Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley basically falls into one of two categories: Italian (flat) or French (curly). While they’re both hardy biennials (they flower and go to seed every other year), they’re usually grown as annuals. For the sake of being thorough, there’s also a “third” parsley called Hamburg parsley (var. tuberosum) that’s not as popular as its cousins. While its greens are certainly used in cooking, Hamburg parsley is grown for its roots, which are used as a winter vegetable much like parsnips.
Both types can be used for cooking, but the Italian, flat parsley (P. crispum var. neapolitanum) is most popular for its flavor. The French, curly parsley is often added to a dish as a garnish. In my opinion, almost every dish is enhanced by parsley in one way or another, and it finds its way into sauces, rice, vegetable dishes, stews, eggs, cheese spreads, fish dishes, and more. Why not make room for both in the garden?
Parsley prefers fertile soil that’s a bit on the acidic side. It likes a sunny spot where climates are cool, but tolerates light shade in the hottest areas. It enjoys a balanced fertilizer every now and again, but once the seeds have germinated, parsley isn’t a fussy plant.
Parsley leaves can be picked or cut from the plant whenever you’d like, but it’s best to harvest them from the outside of the plant so the new leaves growing on the inside have a chance to mature.
Best Bets: Parsley Varieties
In general, parsley plants grow between 12″ to 18″ tall (or taller). Once again, the assumption is that you’ll be harvesting the leaves on this herb, which helps keep them small. Feel free to plant whatever parsley strikes your fancy in vertical containers. Like cilantro, many times you’ll find them as starts and only labeled only as flat leafed or curly (without a variety name).
Banquet. French, curly
Dark Green Italian. Italian, flat-leafed
Forest Green. French, curly
Minicurl. French, curly
Moss Curled. French, curly
Single Italian. Italian flat-leafed
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with evergreen, needle-type leaves. Its fragrant leaves are a cook’s best friend. This handsome little plant needs only the most basic care in order to look, smell, and taste wonderful.
There are two general types of rosemary: the upright and the trailing (or creeping) varieties. Trailing rosemary might create a drape immediately, hugging the ground its entire life. Or it may begin by growing up a few inches and then arch gracefully downward, which is extremely attractive coming out of pots or containers. Growing habits will depend upon the variety you choose.
All varieties are suited to culinary use and will show up with various subtleties in scent and flavor. Here in California, rosemary winters over without a problem (we have some monstrous rosemary plants). But if you’re below zone 8, you’ll probably have to bring it in for winter protection.
These shrubby-looking plants are typically purchased as baby plants or taken as cuttings from a mature specimen to start new plants. Most people don’t start them from seed because they’re difficult to germinate, take a long time to do so, and don’t always “come true” to the parent plant. Translation: you don’t know what characteristics you’ll get from seeds.
They enjoy full sun, well-drained soil, and aren’t fond of having their roots messed with. Transplanting is clearly unavoidable, so just handle them carefully when you’re moving them from one pot to another. You’ll want to plant them so that the base of the plant sits a bit higher than the soil line.
Rosemary doesn’t like wet feet (soggy soil), so be sure to use a good potting soil for good drainage. It’s true that rosemary is drought tolerant; however, when it’s planted in a container, it’s important to keep the soil a bit damp. That sounds contradictory because I just told you that it doesn’t like wet feet, but there is that happy balance—I promise it’s not that hard to find.
Cut a little rosemary branch off whenever you need it, but try not to take more than 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 of each branch. If you need quite a bit, then take snips from more branches instead of longer pieces of branch. The tender, new growth has the best flavor.
Here’s a plus: it’s not necessary to pinch the flowers off to keep the harvest going—hurray! The only pruning you might want to do here is to cut off the main shoot at the top of the plant (terminal bud) to encourage side shoot production (more leaves).
Rosemary can easily be wintered over (even if it’s brought in to do so). In order to refresh the growth, use a pair of scissors in the early spring and prune it a bit. Cut off any spent flower branches and old wood, as new leaves don’t grow back on old wood. The truth is that pruning rosemary is done almost solely for aesthetics (removing old wood, etc.), and while it does encourage new growth, it isn’t necessary, especially in containers.