Nature’s Lore

Herb selections gathered for your enjoyment!

       In days gone by, our ancestors were well aware of the vital role herbs played in their daily lives. Recognized not only for their value in adding flavor to foods, herbs were used extensively in ancient remedies for their inherent medicinal worth. Sadly, in contemporary society, modern science has lost sight of the herbal wisdom of our forefathers. Today we tend to take herbs for granted, and we are most often not even aware of how frequently we depend on them in our day-to-day lives.        
       Think for a moment about your own personal experience with herbs. When your hands feel dry, you might reach for your favorite skin lotion, which contains aloe vera. Or to soothe frayed nerves, there’s nothing quite like sipping a comforting cup of chamomile or cinnamon tea. If it’s fresher breath and brighter teeth you’re after, peppermint-flavored toothpaste adds an unsurpassable sparkle to your smile.

       Most importantly, consider how often you’ve added a pinch of thyme to a kettle of soup, or a smidgen of basil to a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce to enhance the flavor of your homemade dishes. There’s no doubt that nearly everything we eat tastes so much better because of a dash of an herb or the sprinkle of a spice that has become an essential ingredient in many of our favorite recipes.
       Fortunately for herb lovers, there is a growing trend within the circles of modern science to reevaluate the ancient remedies of our ancestors, and to begin, once again, to take advantage of the herbal bounty of our earth. If it was healthy before, then it is even more so now!
       Most of us are familiar with the more common herbs frequently used today, including parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. There are, however, both unusual and exotic varieties that come from foreign lands, or those which are rarely found wild in temperate North America that seem to have been forgotten. The following excerpts are dedicated to you, our customers, with hopes of reacquainting you with some of these neglected, yet significant herbs. In some respect, every variety of herb known to humankind, whether common or rare, shares a useful purpose, either in the aesthetic appeal of their foliage or blooms, their culinary or medicinal virtues, or their diverse variation of flavor or fragrance. We believe that offering increased knowledge and understanding of herbs will allow us to enlighten you, enhance your lifestyles, and broaden your horticultural interests.
       While it is our pleasure to share this information with you, ultimately you are responsible for how you may decide to use it. We strongly encourage you to continue your own, more extensive research of herbs before you experiment with those that have medicinal value. We also hope that you will begin to expand your herbal spectrum by adding some extraordinary specimens to your collection this year. Herbs… they were created for us to enjoy!

Allium senescens glaucum………. Silver Corkscrew Chives

An attractive functional allium, this unusual variety is the perfect plant for creating beautiful borders in your garden. Its silver-grey foliage, which never needs trimming, is highly decorative when used as an edging. The curly leaves grow compactly to about 6″ in height, and form a unique backdrop for the nine-inch high flower stalks. Majestic lavender ball-shaped flowers bloom in late summer. Though not well known as a culinary allium, this herb has a mild onion taste, much like chives, that we, as well as some of our customers, have thoroughly enjoyed.

Angelica Archangelica………. Angelica

The biennial Angelica is a tall plant that grows about two feet in the first year and as high as six feet in its second year. An aromatic plant native to Northern Europe, Angelica is best known for its use as a sugar substitute. In early summer, sweetly scented greenish-white seed heads form. Clipping the seed heads allows Angelica to grow for an extra year or two. Noted for its stimulating effect on the digestive system, the naturally sweet stalks of this plant can either be cooked or eaten raw. It also helps reduce the tartness and sweeten the flavor of rhubarb. The young stalks are often candied and eaten or used as a decoration for cakes and puddings. An essential oil obtained from the entire plant has a slight licorice aroma and is used in flavoring liquors and as a scent in perfumes.

Calamintha grandiflora species………. Showy Savory Varieties

A native to Europe, this unusual perennial has leaves that produce a pleasant tangerine-mint fragrance. The plant reaches about 14″ in height, and will flourish with exquisite magenta-colored flowers during mid- to late-summer. Its characteristic mound shape will spread during growth, yet retain its distinctive shape. The leaves can later be dried for use in potpourri or tea. A poultice of fresh leaves can be used in a compress to treat bruises.

Variegated Showy Savory, a variegated form of showy savory, is an absolutely stunning variety of grandiflora with the same attributes but speckled white on green leaves. More compact in growth, this plant makes an adorable species especially with its magenta blooms.

Cymbopogon citratus ………. Lemon Grass

This native perennial of Southern India and Ceylon is a culinary jewel with a distinct and refreshing taste of lemon. It is especially prized in South Asian dishes, and is known as Sereh in Indonesia. The lower 6″ of the fresh succulent stalk offers the best flavor. To harvest, remove the side shoots and allow the main plant to continue growing. The hearts are eaten with rice as a vegetable, and the chopped stalks are used for sauces, curries, and pastes, as well as fish, poultry, and pork dishes.

