Originating from the lands that encircle the sandy shores of the Mediterranean, the herb, rosemary, takes its name from the Latin ros marinus, meaning dew of the sea.
You might expect rosemary, coming from a warm climate, to be a tender and difficult herb to grow in the British climate, but even those new to herb gardening find it easy to grow. Rosemary is quite a hardy shrub, is able to withstand droughts and frosts, and actually does better in a less-rich soil.
Rosemary forms an attractive bushy shrub and its distinctive smell makes it a sweet addition to a scented or herb garden. A long-lasting perennial, it needs very little looking after once it’s established apart from a yearly pruning so it’s ideal for any garden!
Growing Rosemary from Seed
Seeds for the most common variety, Rosmarinus officinalis, are available from specialist seed merchants, but the success rate is notoriously low. Plant the seeds in potting compost in mid-May but remember, seedlings can take several months to develop.
Growing Rosemary from a Pot
When growing rosemary from a pot you should choose a healthy plant from the garden centre. Next dig – in what will be its permanent position – a hole slightly larger than the pot the plant is in. Place a thin layer of grit or sand in the base of the hole then gently tap the plant out of its pot and place it in the prepared hole. Fill around with a mixture of sand and soil.
Propagation of Rosemary
Choose a healthy young shoot about 3″ in length. Cut off from the stem. Remove the leaves from the bottom half and place the shoot in a small pot filled with potting compost. Water and place in a secured plastic bag or propagator. Keep in the light but out of direct sunlight until the shoot has rooted in about 8 weeks then transplant to its permanent position.
Rosemary makes a good container plant too as long as you remember that in its native conditions, in poor soil, its roots will grow down a long way so make sure you use a deep container filled with a mixture of sand and potting compost (20%:80%). Rosemary doesn’t like to be water-logged.
Choosing a rosemary plant
Whether you want a large, dwarf, compact or spreading shrub, you’ll find a variety of rosemary to suit you. There’s even a choice of colours! Choose what fits your preference from a catalogue or garden centre.
- Feed about once a month from April to October.
- Prune once a year, after flowering, to keep its shape neat.
Uses for rosemary
Rosemary is particularly renowned as an ingredient for lamb dishes – just sticks sprigs in the joint when you’re roasting it – but has many other uses in the kitchen. Try sprinkling some on roasting potatoes or add to your tomato pasta sauce. Throw some sprigs in the barbecue for a wonderfully inviting aroma.
In the past – and still today in homeopathy – rosemary was used as an antiseptic and a cough cure as well as a tonic and preservative. It was believed by the Ancient Greeks that rosemary improved memory and it was frequently worn by students during exams. Today we still quote Shakespeare when we say, rosemary for remembrance, and brides often carry a sprig in their bouquet signifying love and loyalty.
To Dry Rosemary
Pick sprigs of rosemary early on a sunny morning. Tie the sprigs together in small bunches and hang from shelves in an airing cupboard. After a week or so they will be dry. They’ll also fill your airing cupboard with their scent.