herb garden
2009-10-19. The herb garden: parsley, sage, basil, Mexican mint marigold (Texas tarragon), and lavender. The rosemary and thyme are elsewhere. The cilantro, everywhere.

October 19th, 2009
Herb Garden

I have a terrible time designing my gardens on paper. My garden practice is more opportunistic. I didn’t start with a blank slate; this yard had been here 50 years before I took a shovel to it. So, typically, I arrange the garden by walking around and seeing empty spots waiting for plants–often with said plant in hand.

Once a Tecoma stans and a beautiful David Austin rose ‘Heritage’ grew here. Then the trees grew up and shaded this spot and they died. Then I cut down the trees (invasive chinaberry). Faced with a blank spot which gets lots of summer sun, I decided it was time to make a dedicated herb garden.

AJM is the resident cook and he likes to use fresh herbs. Fortunately many herbs thrive in Texas even as other plants are croaking. Most herbs like our poor soil, drought, sun, and heat. If just having plants that like Texas weren’t enough, fresh herbs are expensive to buy but cheap to grow. Every time I “weed” a handful of self-sown cilantro out of the paths and beds I think, “That would cost me 50 cents at Central Market” and into the fridge those “weeds” go.

Herbs require good drainage so I worked in several bags (about six inches) of Natural Gardener garden soil. I was inspired by the circular beds at Rock Rose. I didn’t have any bricks so I used pieces of wood from the failed garden house.

I started with some lavender that I’d grown from cuttings. I bought a 4-inch pot of culinary sage. It grew so well that I took cuttings from it and now have five plants. Last fall, I started some curly parsley from seed. It grew as well as the cilantro over the cooler months but was much more heat-tolerant. Some of it survived the summer and is growing well again now that it is cool. In the spring, I bought several fine-leaved basil plants and a couple of Genovese basil plants. The latter have self-sown and I’m potting up the new seedlings hoping to overwinter them indoors and plant them out next spring.

I tried some French tarragon which several people said won’t grow here. They were right. However, Annie @ The Transplantable Rose consoled me with some Mexican mint marigold, aka Texas tarragon, which began blooming this month.

This weekend I finally moved some bearded iris that had edged part of the herb garden, planted out an asparagus fern that had been in the pot I’d been wanting to put in the center of the bed, and decided that the sotol that I bought on impulse at the Wildflower Garden sale would look perfect in that pot–even if, botanically, it is not an herb.

No. I could never have designed my herb garden. It had to evolve.