A refreshing hot or cold tea is made from the leaves and is recognized for its antiseptic properties and for the treatment of flu, fevers, headaches, diarrhea and upset stomach. The essential oil of Lemon Grass contains citral and is employed by the food, cosmetic and perfumery industry. Medicinally the essential oil is used to treat acne. Its bulbous stems, leek-like in appearance, produce light-green leaves approximately 1/2″ wide which form a graceful clumped appearance and can reach heights up to 6 feet in its native environment. A tender perennial to frost prone areas, it reaches 2 – 3′ in one growing season and excels on a sunny windowsill. This herb is valuable whether in the kitchen, garden, or medicine chest.

Equisetum hyemale ………. Common Horsetail

In prehistoric days, this plant grew to tree heights, but today this native North American plant reaches only a few feet in height with stems 1/4″ to 1/2″ in diameter. From dry sand to swampy land, horsetail grass thrives in any soil type. Not particular about light conditions, this herb can be considered a living fossil. The invasive nature of this plant requires that you give it a lot of growing room.

Horsetail’s unusual reed stems contain silica crystals which gives them an abrasive quality, similar to fine emery cloth. Horsetail is superb for fine sanding of wood or metal, and can even be used to file fingernails. The reeds for instruments such as the clarinet, saxophone and oboe are shaped and finished by sanding them with horsetail grass. Early cabinetmakers also used horsetail on their prized works, which gave the wood a fine finish and a patina.

The folk name for horsetail grass is “pewterwort,” for it was used in cleaning and polishing pewter and other metals. Irish women discovered that sanding their famous meerschaum pipes with horsetail grass under water produced a glass-like finish.

Eryngium foetidum ………. Cilantro

This highly esteemed Mexican herb grows like a low thistle with long serrated leaves and prickly flowers. It prefers to grow in full sun with good fertile soil. Because it is a tender perennial, it must be protected from freezing. Cutting off the seed heads will ensure a bounty of leaves – the prized part of this herb.

Cilantro is the “true” coriander, the leaves are stronger and more pungent in flavor than regular coriander, but not as potent or as productive as the Vietnamese Coriander. The fresh or dried leaves of cilantro are used for making soups, curries, and rice dishes. When dried, this herb retains its flavor and color well for cooking.

Galium odoratum ………. Sweet Woodruff

The pretty little white flowers of this creeping perennial, combined with its tight mat of whorled leaves, make it an excellent ground cover for shade. The leaves of this herb contain coumarin and when dried, its scent of “new mown hay” intensifies and remains for years. Used as a fixative for perfumes, dream pillows, and closet sachets, Sweet Woodruff is also considered a medicinal herb. It is reported that it has been used for dressing wounds or cuts and for treating stomach problems. This herb is also an important ingredient in May wine. Add a few sprigs to a White Rhein wine; let set for a few days to a week. Chill before serving and add a few fresh strawberries. Simply delicious!

Pink Woodruff, Asperula cynanchica of the white’s former genus, is a shade loving perennial ground cover that we recently introduced to our collection. Featuring lower growth and dainty pink flowers, this plant is faster spreading compared to the white. It performs nicely in the rock garden or those difficult to grow spots.

Heliotropum arborescens species ………. Fragrant Heliotropes

Like the name states, the flowers of this tender perennial that is a native to Peru offer fragrances that are sweet and intoxicating, as well as spectacular. This herb can be grown in a pot, in the garden, or in a hanging basket, where it performs superbly. The varieties we offer prefer full sun but will tolerate some shade. Feed the heliotropes frequently with plant food for a continuous supply of blossoms. Lush green leaves accompanied with a selection of flower color, size and fragrance are offered; dark-purple 5″ flowers of ‘Sally Reath,’ amethyst 3″ flowers of ‘Iowa,’ 4″ light-purple blossoms of the Purple, and 3″ almost pure-white flowers of the White. All possess a different aromatic mixture that scents the air with fragrances that range between vanilla and baby powder.

Just as alluring are the 3″ lavender-blue blossoms of Strawberry, and 3″ purple flowers of the Hyacinth-Scented Heliotrope, both as sweetly scented as their names suggest. The spring-in-bloom scent of the Hyacinth-Scented makes it an herb lover’s favorite, as well as a 1984 exclusive of Well-Sweep.

Laurus nobilis & L. n. ‘Aurea’ ………. Sweet Bay & Golden Bay

In its native area, the Mediterranean, Sweet Bay can achieve a height of forty feet. In the warmer regions of Italy, there are estates surrounded with twenty-five foot tall hedges of this plant. Also known as Sweet Laurel or Bay Leaf, it is one of the most widely known culinary herbs. Not as well known, but with similar growth and uses, is the more decorative variety, Golden Bay. These plants are tender perennials that grow well in a half to full day of sun and make a superb potted topiary, providing flavor and decoration year round. The Golden Bay is definitely the most stunning of the two, with its new growth having a spectacular golden tinge.

