Rosmarinus - Rosemary
DESCRIPTION: This half hardy perennial forms an evergreen shrub that has been cultivated throughout time for its lovely fragrance. It is a native of southern Europe. Rosemary was probably introduced into northern Europe and Great Britain in Roman times, if not earlier, but traditionally it was sent in the fourteenth century to Phillipa. Its name is derived from ros, dew, and marinus, the sea, due to it being commonly grown on the sea coast. Rosemary was believed by the ancients to have a stimulating effect on the mind and for that reason, has become a symbol of remembrance. Rosemary, R. officinalis, forms a thick, branching shrub, up to 6 feet high in the Southwest and California, and up to 4 feet elsewhere. Its leaves are very narrow and grow 1 to 2 inches long. They are shiny green above and white below. When crushed, they give off a wonderful fragrance. Oil of rosemary is extracted from the foliage and is used extensively in hair rinses and perfumes. In early summer, Rosemary produces small, two-lipped flowers. These grow from the axils of the leaves, along most, if not all, of the shoot. Besides it's culinary uses, Rosemary is valued for its decorative appearance. It is used as a major landscaping plant in the warm West and Deep South. Older bushes develop fascinating twisted trunks. There are also creeping forms that are often used as ground covers.
POTTING: Rosemary will thrive in dry, rocky, limy soil that has very good drainage in a sunny location. On heavy, clay soil, it is more susceptible to damage during harsh winter weather. If winters reach near zero temperatures, it should be grown in a protected corner. It is hardy about as far north as Washington, D.C. and thrives in California and similar climates. It is very useful for planting near the sea. In cold climates, where it isn't very hardy outside, Rosemary may be grown in pots. They are set outdoors in a warm, sunny position from spring through fall and stored in a light, cool (from 30 to 45 degrees) greenhouse, cellar or sunroom during the winter. These plants should be planted in early fall or spring. The soil should be dug deeply and if it's heavy soil, an addition of leaf mold and sand or compost mixed in. When you've finished planting, firm the soil around the plants and water well. Pruning should be done every year as soon as the flowers have faded, so that they have time to make new growth before winter. The shoots should be cut back about two-thirds; if they aren't pruned, they will become "spindly" or bare at the base. Pruning keeps them looking compact and neat. When using as a herb, cut 4 to 6 inches from the branch tips of established plants, just above the paired axillary buds; clumsy cutting will result in slow recovery. Lay fresh Rosemary sprigs on meats for roasting, or chop and add to fine herbs. Use the same amount of dried Rosemary as you would fresh.
PROPAGATION: Cuttings can be made from firm side shoots, about 9 inches long, in late summer or early fall. In mild climates, they can be inserted in a trench that's 5 inches deep, outside or in a cold frame. The following autumn, the rooted plants are set out, 1 foot apart, in a nursery bed. In the ensuing year, they may be planted in their permanent places. The tips of the shoots should be pinched often while they are still small to encourage bushiness. Cuttings, 3 to 4 inches long, will form roots quickly, in sand, in a cool greenhouse or terrarium.
VARIETIES: R. officinalis, lilac flowers; R. officinalis humilis, this kind crawls along the ground & makes a good plant for the rock garden. Varieties albiflorus, white flowers; angustifolius, narrow leaves & lg., blue flowers; erectus (pyramidalis); prostratus. There are also hybrids with gold or golden-edged foliage. The cultivars Salem and Arp are quite winter-hardy.
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