent of lavender flowers) are blue violet, more rarely white pink, they appear in high summer on the higher leaves. In the wild, it grows in temperate and mild climates, preferring warm and sunny hilly areas, on dry and stony soils. It grows very easily, it multiplies by seed spontaneously. You must choose a place completely exposed to the sun all day, because it fears much the cold and the frost, the soil may be dry but must always be a well-drained soil.

 Lavandula officinale (Lavander)

It is a perennial and evergreen plant, with erect branches, but on the sides they are slightly broken. This plant has a facility clearance, and it is a branched herb in all the year until the end of flowering; it becomes woody until the following spring. The leaves, in June / July, are surmounted by slender stalks that bear, on their top, a spike of violet-blue flowers. It is found in the wild in all coastal areas of the Mediterranean sea but it is also cultivated everywhere, through its adaptation of its ornamental bushes, silvery gray, for its beautiful flowers and for its sweet aroma. It prefers limestone soils, dry and free of stagnant water, and the place in which it grows must be very well exposed to the sun.
It does not fear the cold and this plant is very resistant to even more cold winters, what is most important for its growth is especially a lot of sun light.

 Origanum majorana (Marjoram)

It is an herbaceous perennial, it has erect stems and rich branches. The leaves are small, oval, and slightly covered with dense hair. It blooms in summer with small white-rose flowers in spikes. This plant is of Asian origin and has a strong scent, and precisely because of its intense aroma is very common in gardens. It grows well in hot or temperate climates, it loves the hot and sunny position, in areas with harsh climate it changes from perennial to annual plant and, at the arrival of the cold, it dies. In areas of the temperate climate is sufficient to cover and protect the roots during the winter. It is very sensitive to excessive humidity, it must be watered only when there are very dry summers, or in the garden is sufficient rainwater.

 Malva silvestris (Mallow)

It is a biennial plant, sometimes perennial, bushy, with upright gait. The flowers bloom from April to October, in pairs, are usually pink with purple longitudinal streaks darker.
It is a plant of campaign, it grows easily and spontaneously from the coast to the mountains in countries with a Mediterranean climate, often grows wild even in the gardens. It prefers rich, fertile soils, in areas with temperate climates and well exposed to sunlight.

 Melissa officinalis (Melissa)

It is also known as Citronella for its intense lemon fragrance that emanates on contact. It is an herbaceous perennial with stems very erect, the leaves are bright green, heart shaped, shiny and covered with hair on top, opaque at the bottom. The flowers appear from May to August, are yellowish white first and then, once fertilized, light pink. It is a plant that comes from Asia but has spread to all Mediterranean countries, it is easily found in the wild, along fences, ditches and trails from the low plains up to 1000m of altitude. This plant likes cool and shady soils, not so much afraid of the cold and shadow, but rather of the excessive heat and sun, so you must water it thoroughly and regularly throughout the summer.

 Mentha piperita (Peppermint)

It is a perennial herb with a root system well developed, the stem is erect and purplish-green, the leaves are deep green, opposite, their margin toothed. The flowers, grouped in spikes, appear in July and have red and rosy colour, an intense and pleasant aroma. It is much cultivated, but it is also found in the wild, although in lesser amounts than other species of mint (M. aquatica, M. longifolia etc.). It has no special needs, the temperate zones are more suited to its cultivation, the best lands are those rich in organic matter and dry. If not contained, this plant can invade the entire flower bed with its thick roots.


 Origanum vulgare (Origanum)

It is an herbaceous perennial. The flowers are red or white, gathered in spikes forming panicles, they appear in midsummer. It is a typical Mediterranean plant, it prefers areas exposed to full sun, drought, it is found growing naturally throughout the Mediterranean area. It grows easily in both north and south areas, from the sea to the mountains, but it prefers a temperate climate and its flavor is more intense if it grows in a sunny position. It is incredibly durable and strong, and no diseases are reported to which it could be subject, it is only necessary to take care to avoid stagnant water and the frozen of the winter or of the spring.

 Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

It is an evergreen shrub, a bush in the family of the Labiatae. The stem can be high by a few tens of cm up to two / three meters in height, the stem is initially prostrate at the base, where it occasionally produces many natural offshoots, then becomes gradually more and more erect and much branched. The leaves are leathery and persistent, have a linear form with the folded edge down, the upper surface is green and glossy, the lower one is white, because of unbranched and glandular hairs. The flowers are present for most of the year in the warmer parts of the Mediterranean coastline, they are of a beautiful color blue violet or lilac, and are grouped in cluster, have five petals, three upper and two lower. It loves the sun and the heat, it fears only the cold and, above all, the prolonged frost, but aside from the cold, it is a rustic plant, highly resistant, which does not need particularly fertile or treated ground, does not need rain and is not subject almost to any illness or infection, to which are often subject all plants.

 Ruta graveolens (Rue)

It is a perennial, glabrous, green-colored ash. The branches are herbaceous, with small leaves very small, that give off a strong smell and rather unpleasant. From May to September it blooms with tiny yellow flowers. There is also a very decorative variety with gray-blue foliage. Is not very widespread in the wild but it is frequently seen in the Mediterranean area. It prefers dry, calcareous, stony soils and well exposed to the sun. In early winter we must cover the roots with straw, while it is necessary to water frequently during extremely dry summers.

 Salvia officinalis (Sage)

It is an evergreen shrub, with stems much branched and woody at the base. The leaves are grayish green, thick and wrinkled, the young ones are covered with dense hair. The flowers appear at the apex of the stem at the end of spring, are blue violet. It is common in southern and island regions in the wild, from the coast up to 800m altitude. Preferably growing on calcareous and stony soils. It is a plant who loves the heat and sun, tolerate the drought well, but is also resistant to winter frosts, being a rustic plant, it adapts well to any type of climate and terrain.

 Satureja hortensis (Savory)

It is an annual plant with branching stems. The branches are ascending and quadrangular, lead opposite leaves light green and covered with a light fuzz. The flowers appear in summer, are white or pink. It is not very widespread in the wild, it grows in the northern plains and hills. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow, it develops without any difficulty in any type of terrain, especially on those dry and well exposed to the sun. The plant reproduces by itself, without sowing it every time, and therefore can become a weed in the garden.

 Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion)

It is an herbaceous perennial, green, with short stature. The leaves are arranged in rosettes and, if cut, emit a white sap. The flower is composed of large heads of deep yellow color. It is very common in the wild, there is a bit 'everywhere, from the plains up to high altitudes in the mountains, fields and pastures, forests and on roadsides. Not very cultivated, it adapts well to any soil, preferring those that are well endowed with organic matter. It adapts well to dry climates and almost devoid of rainfall and also safely survive in very cold winters.


 Thymus vulgaris (Thyme)

It is a small and perennial shrub, it forms very compact shrubs. The trunk is full of branches that become woody with great ease. The leaves are very small, silvery green, the flowers are white or rosy lilac, they appear from spring until late summer, grouped in spikes. It is so common that it can be seen everywhere, from the lowlands up to 2000m in elevation, typically it develops in environments poor, barren and stony. It is a very rustic plant that grows well almost anywhere, but prefers stony soils and limestone, well exposed to the sun. It not requires any special care, only the cleaning of weeds because, being very low, it can be hidden by plants more luxuriant.



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