Lavandula species ………. Lavender Varieties

The traditional scent of lavender has been savored for centuries. This plant is valued in the home as well as industry; potpourris, sachets, perfumes, bath products, and flavoring are just a few of its myriad uses. With its reputation as a sedative, people once wove this herb into their hats in order to ease tension.

Well-Sweep offers an enormous selection of lavenders in a variety of flower size and colors. Bloom time, height and type of plant growth make them an interesting and attractive perennial. Most varieties have purple flowers with silvery-grey foliage, but there are exceptions. The lavenders thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, and mulching with sand will promote healthy growth. A sweet soil, accomplished by adding pulverized or granular lime, will increase plant vigor, oil production (which creates a stronger scent), and an abundance of flowers. Since these plants nearly double in size each year, they should be spaced two or more feet apart for optimum growth.

Some of our best selling lavenders at Well-Sweep include:

‘Hidcote’Lavender – Known as a show-stopping plant for its strong-scented, dark-purple flowers, silver-grey leaves, and 24″ height.

‘Jean Davis’Lavender – A very hardy, pink flowering plant with a height of 18″, this lavender has a strong scent. We have had great success with it in our formal knot garden, for it makes a dense hedge when kept trimmed.

‘Pastor’s Pride’, ‘Sharon Roberts,’ and ‘Two Seasons’ Lavender – These varieties all produce two flower crops per year when spent flowers are removed.

The Lavandins, fast becoming popular, are natural and bred hybrids of Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia, including some of their subspecies. These lavenders are great for the beginning gardener because they are easy to grow, noted for vigorous growth and high oil yield. Some of the Lavandins are: ‘Grappenhall’ Lavender, known for its growth of up to 36″; ‘Provence’, with its strong scent and robust growth; ‘Dutch’, ‘Giant Hidcote’ and ‘Seal’, all early bloomers; and ‘Fat Spike’, with its large, spiked flower heads, which are great for weaving lavender wands.

Myrrhis odorata ………. Sweet Cicely

Native to Northern Europe, this perennial likes to grow in partial to full shade in rich, moist soil. The soft ferny leaves, stalks, and seeds have a sweet anise-licorice flavor. These leaves can be chopped and added to cakes, biscuits, salads, or omelets. The green, unripe seeds or black, ripe seeds can be eaten raw or chopped and added to breads, pies, salads, or fruit desserts. Sweet Cicely seeds can also be soaked in vodka to create an unusual drink or sprinkled on top of cookies to add accent and flavor. An oil from the seeds is used to flavor liqueurs.

The dried leaves and seeds of Sweet Cicely hold their fragrance and are nice when used in potpourri and sachets. This decorative plant grows to about 24″ in height and adds an interesting texture to the shade garden. It has small white flowers and lacy light-green leaves. Sweet Cicely is a treasure in the garden as well as the kitchen.

Ocimum species………. Basil Varieties

This bushy annual first came from tropical Asia and has been enhancing fresh tomato dishes, pesto, pizza, and spaghetti sauce ever since. Historically, basil is the herb that symbolizes love. The basils prefer full sun, and as long as the seed heads that form are removed, they will produce an abundance of leaves. An ounce of fresh leaves, more flavorful than dried, is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of vitamin A. The foliage, either minced or whole, can be stored in plastic bags in the freezer for long periods of time.

Basil is known medicinally for its ability to relieve intestinal gas, and oils extracted from the leaves are used in the perfume industry. Several varieties of Basil are known for their attractive foliage effects in the garden, such as Spicy Globe and African Blue. The purple varieties provide superb contrast for orange or yellow flowering plants. Cuban Basil and the miniatures, furnished with a southern location and adequate sized pot can decorate your windowsill throughout the seasons. We offer about thirty-five different Basils, from the common to the unusual varieties, for the more adventurous to choose from.

Tbe following is a small sampling…

African Blue Basil is a tall, sturdy grower reaching up to 24″ in height. Its purple and green mottled leaves and purple flower spikes are an eye catcher in the garden and look lovely in fresh flower arrangements. The leaves of this basil are an interesting addition to garden salads.

Anise (Licorice) Basil is simply wonderful for its unusual flavor and scent. The stems are purplish and the green leaves are tinged with an outline of purple. The anise flavored leaves add a colorful touch to garden salads, pasta, and vinegars.

Cinnamon Basil is eye appealing in the garden with its cinnamon-colored stems and large green-leaved foliage. This basil grows 24″ in height and the leaves offer a subtle cinnamon flavor and aroma, which adds a unique flavor to salad and pasta dishes.

