Become an Herbal Gardener
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There are literally thousands of herbs with each having unique qualities even within families.  Interest in any particular herb or family of herbs should be researched more deeply to understand the care it needs as well as its value and use.  But here, I will explain the several ways for the  classifications of herb garden plants.

Herb garden plants, like other types, are classified as to:

  • Annuals (living only one growing season),
  • Perennials (having a life cycle lasting more than two years), and
  • Biennials (completing its normal term of life in two years, flowering and fruiting the second year).  Annuals, such as basil, cilantro, and summer savory will not survive a frost.  They need to be planted from a seed or a young plant every year.

picture of sage leaves - one of many perennial herb garden plantsPerennials, such sage and winter savory, will survive colder temperatures and will return year after year.  Biennial herbs, such as parsley, angelica, or caraway should be sown in late spring directly in the garden.

Herb garden plants are also grouped by their use.

  • Culinary herbs are probably the most useful to herb gardeners.  They have a huge range of different uses in cooking.  Because of their strong flavors, herbs like chives, thyme, basil, sage, savory, and marjoram are generally used in small quantities to add flavor to different types of food.  Parsley is an extremely popular herb that is used mostly as a garnish.
  • Aromatic herbs have pleasant smelling flowers or foliage.  Oils from aromatic herbs like lovage, mint, and rosemary can be used to make different types of perfumes, toilet water, or other various scents.  Parts of aromatic herb plants used intact can also be used in the home to scent linens or clothing.  They can also be dried and made into potpourri which will enable them to be able to retain their aroma for a long period of time.  Lavender and lemon verbena are great herbs to use for potpourri.
  • Medicinal herbs (often referred to as herbals).  For centuries herbs have been thought to have the ability to cure the body.  Present medical knowledge recognizes that some herbs are beneficial to one’s health, others are overrated.  Herbs used for medicinal purposes should be used carefully.  Some herbs are harmless but others can be dangerous if eaten.
  • Ornamental herbs have brightly colored flowers and foliage. Some herbs are not used for their flavor, power to heal or fragrance but rather for their beauty.  Many have whitish or various light colored flowers like valerian which has crimson blossoms and borage and chicory which grow gorgeous blue flowers.

While herbs can be listed by these different categories of uses, many herbs cross these categories. Mint, for example, may be used for cooking, for tea and for pest control.  Lovage is cultivated for its stalks and foliage, which are used for tea, as a vegetable, and to flavor foods while its seeds are used as flavoring in confectionery and liqueurs and its flower for essential oils.  This, by no means, is an exhaustive list.   Whatever the reason you have an interest in herbs, by increasing your understanding of how herb garden plants are classified, you will be able to choose the herbs that will be of most use to you.