Herb-plant artistry in a vegetable plot

Few doubt the edible properties of herbs, but their artistic value in a garden display is often overlooked. The decorative value of herbs is measured largely by foliage, as few of the spicy plants bear showy flowers.

Since many herbs tend to be low-growing, they are ideally suited for border material of a vegetable plot. Because areas for vegetables are plowed under or spaded anew each season, annual herbs are more adaptable here than the perennial varieties.

There is a compact sweet basil (Green Bush) that grows about a foot tall. Its leaves are pleasantly pungent, and since basil is so popular in tomato dishes, the plants become a good edging border for a vegetable garden.

In summertime it produces small white flowers which, although not showy, add to the visual interest of the herb.

The verdant foliage of parsley also is especially suitable as an edging herb for a vegetable garden.

Parsley grows only about a foot high and its shiny green leaves are available either as handsomely curled or plain flat types. Parsley seeds are slow to germinate so it is advantageous to soak them overnight before planting.

In areas where perennials are planted there are many herbs that may be selected to accent the color of neighboring flowers with contrasting - and aromatic - foliage characteristic of this type of plant.

The feathery gray leaves of artemisia (wormwood) are showy and effective when arranged either as a compact plant (silver mound) or placed to grow in a row as an edging plant. Artemisia foliage is appropriate to add to a bouquet of either fresh or dried flowers.

Chives grow in clumps and are at home in a flower border with their onionlike leaves. The blossoms of chives are pretty, too - especially in June when the plant produces flower heads of rosy-colored blooms.

Lavender is a pretty herb to plant among perennials. Its small lavender-blue blossoms are borne on tall spikes and, when cut, add a fragrant touch to a bouquet of mixed flowers. Dried lavender is nice for potpourri mixtures.

Sage has thick gray leaves and is rather shrubby in growth. The foliage, being gray, furnishes a change of color from the usual gardens of a perennial border.

Shrublike herbs to grow among flowering plants include rosemary, rue, and hyssop.

For taller plants, try the old-fashioned firecrackers - always in bloom on the Fourth of July. They are especially alluring to hummingbirds.

Mint, either spearmint or peppermint, is a popular herb but it is a rampant grower. The flowers of mint are on spikes which will be found desirable when added to a perennial bouquet.

Most seed catalogs carry a section devoted to commonly grown herbs. Then there are plant nurseries which sell seedling annual as well as perennial herbs.

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