Cuban Basil, reaching 12″ high, is an upright grower with light green miniature leaves. In our 17 years of experience with this plant, it is the best basil for growing indoors on the windowsill, with its strong growth and ability to withstand cooler temperatures. The flavor of the leaves is similar to Sweet Basil, though spicier, and its fresh leaves are great to have the year round.

Miniature Basil has a good cooking flavor which is similar to Sweet Basil. This basil reaches 10″ in height, and because of its compact light green growth does nicely on the windowsill or patio. It can also be used as a garden edging and is superb for small gardens.

‘Mrs. Burns’ Lemon Basil has a strong lemony fragrance and taste. Its flavor is popular in Asian cooking and adds a nice accent to fish and meat dishes. This basil is a sturdy grower with rich-green leaves and reaches 24″ in height. Try this appetizing basil in a refreshing tea or in your next pasta dish.

Spicy Globe Basil has sphere-shaped, light green growth that reaches 15″ in height. This plant draws attention in herb gardens and is valued in kitchens for its strong flavor enhancing leaves.

Sweet Basil is by far the most popular basil. The large green leaves of this favorite add an irresistible flavor to fresh or cooked tomatoes, pesto, and Italian sauces. Planted in full sun and rich soil, this plant can reach 30″ in height and will produce an abundance of leaves. No garden is complete without this treasured herb.

‘Thai’ Seed Basil is native to Thailand and Burma and is used extensively in Thai and Indian cooking. Compared to regular basil, it has a darker leaf and a slight anise flavor. Its seed is used as a decoration on desserts and as a topping for ice cream. Soaked in water before use, the seeds increase up to eight times their original size. On desserts they resemble tapioca, adding a distinctive quality and texture.

Well-Sweep Miniature Purple Basil was developed at Well-Sweep Herb Farm in 1974 when Cyrus Hyde, the proprietor, crossed a large-leafed purple basil with a tiny, green-leafed miniature basil. Over a period of three to four years, crosses were made, seeds were kept, and the best offspring of each of these crosses were selected. The end result was a miniature basil with tiny purple leaves. Growing into a purple mound about 6″ wide and 8″ high, this basil is very showy and decorative. It has a good flavor for cooking, and the plant’s tiny purple leaves are a pleasant accent to salads, pastas, and meat dishes. It can be used to tint herb vinegars and oils a burgundy color.

Osmanthus fragrans ………. Sweet Olive

Known also as Tea Olive or Kwai by the Chinese, the Sweet Olive is one herb we know you will enjoy year round. Named because of its wonderfully sweet blossoms, this East Asian native has small creamy-white flowers that smell similar to orange blossoms. It is superb as a house plant. When the Sweet Olive blooms its fragrance will completely scent an entire room.

In its native environment the Sweet olive can reach thirty feet in height; in the Eastern United States it does well as a house or greenhouse plant during the colder months. Kept pruned it makes a spectacular potted plant with its shrubby dark-green leaves. Requiring four hours to a full day of sun and temperatures above 45 degrees, the Sweet Olive will bloom all winter and sporadically throughout the remainder of the year. The flowers are used in China to add flavor and scent to both tea and wine, and also for flavoring desserts much like we use vanilla. Try some flowers for an excellent addition to your next cup of cappuccino.

Pimenta dioica ………. Allspice

Native to the West Indies and South America, Allspice is primarily cultivated in Jamaica. With smooth bark and evergreen leaves this tree can reach a height of 40′. Container-grown in a sunny location, this tender perennial is best pruned in late-Fall to keep it a tidy specimen. The allspice tree, once established, blooms around June with an abundance of clustered small white flowers. After flowering, this tree produces green fruit that turns blackish-brown when ripe. It is the unripe green fruit which is harvested, dried, and ground to become the familiar spice in the kitchen – allspice.

A combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove best describes the flavor of allspice berries. The aromatic leaves are used for seasoning Jamaican fruit cake and as a tea. A combination of its oils and resin, called oleoresin, is squeezed from the leaves and berries and is used by industry for the flavoring of sausage, pickles, liquors (notably Chartreuse), chewing gum, ice cream, and soft drinks. This oleoresin is used also in the production of colognes, and for a source of vanillin, a flavor similar to vanilla. The ground spice itself is added to many baking recipes; such as cakes, cookies, pastries and sauces.

This plant is also know to possess antiseptic and fungicidal properties. For a super air freshener that purifies as well, add a teaspoon of this ground spice to simmering potpourri. In aromatherapy allspice oil is used to relieve drowsiness and as a potted plant it is an uplifting pleasure to occasionally crush a leaf for its invigorating fragrance. This ornamental spice is a novelty to grow for its useful and unique attributes. Rarely available in the continental U.S., our stock is limited.

