Meridian Star

Life

December 9, 2012

Rosemary makes unique Christmas decoration

MERIDIAN — As a gardener, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year because I get to enjoy indoors the scents and colors of the garden. Christmas looks like poinsettias, live trees indoors and greenery decorating the house, and it smells like pine, cedar, fir, and, in my house, rosemary.

    In addition to the traditional holiday staples, Christmas isn’t Christmas at my house unless there is a rosemary plant shaped and decorated like a Christmas tree. These plants are available at many of the garden centers, grocery stores and other plant outlets.

    Rosemary’s needle-like leaves resemble a miniature Christmas tree. The leaves are typically a dark green with silvery undersides. They also are very aromatic. I can’t help touching the plants every time I walk by, releasing the sweet scent.

    Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs for cooking. The sweet aroma makes the kitchen an inviting place, and it accompanies so many different cooking styles and menu items. But let’s face it; rosemary can sometimes be tough to grow, especially if it’s given too much care. One of the best garden attributes of rosemary is that it thrives on neglect.

    Make sure your plant has good drainage and receives full sun for at least six hours each day. Never try to grow from seed; this process takes more patience than most gardeners have. I suggest buying one of the improved selections from the nursery. There are even trailing selections that are great for hanging baskets.

    Growing the plants in containers really simplifies growing great rosemary. Place a potted rosemary in a sunny window where it is easy to snap off a bit to add to hearty winter meals.

    While rosemary grown outdoors is considered a drought-tolerant plant, plants grown indoors in containers should stay moist. The plant’s root system can be quite extensive, and in a container, the available water can be quickly depleted.

    These holiday plants are fine inside for a couple of months, but rosemary is not considered an indoor plant. After New Year’s, go ahead and place the container outside on the patio or porch. Since rosemary is hardy to only about 25 degrees, bring it back inside if temperatures are expected to dip lower than that.

    In most years in Mississippi, rosemary is quite happy being a fragrant and tasty landscape shrub. Use the new, fresh growth for recipes. Regular clipping will keep that fresh growth going strong.

    One thing you may not know about rosemary is that it may help to improve your memory. In ancient times, philosophy students would place sprigs behind their ears to improve study for examinations. Some modern research seems to agree that this helps. The pleasant scent of rosemary has enhanced children’s academic performance and may be a great study aid.

    So during the winter months, there are a few more reasons to bring your rosemary indoors and enjoy this versatile plant.

    • Dr. Gary Bachman is an assistant Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.

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