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Rosemary in My Garden

Rosemary is a surprise in my garden. Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary prefers low humidity and well drained, even sandy soil of neutral to alkaline ph. My garden experiences sauna type humidity, and it has heavy clay, acid soil. Lavender is another plant with similar cultural requirements as rosemary, and it perishes here. But rosemary has grown well for me. Here are some recent photos of my rosemary:

Rosemary must have heat and full sun, and it does receive this in my garden. I have also added plenty of humus to the clay soil, to improve drainage. It is planted along the edge of the walkway which leads from the patio to the front garden, and I suspect lime from the concrete walkway leaches into the soil and increases the ph enough to satisfy the rosemary. I fertilize my rosemary in the spring with fish emulsion, and I prune it to allow good air circulation between it and the surrounding plants. 

Rosemary comes in both trailing and upright forms. I have two of the upright kind, originally grown a few years ago as small topiary Christmas trees. I planted them outside after the holiday season, and I wasn't sure they would survive. Rosemary often dies if the temperature drops much below freezing. We have mild, short winters, but frost and sometimes snow is expected. Nevertheless, my rosemary has survived several winters, so I must have a hardier variety. My one disappoinment is that although rosemary is supposed to produce pretty little blue or white flowers, mine have never bloomed. 

I allowed the rosemary plants to grow out of their artificial tree shapes, and they soon assumed their more natural structure. Rosemary is a woody evergreen shrub that can grow up to six feet tall, but I keep mine to about three feet. Much higher than that and they start to flop over other plants and obstruct the walkway. My husband Lou got angry at one of them once and attacked it with his chainsaw, ruthlessly chopping it without regards to appearance. I had to re-prune it and try to salvage its good looks, but it took over a year for the poor plant to recover. I have been diligent to keep it within its designated bounds since then. I prune them with my hand snippers, cutting individual branches at different levels throughout the plant. This improves air flow and allows sunlight to penetrate the plant. Pruning them is an olfactory experience. My plants are high in essential oils, and the stimulating fragrance fills the garden when I am working on them.

Rosemary has traditionally been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is high in antioxidants and is noted for improving memory and relieving stress. Some studies suggest its essential oil may help regrow hair. I need to tell Lou about that. Mostly I grow it because I love the way it looks in my garden.

Here are some photos taken back in May that show its location along the walkway which runs under the arch:The top photo is taken from the patio, outside the kitchen. The second photo is looking back from the path, just beyond the arch. The pretty pink flowering shrub is 'Anthony Waterer' spirea.

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Reader Comments (16)

The first photo is gorgeous! You have the kind of garden that I can only dream of. Rosemary is also a surprise in my garden. I have changed pot and changed spot but they are still surprisingly not looking good. I think I will have to make changes again...like you said, more sun, better drainage...Thanks for the tips.

August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOne

Your photos are really nice Deb. I never tried Rosemary in the ground, but it would not over winter. Lavender does OK here with gravel added.

August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Mmm, I love fresh rosemary for cooking. The only place I've ever seen rosemary flowering is when I was in London many years ago. It was so pretty trailing over balconies and planters.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGirlSprout

I've had rosemary both in heavy clay and now our sandy soil here in the UK. They have over-wintered every year with temperatures below freezing but last winter I lost all three of my established rosemary as temperatures fell to -15. Your rosemary looks very healthy; perhaps it's not flowering because of the timing of your pruning?

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan@HollyGrove

I have Rosemary growing very successfully but Lavender struggles. I dont have high humidity like you but I do have clay soil. I think the most important thing is that the plant doesn't suffer with winter wet so improving the drainage helps, mine is planted on a slope which helps with the drainage

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Your rosemary defies its known requirements, huh? Hmm. I wonder if I can grow them as well even with our humidity. I'll need some of that essential oil for myself. Hahaha! ;-)

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBom

I love Rosemary! Just brushing against it releases that wonderful fragrance, and i brush against it often. I'm going to try your method of pruning, as we have a real problem with humidity here. Yours look beautiful! I have had mine bloom but only in about year 3.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

Lovely photos. I have a rosemary bush, it was in a pot for many years and became very pot bound. It is now in a bed outside the kitchen. It seems almost indestructable! Your garden looks marvellous, so lush and green.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRonnie/Hurtledtowards60

I've grown rosemary now in three different gardens, both the upright and trailing forms. Our first garden, although somewhat sunny, wasn't sunny or hot enough, and in 7 years the plant never bloomed. I then moved that plant (it was in a half wine barrel) to the hot inland Central Valley, and the first spring it bloomed its heart out, almost as if it was making up for lost time. Here we seem to have just the right balance of light, and heat, even though we do tend toward higher humidity here at the coast. We have both forms growing here, using the trailing variety as a bank cover to curb erosion, and both bloom very well. The upright form took about 3 years to flower, but the trailing variety bloomed the first year. It really is one of my favorite garden plants. It's so versatile, very resilient, and even if it doesn't bloom, like yours, it still provides beautiful (and fragrant) evergreen structure in the garden.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Your rosemary looks very happy, and beautiful with the spirea and the arch! I have Rosemary too but only growing up at my mailbox where even lavender thrives. I'll have to try it in some other places too. It's 'Arp', one with pale blue flowers. The NC Botanical Garden has a large collection (albeit in raised beds), and several have dark blue flowers that are really striking.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I love rosemary and so admire rosemary that has matured in the ground. Yours is very admirable. If BB attacked mine with a chain saw he might be out the door! Ha. I keep rosemary in two pots and have to bring them in for winter. Once, I tried to prune their roots to keep them in the same size pot but they did not like that. I just love the smell and frequently "pet" them. Such a beautiful walkway!

August 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthevioletfern

Rosemary for remembrance. ,.....and yet it can sometimes sulk in our climate. A comprehensive study. Thank you

August 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercatharine howard

I'm surprised your rosemary has never flowered. Even the ones I grew in the UK used to flower every year in late winter. Here tehy flower over a long period sometimes from as early as January. You're right it is strange that the rosemary thrives and lavender doesn't. Sometimes whole branches of my rosemary just turn brown and die for no obvious reason. Christina

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Your rosemary looks awesome!! I grew some in a pot for several years that I rooted from a cutting, but it never bloomed and was so wretched, I finally put it out of it's misery. My lavender does really well and almost died when I had it in a spot that was too dry. I grow a type that can tolerate more humidity/moisture than most.

September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

I've always thought it would be wonderful to live in a climate where rosemary would be winter-hardy, grow to be a tall woody plant, and maybe even bloom! I sometimes keep my rosemary alive through the winter by running out to put an overturned box over it on cold nights -- but they seldom last more than 2 seasons (it only takes one night of negligence on my part to kill them) and they have certainly never bloomed. Yours are beautiful.

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

hello Deb, my son and D-i-L have an acid clay garden and there was a large rosemary bush there when they moved in, I have one in a pot and worry about leaving it out in winter because of the winds, yours look lovely and I agree about the aroma, I just love working on or near herbs, I am surprised yours have never flowered I have never heard of that before, it's a shame you don't see the flowers, most of the ones I've seen in flower over here have mauve or blue/mauve flowers, really tiny ones along the stem among the leaves, from a distance it's like a mauve haze, I wouldn't have thought it was the heat as the med can get very hot in summer though it would have less humidity but the UK has lots of humidity, sorry I'm rambling a bit just think it's sad you don't get the flowers, bees love them too, Frances

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIsland Threads
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