Pogostemon species ………. Cablin & Heyneanus Patchouli

Native to Tropical Asia, patchouli is cultivated commercially mainly in the Philippines and Indonesia. As a tender perennial the patchoulis prefer a full to half-day of sun and produce bushy growth that in ideal conditions can reach 3 1/2′ high. The leaves of patchouli are highly aromatic with a unique fragrance that increases with exposure to sunlight. The Cabin Patchouli blooms with white flowers on 1-3″ spikes, has a curlier leaf, and stronger fragrance when compared to the Heyneanus, whose leaf is not as curly, has a lighter fragrance, and blooms with lavender flowers.

Patchouli leaves are dried, cured and distilled to remove the plant’s essential oil. The heavy, rich, musk-scented oil is used extensively in the manufacture of perfumes and colognes; reportedly used in Bill Blass and Polo fragrances. It also is utilized by industry for the flavoring of chewing gum, candy, and in cosmetic fragrances. Paisley shawls imported from India were once packed with patchouli leaves for the scent and to protect them from moth damage. The dried patchouli leaves and essential oil are also used to make a wonderfully fragrant potpourri.

Rosmarinus Species ………. Rosemary Varieties

A familiar name, rosemary usually evokes thoughts of an attractive garden herb, marinated grilled meats, or even Simon & Garfunkel’s song Scarborough Fair… “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme”. It was also awarded the well deserved title ‘Herb of the Year’ for 2000 by the International Herb Association. Romantics appreciate the symbolism of this herb for love and remembrance; and when blossoming – it’s beautiful in fresh flower arrangements.

As collectors, our selection of rosemary has grown to 46 different cultivars and hybrids each with its own attributes. Varieties range in growth from flowing windswept bonsai to dignified upright and bushy habit. Blossoms span from white, pink, red and blue, with leaves that are golden or lush fragrant green – there’s even a pine-scented needle-leaved variety. Each rosemary has a story to tell and use for the collector, cook, or gardener. A Mediterranean native, rosemary grows wild on hilly slopes by the ocean. This attributes to its genus name, the Latin word rosmarinus, which translates into “dew of the sea”. These herbs enjoy rich, well-drained soil and moderate watering with at the minimum a half-day of sun. The best advice for care is “don’t overwater”. An evergreen tender perennial that usually blooms during the winter months, rosemary will thrive in a container as long as it is faithfully fed with some type of liquid fertilizer. Most upright cultivars range from 3-6′ in height, with some exceptions. Rosemary responds well to pruning and when potted provides a constant supply for the kitchen. It performs superbly for the formal shapes of topiary art.

An essential oil obtained from rosemary’s flowering tips is used by industry in perfumery and toiletry products, and flavors some toothpastes. This oil is recommended in aromatherapy to improve concentration and treat depression; and has been traditionally used to relieve acne, dandruff, eczema, and fungal infections. The subject of a multitude of studies, rosemary’s applications are impressive. When consumed it promotes digestion and relieves intestinal gas, and when applied externally it has mild analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. This herb has antiviral properties, strengthens blood vessels, and stimulates circulation, especially to the head – boosting memory and concentration. Rosemary’s constitution contains more than a dozen antioxidants as well as four known components that help prevent cataracts. It almost completely inhibits the enzyme urease which contributes to kidney stone formation, and is reported to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, usually a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Rutgers University in NJ even isolated and patented a powerful food preservative and antioxidant from rosemary.

The leaves of rosemary add a crisp and pungent taste that is delicious on baked or grilled lamb, poultry, pork, and beef. A steak on the grill just wouldn’t be the same unless it was marinated in garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. Chopped rosemary leaves also add a nice accent to breads, stuffings and vegetable dishes. The flowers have a charming sweet flavor, though lighter in essence than the leaves, and can be candied or added to a tossed salad, vinegar or wine. You can find some tasty recipes using rosemary in our popular cookbook – Favorite Recipes From Well-Sweep.

Hardy rosemarys have been the latest surge of attention in the herb market. There are three rosemarys touted as hardy, all of which we carry; ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Salem’. It has been our experience here in zone 6 (a), that without extensive protection these rosemarys will not withstand the severity of our winters. However, local customers have grown them in sheltered areas with some success. Since survival of these herbs is not definite, we don’t promote them as perennial.

‘Arp’ was introduced by Madalene Hill of Hilltop Herb Farm who discovered it in Arp, Texas, where it was growing in a yard unremarked for decades. It has light-blue flowers on gray-green leaves, reaches up to 5′ in height, and is hardy down to -10 F.

‘Hill Hardy’ is the most recent introduction by Madeline Hill. It has upright growth to 3′, broad dark-green leaves, and is hardy down to -10 F.

