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Rosemary in the garden

by Rebecca Sweet

I was talking with another gardener last week, when she told me she never plants rosemary in her garden because it’s so common. Huh?

Of course everyone has their own opinion of what they like and don’t like, but not planting something just because it’s common?  Oh well – we all march to our own beat.

I happen to loooove rosemary in the garden and incorporate it into as many designs as I can.  Whether it’s the upright ‘Tuscan Blue’, mid-size ‘Ken Taylor’ or the creeping groundcover ‘Prostratus’ (and everything in between) I can’t get enough of this plant.

And because it grows so well in our mild climate, there’s always enough on hand to grab a generous amount to cook with.  My personal favorites are the upright forms of ‘Tuscan Blue’ and the aptly named ‘Barbeque’ as their stems are sturdy and straight, making ideal sticks for flavorful shish kabobs.

However, the main reason I love rosemary plants so much is for their abundance of early spring flowers, signaling the end of winter.  Dark blue, light blue and even white – seeing these evergreen shrubs covered in masses of tiny, fragrant flowers is site to behold.  

While visiting Sunset Magazine’s headquarters a few weeks ago, I couldn’t stop photographing their rosemary hedge in full bloom.   Kept at a manageable 5-foot height, it’s the perfect low maintenance, drought tolerant and gorgeous background for this courtyard.

One of my favorite clients has an abundance of rosemary in her garden – both the upright and creeping forms.  In early spring it’s truly a sight to behold.

I especially love the combination of upright and prostate forms that drape gently over the wall.

Years ago I couldn’t resist the light blue flowers of a rosemary topiary.

Now towering over 6-feet tall, this is one of my favorite early spring bloomers that never fail to bring hummingbirds to my garden.

Banning rosemary from the garden just because it’s common?  No way!

I’m curious – what are your favorites?


alessandra October 20, 2013 at 8:52 am


I just red this article and I would looove to plant rosemary along a side wall of my house. The only problem is that this wall only gets morning sun. Would it be enough sun? I live in the Bay Area.

Rebecca Sweet October 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hi Alessandra! Well, rosemary definitely wants full sun. However, I have a tall ‘Tuscan Blue’ that’s been in a container with just a few hours of morning sun and it’s been as happy as can be – going on 7 years now! It doesn’t bloom quite as much as the others in full sun, but that’s okay with me. I say give it a try!

janice March 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

my ex husband had a HUGE rosemary bush by the front door. it had beautiful blue blooms even after thanksgiving. I loved that plant…it always smelled soooo good.

Rebecca Sweet March 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I agree, Janice – I have several bushes that bloom all the way through December. Love, love, love this shrub!

janice March 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

that’s the one thing I miss about being married to my ex. I can’t get rosemary to grow where I live now. too much sandstone in the soil…(what a bummer) i’m wondering if you can grow it indoors?

Rebecca Sweet March 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

ha – well, it IS sad losing a rosemary…. I think you might be able to grow it in a sunny window, for at least a few months. Then it might need a vacation outside for awhile. Can’t you grow it in a pot, outside in a sunny spot? I’ve had 2 in pots for years and they’re really happy.

Sharon Lovejoy April 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

Rebecca dear,

I can’t believe that ANYONE could take rosemary for granted. I think that it is glorious and I KNOW that the bees love it too.

Another thing, I always have rosemary in bloom at Christmas. I love having those beautiful blue blossoms in my edible flower cooking too.

A favorite? ALL of them.



Rebecca Sweet April 19, 2012 at 9:39 pm

You bring up a great point, Sharon – having those beautiful blue flowers blooming in the winter is wonderful, isn’t it?

Candy Suter April 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Rosemary loves it here in Roseville, CA. Even though I grow mostly succulents I have a few other plants and one of my favorites is my rosemary hedge. I have to trim it every year because it’s by a walkway. But I love the smell and the beautiful blue flowers I get. And it is so nice to just go outside and cut a few pieces off when I need it for cooking!

Rebecca Sweet April 19, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I love brushing by rosemary, too, Candy (when it’s not covered with bees, that is). That, and lavender, are such wonderful scents in the garden.

Nell Foster April 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I totally agree. For our Mediterranean climate, Rosemary environmentally fits the bill. My house came with a “Tuscan Spires” in the front yard – it’s now 7′ tall by 8′ wide – now that’s an anchor plant. I also have “Collingwood Ingram” & “Golden Rain”. Another plus – they are relatively low maintenance!

Rebecca Sweet April 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Hi Nell! Thanks for introducing me to 2 varieties I haven’t planted before. After looking them up (Sunset has a great article here: it seems I definitely need to start including them in my planting plans!

Nell Foster April 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm

One note Rebecca – Golden Rain is not a good culinary Rosemary!

Rebecca Sweet April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Oh – good to know, Nell! I appreciate you telling me.

Felicia April 16, 2012 at 8:42 am

I added rosemary to my garden last year when I noticed two large shrubs of it growing in a most inhospitable place in a crowded, highly trafficked parking lot. It looked like it could take any kind of abuse! I planted mine hoping it will fill in and become a large shrub and it had the loveliest pale blue flowers a few weeks ago in my Georgia garden.

Rebecca Sweet April 16, 2012 at 9:21 am

You’re right, Felicia – Rosemary can take quite a bit of abuse and still look great! Glad to hear yours is doing so well in your garden!

greenwords April 15, 2012 at 4:02 am

I LOVE rosemary! Kind friends gave us one Tuscan Blue plant when we moved in. I have since propagated a whole hedge from it. Can’t get enough!

Rebecca Sweet April 16, 2012 at 9:21 am

Wow – a whole hedge from one little shrub? Good for you, Greenwords!!!

Kaveh April 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I sort of understand where the other gardener is coming from. I won’t ban it outright. I have used it in designs as a backdrop for mediterranean gardens and of course if the client likes it I would be happy to use it. But I probably wouldn’t use as much as is in those photos unless the client REALLy loved it. I just have one Tuscan Blue in my garden at the moment.

Rebecca Sweet April 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Well, I probably should’ve stated that my client has almost two acres in an area that’s always under threat of water restrictions, so anything that withstands very little water and hungry deer, rabbits and gophers get a thumbs up! In my own smaller garden I have my topiary rosemary and a giant Tuscan Blue, which I adore. You’re right – it’s a great backdrop for other plants in a mediterranean garden.

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