Mint is an invasive thug in my garden and everyone else’s. Runners spread rapidly and can choke out perennials and annuals in flower beds.
The alternative is to grow fragrant herb in a pot, but then you have provide winter shelter or bring it indoors and water the container every day.
Parsley, basil, rosemary and other clumping herbs are lovely in containers and veggie beds. I grow mine in a 20-inch-diameter bowl set just outside my kitchen door. But, they start to look tattered and sparse after a month or two of growth and harvesting.
Ugly and unruly herb solutions were abundant in the botanical gardens I toured in 100F-heat at the end of June in Madison, WI. Two masters of garden design, Jeff Epping at Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Ed Lyon of Allen Centennial Gardens http://www.allencentennialgardens.org/ on the University of Wisconsin campus, put herbs in their place, with striking results.
Epping planted a number of mints, including chocolate, miniature Corsican and my favorite banana, in a flat bed bordered by a sidewalk and hedges. Terra cotta spheres dot the garden, echoing the mints’ rolling growth. Each type stretches and fights with others for dominance. Their growth can be easily contained with a string edger, maintaining a neat border and keeping the mints from invading other beds. It’s an eye-catching, easy-care culinary delight suitable for any size yard.
Invasive mints can battle each other for ground space and still provide beauty, fragrance and wonderful flavors when corraled in their own bed.
Bedding basil and more
Ed Lyon used a myriad of basils, thyme and sages to create a formal edible garden suitable for a front entry bed or one next to a patio. By contrasting colors, such as purple and lime basils, and mixing textures, from needle-like thyme to furry sage, the eye is drawn directly into the bed, hunting for more.
Parsley, basils, sages, thyme and more create an eye-catching small ornamental bed that is perfect for edging patios or any outdoor entertaining area.
I took home plenty of ideas on how to contain and enhance my herb collection. Do you have any herb gardening ideas to share with us?
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
In stores now!
Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.