‘Salem’ Rosemary has forest-green leaves, speckled violet-blue flowers, and a sturdy upright habit. The leaves have a light rosemary taste with a hint of pine. It will tolerate temperatures down to 0 F.

In our collection we have found that the upright ‘Logee Blue’ and the low growing #5 Prostrate Rosemary to be the top performers in their class of varieties.

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Logee Blue’ ………… ‘Logee Blue’ Rosemary

This upright variety is a robust grower with dense-foliaged forest-green leaves of rich fragrance and taste. In flower, this rosemary is splendid for it’s blessed with abundant sky-blue blossoms. Grown indoors we have found that it is less prone to powdery mildew than other varieties. It is our favorite for culinary flavor, growth and topiary as you can see with nine 2 1/2′ standards in our formal display herb garden. Cyrus Hyde, with his trained eye for the unusual, discovered this cultivar in Connecticut in 1972. Several large unidentified rosemary plants had been removed from an estate by Country Greenhouses, and noticing a difference from the others in the trade, Cy purchased some cuttings. After confirming its different traits he named it ‘Logee Blue’ Rosemary, for the greenhouse owner, Roger Logee. In 1986 Dr. Art Tucker, a professor and fellow herbalist who has been irreplaceable to the herb trade, established ‘Logee Blue’ as a new cultivar of Common Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis. In layman’s terms ‘Logee Blue’ is an improved variety of the familiar Common Rosemary, and we are sure you’ll agree it’s one of the best performers we have encountered.

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus #5’ ………… #5 Prostrate Rosemary

This prostrate or low-growing variety is a vigorous grower. In blossom, its dark-green leaves on cascading stems are profusely covered with deep-blue flowers. It makes a statement grown in a hanging basket or when trained as topiary rings or hearts. This rosemary is known for its quick growth and can reach 12″ high with a bushy bonsai shape in one growing season.

‘Santa Barbara’ is another prostrate rosemary that merits attention. It has robust yet diminutive growth, lavender-blue flowers, and an appearance of a trained bonsai. In the garden or grown in a container it puts on an impressive show.

 Salix species ………. Willow Varieties

 The Willows, from the botanical genus Salix, include over 300 species with close to 100 native to North America. These willows offer a wide spectrum of characteristics that range from unique growth habits, attractive bark hues, unusual leaf shape and color, as well as delightful flower buds, and grow from 1′ to more than 100′ high. With these spectacular qualities this genus has become popular in private gardens and parks, providing interesting focal points or backgrounds in the garden. Most willows are fast growing, and though usually found living in or near water, they will tolerate a range of soil conditions.

Practical as well as aesthetic, these shrubs and trees with their expansive and penetrating root system are used in erosion control and possess the ability to help dry problem moisture areas. It is advisable to avoid planting them near underground pipelines. Valuable commercially, willow’s bark is employed in the leather tanning industry, and its wood is well known in basket weaving. Used extensively by Native American Indians, and with a history dating back over 2000 years, willow’s medicinal virtues are well documented. Ingesting a tea from the bark reduces fevers and alleviates pain, such as headaches or arthritis, or as a gargle it is effective for inflammations of the gums and tonsils. Willow bark’s active ingredient is the glucoside Salicin, which is thought to be converted to salicylic acid in the body, the precursor to medicine’s modem day miracle – aspirin.

 Whether for its ornamental, practical, or medicinal attributes, the willows are a joy in the garden. The salix species that we offer perform best in a half day of sun or more. The following are the unique varieties we stock.

Basket Willow is a shrub that reaches 10′ in height and has purple new growth that later fades to grey bark. Used extensively for basket weaving, it’s also attractive in the garden.

Bay Willow is also know as Laurel Willow. The dark-green oval leaves of this willow closely resemble its culinary namesake, the Bay Tree – Laurus nobilis. With yellow and green catkins that appear in early-summer and bushy growth that can reach up to 30′, this willow is stunning in the home landscape.

Black Pussy Willow is charming as an ornamental shrub, reaching up to 20′ tall. Its young branches add an interesting characteristic in fresh arrangements. Blooming in early spring, this species’ black flowers, called catkins, lend to its name for their resemblance to a kitten’s tail.

Corkscrew Willow, once established, is a rapid grower and this tree can surpass 40′ in height. Desirable for its wavy corkscrew growth habit, new upright branches are yellowish fading to brown-grey. This willow is nice as a specimen with its eye-catching appeal.

Fantail Willow, prized in fresh arrangements, is an unusual ornamental that thrives in damp locations. This attractive shrub, with its dark-green leaves, can reach 30′ at its peak, but usually takes on a low but broad tree-like appearance. Pruning is recommended to encourage new growth, which sports fan-like ends that curl under and are covered with silver-white catkins.

