Name: rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis and cvrs).
Plant type: evergreen shrub, mostly with distinctly upright branching.
Height: generally around 1–1.5m, but can grow to as tall as 2m+
Foliage: small, 3cm long by 3mm wide. Deep green above, silver-white underneath. Leaf edges distinctly curved. Strongly aromatic.
Climate: warm and cool temperate. Will only survive with care if temperatures drop below –10˚C. May struggle with humidity in the tropics and sub-tropics.
Soil: must be free-draining. Can tolerate alkaline soil of pH 7.5 and higher.
Position: full sun. Protection from cold winds. Good air circulation in humid areas.
Flowering: tiny flowers in various shades of bluey-whites can be borne in abundance from late winter, well into summer.
Feeding: little required; give an annual application of controlled-release fertiliser.
Watering: drought-tolerant, however will perform better if watered during very dry periods.
Rosemary is a hardy and handsome shrub that is originally from the Mediterranean region. It has excellent textural form, with a slender upright branching habit on elegantly long stems that are cloaked with tiny leaves.
You’ll find a range of forms available, including groundcover varieties, although some of these aren’t as good when used in cooking.
When in flower, rosemary can look quite stunning, and the nectar-rich flowers are a favourite of many pollinators, including honey bees and a range of native bees.
Rosemary has the ability to survive incredibly harsh conditions. It’s often the last plant standing in a neglected herb or veggie patch, looking as happy as the day it was planted!
Most people think of rosemary as a culinary herb. This is unsurprising, as it is an essential ingredient in countless Mediterranean and European dishes. However, it also has extremely valuable medicinal properties, and is an awesome landscape plant to boot!
If your main use for your rosemary will be cooking, before selecting your variety, remove a leaf, crush it and take a deep sniff. Some varieties are higher in the essential oils you want, while others have a strong camphor-like aroma that isn’t ideal in food.
Rosemary can be grown for a variety of uses:
Your rosemary plant will do best in the following conditions:
Rosemary doesn’t require any soil improvements at planting time. It’s ideal in the centre or rear of a herb bed, but make sure it’s planted with other Mediterranean herbs that also like dry conditions.
Rosemary is extremely easy-care, though it may require some additional water during very dry periods. You can lightly fertilise with a controlled-release fertiliser in spring, but the best flavour comes from plants that are grown hard.
Rosemary takes to pruning and shaping very well. This can be done with hedging shears. If you are using your rosemary regularly for cooking, this constant tip-pruning will keep the plant nice and bushy.
If required, plants can be pruned back to recover their bushiness. Don’t cut back by more than around a quarter, though, and don't cut into bare, leafless wood or it may not reshoot.
Rosemary will grow very easily from cuttings. You can follow the usual techniques of planting out cuttings into propagating mix, but semi-hardwood tip cuttings around 10–15cm long will readily develop roots if left in a glass of clean water on a sunny windowsill. Just carefully untangle the roots, and plant into small pots once new leaves have started to shoot.
Rosemary will often produce seed, but germination is very slow. Sow collected seeds in a sandy propagating mix and keep warm and moist.
Fig: a succulent Mediterranean flavour partner.
Olives: thrive in similar conditions to rosemary.
Herbs: don’t stop at one herb, cover all your culinary needs.
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