Rosemary is a must-have herb native to Southern Europe. The bush form grows up to 1.2m tall - large enough to double as an evergreen shrub in the border. The low growing prostrate varieties are perfect for tumbling over a dry sunny wall or the edge of a terrace. They make an excellent ground cover plant.
As well as being a useful culinary herb, Rosemary is also a beautiful, drought resistant plant. It is great in landscaping in place of box or lavender. The attractive blue flowers that are a great source of nectar for bees.
Soil and Aspect
Rosemary thrives in a well-drained soil in a sunny position. It is slightly tender and will suffer if it is planted in a wet soil during the colder winter months. It is, however, an excellent plant for coastal areas.
Rosemary is one of very few plants that thrives on neglect. It will die if you fertilise or water it too much! It also prefers a sparse soil without too much nutrient so is ideal for a stony dry corner where not much else will survive.
Rosemary does well in containers with plenty of grit for good drainage and will benefit from protection In cold winters - Easy Fleece Jackets are ideal.
Rosemary is best bought as an established plant or raised from cuttings.
Cuttings couldn't be easier - on a cool morning snip off shoots of new growth without flowers 10-15cm long. Remove most of the lower leaves so you have a clean length of stem.
Use a sharp knife to cut off the base of the stem just below a leaf node – the point from which the leaves grow. You can dip the ends in hormone rooting powder to speed up the rooting process.
Fill Rootrainers with a gritty compost mix and insert one rosemary cutting into each cell.
Water in cuttings from above to settle compost around their stems. Then place in a cold frame or a sheltered area, using the Rootrainer lid to retain moisture.
Once they have a good root system - which you will be able to see by gently opening your Rootrainers to inspect - pot up individually into a loam-based compost. Plant cuttings out in their final position in Spring or Summer to get established before the temperature drops.
One plant is usually ample for culinary use but if you do want to grow more then allow 75cm between plants.
Growing from seed is not recommended as the germination is slow and often erratic. If you wish to try it though, sow the seeds in good quality seed sowing compost about 1 cm deep. Keep them warm on a sunny windowsill or propagator.. Once you have some seedlings make sure you don’t overwater them. Rosemary is drought tolerant and even at the seedling stage it is easy to overwater them.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest the young, tender stems and leaves, taking off no more than one third of the plant at once. For drying, harvest just before flowering and store the dried leaves in an airtight jar for use in the kitchen.
Use rosemary leaves for making tea, in sauces or for flavouring many dishes. It is great over oven roasted potatoes and perfect with meats - especially lamb.
Use it fresh or dried. It has a powerful yet aromatic flavour and is excellent in herb breads or infused in oil.