‘Golden Curls’ Corkscrew Willow is a spreading tree that can grow to 15′ with arching branches that are spirally twisted with soft-yellow catkins. The young shoots are orange-yellow to golden in color and add to the attractiveness of this specimen.

Rosemary Willow, as its name implies, displays the appearance of an immense rounded bush of rosemary. We’ve even been asked “How did you ever get your rosemary to grow so big?” With graceful branches and linear leaves that are green with grey underneath, this tree closely resembles but lacks the herb rosemary’s piney scent. This willow, a native to central and eastern Europe, is a rapid grower which can exceed 15′ in height and is best kept shaped-pruned. It is an intriguing specimen in the garden.

Salvia elegans ………. Pineapple Sage

Of the 750 species and cultivars of Salvia, this Mexican native is a gem that’s easy to fall in love with. Pineapple Sage’s invigorating aroma exactly like its namesake is a treasure. Just brushing the leaves of this herb seems to uplift the spirits as its pleasurable sweet pineapple fragrance wafts about.

Pineapple Sage is a tender perennial that can reach 4-5′ in one growing season if planted outdoors. Its slender vibrant-red flowers form on 8″ spikes and provide a stunning display from late-summer until frost. The flowers are offset by 3-4″ reddish-green leaves with a slight hint of gold and it makes a striking focal point in the garden. Butterflies and hummingbirds seem to gravitate to it here at the farm. Pineapple Sage is also a treat as a windowsill herb and it prefers a full day of sun, yet will tolerate half that. Let it dry out between waterings and wait until after flowering before pruning.

The fresh leaves of Pineapple Sage are interesting in cold drinks, desserts and fruit salads; unfortunately its essence is lost when heated. The flowers can be used as an attractive garnish for drinks; like honeysuckle flowers, they have a sweet nectar on their stem ends though they lack the pineapple flavor. With its wonderful scent and striking display Pineapple Sage will captivate you.

Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ ………. ‘Butterfly Blue’ Scabiosa

Perennial Plant of the Year – ‘Butterfly Blue’ Scabiosa, was chosen by the Perennial Plant Association for the year 2000. A sturdy plant that’s hardy to zone 4, its delicate appearance adds a soft attractive display to the garden.

This plant’s flowers attribute to one of its common names, pincushion flower, for the stamens protrude above a domed array of petals with an appearance of pins stuck in a pincushion. Lavender-blue, two-inch flowers bloom on slender 15″ stems from late spring through early fall and repeated heavy flowering can be achieved if spent blossoms are removed. These elegant flowers emerge from up to 12″ mounds of gray-green foliage. This scabiosa prefers full sun but will tolerate some light shade and grows best in rich, well-drained soil.

The Scabiosa genus spans over 80 different species and columbaria is an old-fashioned favorite originating from around southern Europe. Its cultivar ‘Butterfly Blue’ has its origins in Ireland around the 1960’s when nursery grower, David Tristram, obtained cuttings from a garden he observed it growing in. Later, in England, he grew it in his Sussex garden before propagating it for sale commercially in the 1980’s, and it has now become an international success. This scabiosa’s nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies all summer long and are nice in fresh arrangements. Its title is well deserved as a charming long-blooming perennial.

Silybum Marianum ………. Milk Thistle

This Southern European annual, commonly known as Holy or Milk Thistle, boasts attractive mottled white-on-green spiked foliage. Flowering from July through August, this plant bursts forth with two to three-inch vibrant purple blossoms. This spectacular thistle adds eye-catching interest to any garden. Once the thistles are removed, all parts of this plant are edible. In earlier times, the seeds were roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Folklore on this plant tells that the Virgin Mary was nursing the baby Jesus when a drop of milk spilled on the thistle leaf and permanently marked it with splashes of white. Even the species name, Marianum, gives credence to this tale. At one time this herb was used to stimulate milk production which may have also contributed to its common name, Milk Thistle. Medical references to this plant date back almost 2000 years where in one Greek text it is listed as a treatment for liver diseases. This herb has been researched extensively since the 1960’s with remarkable results. Analysis of both the seed and the seed extract has revealed a group of naturally occurring substances called silymarin. Modern day science has confirmed that silymarin has an amazing ability to not only protect the human liver from cell damage but also to stimulate the liver cells to regenerate themselves after damage has occurred. No toxicity has ever been reported in association with silymarin or any part of the Milk Thistle plant.

In other studies its usefulness was confirmed in preventing liver damage from excessive consumption of alcohol, fatty foods and food preservatives. Individuals in good health can also benefit from this amazing herb by taking advantage of its pharmacologically proven potency as an anti-oxidant, free radical scavenger, superior to the abilities of vitamin C & E.

