Herbs for Weedy Border and for a Reclaimed Rocky Hill
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Spencer White
Posted on: August 16, 2000

Thank you for your answers to my recent questions.

I have a well established Herb Garden, and am working on an entrance which I want to be striking. I have Roman Chamomile as a walkway, and it’s lovely, but very weedy conditions on the right and left. I love fall flowers, particularly Asters, and had hoped to create a bed on either side utilizing a variety of Lavender and a short variety of Aster. My thought was to buy a plug tray of each, but you don’t sell anything but New England Asters. I have a few of those around, but they tend to require staking, and I don’t want to take the time to minister to that kind of need. Do you have any suggestions of a couple of varieties, one taller than the other, where I can get bloom in the summer from one, and bloom in the fall from the other. I also thought about Russian Sage, but it also gets "droopy" in a hard rain. The area I am working on is in full sun, and the path extends for about 20’ from my back yard to the Herb Garden.

In a previous query you mention that you are living in zone 5. If the Roman chamomile walkway is new this year, you should know that chamomile is marginally hardy in zone 5. That means that some winters it survives perfectly or in patches (which regrow in from the surviving patches), or it does not come back at all. Mulching will increase your chances of survival.

For the new borders on each side of the walkway where conditions are weedy you could consider some of the following for late summer and fall colour: echinacea; grey-leaved wormwoods such as ‘Silver King’, ‘Powis Castle’, and ‘Silver Mound’; any of the yarrows; feverfews; the English lavenders; and Faassen’s catnip. The yarrows, feverfews, lavenders bloom earlier, but if you ‘dead-head’ them – remove the spent flowers – they often come back for a second flowering. And clary sage and Turkestan clary sage both have colorful bracts that persist past their flowering period which can be nice in late summer and early fall.

Also, I have a second area I recently "reclaimed," which is on a very rocky hill and gets a lot of light filtered by foliage. I have cleaned it up, and already have a few things established, but am looking for something in the way of ground cover to put on some of the steep slopes. Something that is aggressive and will do well competing with weeds. I can always use Pachysandra, or Vinca, and I like both, but am looking for something more nontraditional. If there is anything that makes sense.

Shade is always a challenge for herbs because most prefer full sun. You could try the non-variegated vap ga, the Vietnamese herb used in soups. It is fairly aggressive and will fill in nicely in partly shaded areas. There is a very attractive variegated variety of vap ca called ‘Chameleon’ but it is not as aggressive as the green variety. You might try pockets of lily-of-the-valley, and you might even try some of the mints. The mints and the vap ca prefer moist conditions so if the area is dry you may have to irrigate occasionally with a sprinkler.

I am leaving the country for a while soon, and hope to plant the areas mentioned in my note before I go; it doesn’t leave me a lot of time. I will reward your suggestions with a fairly nice order. I do appreciate the advice, and the wonderful products......never have I purchased plants packaged so professionally and carefully.

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