Many definitions of herbs abound; I’ve seen “any useful plant that grows in annual cycles” to “domesticated wild plants that make life easier”. And that is just a start. The number of plants that fall under the general description of “herbs” seems to change all the time. You now even get herb “experts” expressing opinions on whether a plant can be classified as a herb or not. Absolute rubbish!
The truth is that over the ages people noticed that certain plants possessed culinary, healing or aromatic virtues. These became the herb garden plants of the local community or healers. As communications spread and travel became widespread, people learned that their favorite local culinary/healing/aromatic plants were not by any means the only plants possessing virtues. Somewhere along the way some clever person categorised these useful plants by dubbing them with whatever name has evolved into our English description of “herb garden plants”.
My feeling is that any plant that benefits the user in exceptional ways should be included in my garden; yes – I would probably call it a herb garden plant to distinguish it from the pretty but vacuous flowers that I grow for decoration. And yes, like generations before me I would probably feel great affection towards it for the help or utility it unselfishly provides.
In the broad class of plants we call herb garden plants, there are distinct divisions of type and seasonality.
1. My 4 meter high bay tree and my 3 meter high lemon verbena can justifiably be called a perennial as I collect leaves for cooking (the bay tree) all year round.
2. Basil requires constant recycle planting to give me a steady supply in season, which of course means that it is an annual plant.
3. Some plants have a 2 year life cycle. These are biennials. They use their first year to attain growth and allow you to harvest their produce the following year, after which they go to the great herb garden in the sky. (If you talk to your herb garden plants a lot they tell you these things)
Throughout this site are references to culinary, aromatic and medicinal herb classes as well as perennial, biennial or annual plants. To easily access them look at the “categories” menu and/or type a word in the search box and hit “return”. You will find that many herbs have multiple uses.
Irrespective of your primary motive for wanting to get your hands dirty in herb gardens, knowing the characteristics of various herbs will add to your pleasure and focus your choice of what herbs to grow.
Contact me if the herb garden plants you are interested in are not yet included and I will look them up and, if possible, do a post on them.