Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Herbaceous Green Thumbing

Alright Seattle green-thumbers, it's time to think about happy green growing things. I tell you, even on gray days, playing with plants and dirt lifts my spirits. So even if the Seattle sky doesn't want to part its clouds for us right now, we can still find light and life in the abundance that's beginning to sprout from the earth.

I am lucky to know a very talented and enthusiastic green-thumber who inspires me to play with plants. Her name is Juliet Anderson and she is an architect and a master gardener in training. She is also my friend and neighbor, and she has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger for this post. I asked Juliet to write a bit about planting herbs in our region. Many herbs thrive in the northwest and they can be so easy to cultivate for use in cooking or for healing/medicinal purposes.

Without further ado, take it away Juliet!

For a gardener living in Seattle, there is nothing more rewarding than growing herbs—our climate is perfect for herb gardens. Seattle is considered a Mediterranean climate… believe it or not. Our climate of cool, wet winters and dry, warm summers is rare in the world, found only in the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Eastern China, New Zealand and Western Australia. And lucky for us, most herbs are natives of these regions.

Herbs can be grown for ornamental reasons, but they are typically grown for their concentration of scent and flavor in the leaves and flowers and for a multitude of uses from aromatherapy to cooking. However, I have to reel back a beginning gardeners expectations here just a little: any herbaceous perennial will live for more than two years but doesn’t have the life span of a shrub or tree. So, snip away! Herbs respond well to regular pruning and reward you by putting on new growth. These plants will give generously but may eventually need to be replaced.

Most herbs in the garden require full sun, well-drained soil, and moderate watering. They can also do well in pots—perfect for those herbs that tend to spread like mint. If you need to use a pot saucer, fill saucers with gravel so that roots don’t sit in standing water. For plants in pots, let the top of the soil dry out between each watering (you can test this by sticking your finger in the soil). Protect your plants from desiccating wind and support tall plants by staking. And my best gardening tip: locate your herbs near a door convenient to your kitchen or near your home’s entrance for the admiration and joy of your houseguests.

Recommended species:

bee balm or bergamot (genus Monarda)
calendula (Calendula officinalis)

echinacea (genus Echinacea)

lavender (genus Lavandula)
lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

mint (genus Mentha)

oregano/marjoram (genus Origanum)

rosemary (genus Rosemarinus)

sage (genus Salvia)

scented geraniums (genus Pelargonium)

(Stay tuned for my next post when I'll list the healing properties of these herbs and how you may incorporate herbal essential oils into your massage sessions and into your daily life!)

More about Juliet:

Juliet Hebert Anderson has held a private practice as an Architect in Washington State since 2004. A Colorado native, she has lived in the Roosevelt Neighborhood since moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. She is committed to volunteerism and community-building. Juliet trained to become a King County Master Gardener in 2006 and has lead the U-District Farmers Market Plant Clinic since 2007. She tends her own organic vegetable garden at the Magnuson P-patch.

Please visit Juliet's website Juliet Sketches and her burgeoning blog.

1 comment:

1,000 Faces of MotherHenna said...

ooooooooooooh, i can't wait to read more! really really want to grow calendula this year... my friend jane mentioned possibly have starters for me. now i just have to get over there and get them :)
Miracles to you both! Thanks for sharing this wonderful info with us!