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Take ‘thyme’ to find your favorite plants

What are my five favorite perennial herbs?

I guess my favorite is monarda didyma (bee balm). It also goes by the name of bergamot and Oswego tea.

Interesting story: It is one of the “freedom teas” dating back to the Boston Tea Party, when patriots threw the highly taxed English tea into the Boston Harbor in protest. Indians of the Oswego tribe in New York State, in sympathy, showed the colonists how to use this plant to make a minty substitute tea from its fragrant leaves.

This plant is a favorite with bees and hummingbirds. The most common color is bright red, with varieties of pink, purple and white. Fresh or dried leaves and flowers in teas, salads and potpourris.

My second choice would be Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis). This is a great edging plant that grows to a height of 12 inches, and the leaves are so pretty after they collect dew or raindrops. It has small, wispy yellow flowers that are good for cutting and drying. I often cut back the flowers leaving just the interesting leaves.

My third would be chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Smallest of the onion family, chives grow in clumps that can make a unique edging for your garden. Harvest often to keep them growing all season long.

The onion flavored leaves are used fresh or dried in soups, salads, egg dishes, and butters. The flowers are used to flavor vinegars, which also give your vinegar a nice pink color.

My fourth selection would be mint (Mentha). You might think I’m crazy for this choice, but there are so many varieties to choose from. It’s amazing how often they taste just like their name.

All mints grow rampantly spreading their roots by underground runners, so its best to grow them in containers. Use the flowers in arrangements, and use the leaves in teas, salads, jellies and vegetables.

In addition to peppermint and spearmint, some fun flavors are apple, basil, chocolate, mojito, pineapple and orange.

My last choice would be thyme (Thymus). This is a low-growing plant that is excellent in borders, rock gardens and walkways. I also like to use it in my hypertufa containers.

There are many species and cultivars, all highly aromatic. The most commonly used in the kitchen is T vulgaris (English or common thyme). The small leaves are used in teas, meat dishes and vegetables.

The best type to use between pavers and rock gardens are the creeping varieties such as woolly (T. pseudolanuginosus), pink chintz (T. praecox) and mother of thyme (T. serphyllum).

These are just a few of the huge selection of herbs to choose from. You can plant herbs into specialty gardens such as kitchen, knot, medicinal or crafting. I like to just grow mine as a combination of many types and use them accordingly.

To learn more about herbs, and see a list of perennial herbs, go to http://go.osu.edu/lastingherbs.

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