Stevia rebaudiana ………. Stevia Rebaudiana

Used as a sweetener, Stevia Rebaudiana is also known as ‘Sweet Herb of Paraguay’. It is reported that the plant’s sweetening agent, the glycoside stevioside, is 300 times sweeter than granulated table sugar and also is non-caloric. This herb actually triggers hypoglycemic activity, reducing blood sugar levels as it sweetens, making it a good sugar substitute for diabetics. The Indian women of Paraguay have used this plant as a tea for contraceptive purposes. Laboratory tests have confirmed that Stevia does reduce fertility.

A concentrated liquid sweetener can be made by boiling the leaves in a small amount of water. This sweetener will keep longer if refrigerated. The flavor of its leaves are closer to honeysuckle nectar than sugar, making it more pleasant to chew. In Japan the leaves are used to sweeten gum, soy sauce, soft drinks, and everyday tea.

Although there are about 100 various species of Stevia growing wild in Paraguay and Brazil, it is not easy to grow commercially. Propagated best by cuttings, Stevia thrives in rich, well-drained soil and full sun, and prefers temperatures above 45 degrees. The Stevia leaves are medium green and fibrous with no distinctive scent which gives a clue to its amazing sweetening ability.

Tagetes lucida ………. Mint-Scented Marigold

Native to Mexico and Guatemala, this tender perennial is also known as Mexican Mint Marigold or Winter Tarragon. The leaves of this marigold are a good culinary substitute for French Tarragon, with its similar anise flavor. The Mint-Scented Marigold has the same essential oil, Estragon, as the True French Tarragon and it’s easier to grow. Use both the fresh flowers and leaves in salads, as a sweet anise-flavored tea, or preserve its flavor in olive oil. The leaves can also be added to herbal butters, sauces, soups and vinegars or used in chicken or fish dishes. Utilize this marigold just like the True French Tarragon but more sparingly since its flavor is more pronounced.

The Mint-Scented Marigold produces narrow rich-green leaves on 2 1/2′ stems. When grown outdoors, it blooms in late-fall with pretty golden flowers that form in clusters at the stem ends. Dried, the leaves and flowers are a fine addition to potpourris. Medicinally, the leaves have been used for treating colic, colds, malaria and snake bites. The Huichol Indians make a fragrant incense by burning the leaves. It requires at least a half day of sun and well-drained soil. The Mint-Scented Marigold is a robust and easy windowsill herb, providing culinary spice throughout the year.

Tanacetum parthenium ………. Old-Fashioned Feverfew

A hardy perennial native to the Balkan peninsula, this plant grows up to 2 1/2 feet tall. Feverfew derives its name from febrifuge, a scientific term for a medicine that reduces fevers. The stem is erect and branching with aromatic leaves. In the summer months, this plant produces clusters of daisy-like flowers, with white ray petals that surround yellow centers. It is an attractive plant in the perennial garden and a pleasing addition to fresh arrangements. Feverfew, historically recognized for its use in the treatment of headaches, was initially mentioned by the first century Greek physician, Discordes. Its Greek name, parthenion, or girl, is derived from its successful use in treating gynecological problems. Tea, made from the flowers or leaves, has been used as a stimulant to treat colds, indigestion, fevers, or diarrhea. Emitting a strong, lasting odor, this herb has also been planted around the perimeters of homes to purify the air.

Since the late 1970’s Feverfew has been the subject of intensive investigation, receiving international acclaim for prevention and treatment of migraine headaches, especially for sufferers not responding to conventional medical treatment. Many patients who participated in these scientific studies also reported relief from depression, nausea, and arthritic pain as valuable side effects of their treatment. The active component of feverfew, parthenolide, is thought to be the chemical responsible for its medical wonders.

Vetiveria zizanioides ………. Vetiver or Khas-Khas

Vetiver is a tall grass native to India, Burma, Ceylon, and many other tropical regions. In the United States it is grown in the south as a clumped grass, but here in the north it must be treated as a tender perennial. When it is dug, the fibrous, spongy roots are trimmed back, then washed, cleaned and dried. As the roots dry, vetiver’s scent becomes increasingly stronger. It is a sweet woodsy scent with a hint of spice. An oil extracted from the roots is used in flavorings, such as fruit drinks or sherbet. Most importantly it is used as a scenting agent in the manufacture of perfume, colognes, soaps and cosmetics. It is a good fixative that extends the life of any mixture to which it is added. In aromatherapy it is used to relieve tension.

During the Victorian era, vetiver was a favorite scent for dresser drawers and chests and was used in linen closets to protect clothing from insects. In India the roots of vetiver are woven into mats and window screens, that when sprinkled with water release a scent that pervades the home. Vetiver’s dense root system is highly valued for its erosion control capabilities.

All of these plants are available here at Well-Sweep Herb Farm.