Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rosemary






It's hard to think about Christmas and winter but rather golf and gardening seems to be more in order when the weather is as fine it has been today. Standing in the herb garden, I get a whiff of the pungent aroma from the rosemary bushes still left in the ground. They are vivid green and look especially healthy and happy while most of the other plants have started their decline into winter hibernation or have completely faded away due to the frosty nights. I find that rosemary seems quite comfortable with the night temperatures hovering around the freezing point. It's when the temps dip to around 10 degrees or so for a few days is when I know I may lose a plant or two even in the protected areas of the garden beds. I remind myself that after Christmas, I will wrap them in burlap in hopes that they will survive yet another winter. This one enveloping the small fountain is a variety called "Herb Cottage" and is about 5 years old. Of course, the winters have been pretty mild here the last few years but I remain optimistic that this rosemary is very hardy.


Rosemary is one of the first plants to flower in the spring and always seems perfectly happy in my greenhouse through the winter. I often have it blooming throughout the winter in the greenhouse due to the cool temperature and moist atmosphere there. However, it is prone to powdery mildew by the end of February so I keep a spray bottle laced with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda handy to spritz on the leaves and control this fungus that, if left to its own defenses, will eventually kill the rosemary plant. If you have a rosemary plant inside your home for the holidays and through the winter, you might find it helpful to mist it with water and don't let the roots dry out completely as that seems to be almost a sure way to lose a rosemary plant.


We all know that rosemary is useful in cooking, potpourri, decorations and perfumes making it a wonderful plant for your home and garden year round. To me, rosemary is especially wonderful during Advent and even into the Season of Lent as it is associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the bible as well as in garden lore. It is often told that Mary hung the linens of the infant Jesus on the rosemary bush to dry, and afterward it became aromatic and evergreen with little blue flowers springing up from its branches. Also there are stories that tell how the rosemary plant, along with clematis and juniper, helped to shelter Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their flight out of Bethlehem after Jesus was born

I found an old poem in a gardening book by an unknown author that goes like this:
"Rosemary,
Rose of the world and Mary's son,
Son of the Maid when day was done,
Washed the shift of her little One,
Singing, O Rose of Mary."

In the language of herbs, rosemary means "remembrance," probably because its heady fragrance can help you recall fond memories of happy times. It's a lovely plant and on this lovely day it brings to me lovely thoughts of recent summers, winters and even legends I've heard from long ago. During this Advent season, remember rosemary.

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