Thursday, April 25, 2013

L.H. Bailey on Herbs

An Herb is a plant which dies to the ground each year. It may be annual, as bean, candytuft, pigweed; biennial, as mullein, parsnip; perennial, as burdock, foxglove, rhubarb. To the gardener, however, the word Herb is ordinarily synonymous with herbaceous perennial; and he usually has in mind those particular perennial Herbs which are grown for ornament, and which remain where they are planted. Goldenrods, bleeding heart, sweet William, hollyhock, daffodils are examples. To many persons, however, the word Herb is synonymous with Sweet Herb, and it suggests sage and tansy.
    Herbs have two kinds of values, —their intrinsic merits as individual plants, and their value in the composition or the mass. It is usually possible to secure both these values at one and the same time. In fact, the individual beauty of Herbs is enhanced rather than diminished by exercising proper care in placing them. Planted with other things, they have a background, and the beauties are brought out the stronger by contrast and comparison. It is quite as important, therefore, to consider the place for planting as to choose the particular kinds of plants. The appreciation of artistic effects in plants is a mark of highly developed sensibilities. Happily, this appreciation is rapidly growing; and this fact contributes to the increasing popularity of landscape gardening and ornamental gardening. Some of the best effects in Herb planting are to be seen in the wild, particularly along fences, roads and streams. In interpreting these native effects, the planter must remember that Herbs are likely to grow larger and more bushy in cultivation than in the wild. He should cover the bare and unseemly places about the borders of his place. He may utilize a rock or a wall as a background (Fig. 1043). He may hide the ground line about a post or along a fence. Some of the commonest Herbs are handsome when well grown and well placed.  Always plant where the Herbs will have relation to something else,—to the general design or handling of the place. This will usually be about the boundaries The hardy border is the unit in most planting of herbs. A rockwork Herb border is often useful in the rear or at one side of the premises. Fill some of the corners by the house. In remote parts of the grounds, half-wild effects may be allowed. A pond or a pool, even if stagnant, often may be utilized to advantage. A good Herb out of place may be worse than a poor Herb in place. But when Herbs are grown for their individual effects, give plenty of room and good care: aim at a perfect specimen. -L.H. Bailey, Cyclopedia of American Horticulture, 1900