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: