Believe it or not, autumn has officially arrived. Once it no longer gets into the triple digits, it is time to think about planting perennial plants. Get them in the ground in fall – and then they will have a fighting chance to become well established before the heat of next summer hits.
A list of landscape herbs can go on extensively, but I do want to mention one that is often overlooked – germander. Originally brought here in Father Kino’s time, germander was originally used as a medicinal, but it can also be used in cooking. Like so many other herbs that come to us from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean (along with bay laurel, sage, rosemary, thyme, and more). On their native rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, these herbs receive rain only in the winter, and are thus excellently drought adapted for our region.
There are around 100 species of germander, but most commonly used is the wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys). This species has tiny, bright green, rounded leaves. The creeping germander is the same species, but has been selected over time to be a low ground cover (Teucrium chamaedrys var. prostratum).
When it comes to landscaping, I favor germander over rosemary because it does add a graceful note of bright, foresty kind of green while rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has bluish green and needle-like leaves. When it comes to fragrance – I appreciate both species. Both germander and rosemary have many oil glands in their leaves.
But then there are the flowers! Germander flowers are far more fragrant, almost honey scented, like sweet alyssium. And yes they are bee pollinated, by both European honey bees and by our native solitary bees.
Both rosemary and germander can be used in roasting potatoes or to add flavor to meat dishes. I use either one to scrub down the grill prior to cooking – depends on which needs pruning. In ancient Greece, hunters would field dress their meat with germander, often found growing wild in the hills. (It may have anti-microbial properties.) Germander is often found in abundance in the wild since, like most herbs, the essential oils render it unpalatable to wildlife. I won’t promise it is rabbit proof, but those “wascally wabbits” don’t bother mine.
There are many herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwest landscape. Stay tuned to Savor the Southwest and I will keep discussing them here. I hope to have my own blog up and running soon as well.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Month by Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico,” (Cool Springs Press, $26).
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