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Nine Great AAS Winning Herbs for Your Garden
by AAS All America Selections - Mark Dwyer
July 26, 2020

Growing herbs in the garden is a rewarding and exciting prospect for many reasons.

Of course, the convenience and value of fresh herbs from the garden can help us expand our culinary explorations and there is nothing better than those “homegrown” herbs and edibles picked fresh right from the garden. Many herbs also have ornamental qualities of colorful foliage, interesting texture, and engaging blooms. Plus, they smell great! All-America Selections has a multitude of award-winning herbs that will add beauty, form, and function in your garden beds and containers.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to allocate a specific space for your herbs.

Most herbs will thrive in sunny, tough locations and don’t mind being incorporated into diverse plantings or container arrangements. While your selection of a particular herb may be based on your future use of that herb in the kitchen, the placement can also be based on the ornamental value and contribution of the plant itself. The wispy texture and floating yellow flowers of ‘Fernleaf’ dill can weave through a composition that also includes maroon-leaf basils like ‘Purple Ruffles’ and ‘Dark Opal’.

Some of the Thai basils like ‘Siam Queen’ and ‘Persia’ also offer gorgeous blossoms that are attractive to pollinators and have impact and longevity in a cut flower arrangement.

While we as gardeners and cooks enjoy fresh herbs as an ingredient in our culinary masterpieces, don’t underestimate the ornamental value of these same plants in myriad and creative locations around your landscape. All-America Selections winning herbs offer top-notch selections that will long be remembered for their taste and their contribution to your tastefully ornamental garden and containers!

Explore and enjoy.

Here are some tips to consider when incorporating these herbs into your garden.

Know the needs of the plant.

Your success with any plant, including herbs, is related to knowing the preferences of that plant in terms of optimum sunlight, soil preferences, watering schedule, etc. Know what these herbs need from you to maximize their success in the garden.

Consider growing herbs from seed as they are super easy to start.

Many herbs need good drainage to replicate their native environments in which they thrive.

Adequate drainage in containers and in the garden is a must for the majority of herbs.

Harvesting your herbs will temporarily result in a less than perfect appearance. No worries!

Just be patient and wait for the regrowth. Don’t be hesitant to harvest frequently. Removing the flowers of some herbs (i.e. basil) helps promote more leafy growth although some varieties of basil have beautiful flowers that contribute to bedding schemes, pollinator value, and cut flower arrangements.

As the growing season winds down, consider moving some herbs inside or planting a later crop to grow indoors.

Temperature, humidity, and available lighting will be the primary considerations in having a successful indoor, winter herb garden.

‘Antares’ fennel (Foeniculum)

The first AAS award-winning fennel features a round, pure white bulb at ground level; offering a sweet, licorice/anise flavor. The ferny foliage is ornamental (24”) and enjoyed by swallowtail caterpillars. Also slow to bolt, ‘Antares’ looks great in the flower bed or in containers and is delicious in your recipes.

‘Dolce Fresca’ Basil (Ocimum)

Sweet, tender leaves have immediate use in the kitchen and this compact selection (15”) is quick to recover after harvest. This variety doesn’t get tall and leggy, thereby offering more usable leaf yields on a tidy and beautiful plant. Plus, the aroma is amazing!

‘Persian’ Basil (Ocimum)

This tall (24”) and bushy plant features silvery-green leaves and purple stems. The leaves offer a unique flavoring and can be added to pestos, soups, salads, and pizza. Although late to flower (if desired), the showy blooms of this Thai-type basil are a magnet for pollinators and are long-lasting as a cut flower.

‘Dark Opal’ Basil (Ocimum)

Stunning, dark violet-purple leaves are the trademark of this variety which many consider the darkest on the market. The leaves have a slight hint of licorice although the culinary value is still significant. This selection is frequently grown as a micro-green. Reaching 18-24”, ‘Dark Opal’ will also have gorgeous lilac flowers which are great for pollinators and in the cut flower vase.

‘Siam Queen’ Basil (Ocimum)

Prized for both culinary and ornamental value, this Thai basil features aromatic, glossy green leaves that have a hint of licorice in the flavoring. Reaching 20-24”, this basil is commonly used as a bedding plant with gorgeous maroon flowers that attract pollinators and have longevity in the cut flower arrangement. Many consider ‘Siam Queen’ to be the classic standard for Thai basils.

‘Sweet Dani’ Lemon Basil (Ocimum)

This variety is considered the best of the lemon basils with 75% more essential oils, providing an intense lemon aroma and flavor. There are numerous culinary uses for this taller basil (24”) which performs well in ornamental situations as well. If left to bloom, pollinators will appreciate access to the numerous flowers. Remove flowers if culinary use is the priority.

‘Geisha’ Chives Garlic (Allium)

This perennial herb (zones 3-9) is a must for any culinary herb garden. The garlic-flavored foliage has many fresh uses and the sweet-scented, white flowers are attractive to pollinators. This refined selection is heat tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant and is versatile. Garlic chives can abundantly reseed.

‘Fernleaf’ Dill (Anethum)

Dill is a versatile herb with uniquely flavored seeds and foliage. This compact (24”) selection is “space-saving” and looks great tucked into a border or container. This variety is also slow to bolt (bloom) if the focus is on utilizing the foliage. However, the chartreuse flower umbels are beautiful and some species of swallowtails love nibbling on the foliage.

'Cleopatra’ Oregano (Origanum)

The silvery-grey foliage is mildly spicy with a peppermint flavor perfect in Mediterranean dishes, soups and sauces. Preferring full sun and reaching 9” in height with a 12-18” spread, this compact selection offers a huge yield and when flowering, has value for pollinators as well. This species of oregano is hardy to zones 9-10.

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