September 4, 2012

You Can Grow That - A Hardy Rosemary

Of course you can grow rosemary, it's easy.

But can you grow it outdoors in Connecticut?  In the ground, where it overwinters out in the open?

You can.  I am joining C.L. Fornari's "You Can Grow That" series on the fourth of each month, and you can find many more examples from other bloggers at her site Whole Life Gardening.

This is Rosmarinus officinalis 'Madeline Hill', sometimes called 'Hill Hardy'.  It can take winter temperatures below zero.  It is similar to 'Arp', another hardy cultivar introduced by the same herb plantswoman, Madeline Hill.  But I think her namesake is a shrubbier, rounder and prettier form than 'Arp'.


It grows happily in full sun in my yard, and it lives there all winter.  My garden has moved from zone 5 to zone 6 with the new hardiness map --- a winter with minus 10 F is rare now, but in the past few winters we did have isolated mornings hovering a few degrees below zero. The real issue for any Mediterranean evergreen is winter sogginess and cold winds, and I have both regardless of zone designation.

But Madeline seems to do fine in a slightly raised bed at the high end of the slope of our yard. Even though she is out in the open subjected to winter winds scouring from the west, she thrives.


She offers a pop of muted greenery out there in the snow.  By spring the deep color is a tired olive shade, but she greens up with warm sunshine.


The deep blue bloom spikes in late April are sparse, and they come out just as the rosemary is greening up, so it's not a big show. When the deep color returns in mid spring, it is a happy, healthy green.


And here is Madeline Hill looking back at the house, checking to see what might be going on in there and whether dinner might call for a sprig of rosemary in the roasted potatoes.


I love the bulk and upright frothiness of rosemary.  I love the scent as I brush by it.  I use a little of it in cooking.

And I love the fact that even in a snowy northern garden I don't have to haul this plant inside over the winter.


34 comments:

  1. Laurrie, this is a variety I've not yet tried. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it now, though. I'll bet deer browsing is not an issue with this plant? If not, what a great suggestion for those of us gardening in the presence of deer.

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    1. Joene, the deer don't like rosemary at all --- too strong. And cats don't like it either apparently, as some gardeners are putting rosemary plants around birdbaths to discourage stalking and hunting.

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  2. Interesting...I love rosemary in cooking and did not know there were hardy varieties that can be grown here. From what I've heard, the non hardy plants can be tricky even in the house.

    Thanks for the tip off to CL Fornari's blog. Some interesting stuff to peruse. It's unfortunate that she has to discontinue the use of "You Can Grow That!" slogan due to potential copyright problems. Yikes!

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    1. Sue, the issues with the "You Can Grow That" meme are frustrating. We're just gardeners, having a little social fun online with plant profiles. Why does that have to be co-opted and turned into something commercial and money-producing for one company? Mmmphh.

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  3. Thanks so much for this. I am going to try this variety here. I have only had success with rosemary against a south facing wall but this sounds promising!

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    1. Barbara, my Madeline Hill could not be less protected. It's out in the most open part of my yard, not near a wall or any other shrubs or structures, and so far so good after several winters!

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  4. I easily grow rosemary outside here in the south, but it's nice to know there is a hardy one available for northern areas. I love to brush by mine - I think the scent is heavenly.

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    1. HolleyGarden, the real reason I grow rosemary is to brush by it, like you do! It's in the middle of my yard, so I pass it and stroke it frequently : )

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  5. Absolutely, we can grow that . . . rosemary. I left two (an 'Arp' and a no-name) in the herb garden last winter, and they came through unscathed. That also was the winter my 'Bob Hope' camellia survived and bloomed in the garden. There's been a change in the weather. Annnd climate. What's next? Bougainvillea?

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    1. Lee, I remember the post about Bob Hope coming back! Not to mention you have that gorgeous Southern magnolia Bracken's Brown Beauty in your northern garden. Not sure I'd want a bougainvillea, though. That's what Hawaiian vacations are for.

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  6. I have tried rosemary a couple of times with no luck. That was a few years ago. Funny that you wrote about this. I bought one this spring. It is in a pot right now but I was thinking about trying it in the ground. I definitely will now. Yours is quite beautiful, especially in the snow.

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    1. Lisa, thanks so much. Good luck with trying your rosemary in the ground -- you don't know until you experiment!

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  7. Funny, I didn't know cats don't like rosemary. I have placed my rosemary pot outside the catflap! They do not seem to bothered by it. Would love to have a winter hard rosemary. Not sure we can get this Madeline Hill here in Belgium so if you ever get the idea for saving some seeds I would love to try out growing your Madeline.

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    1. SowandSo, Hmmm, your cats don't mind the rosemary? There is no telling what cats' preferences are!! My Madeline Hill produces few flowers, so I am not sure any viable seed can be saved -- I will have to see what they produce next spring. Try looking for 'Arp' near you. That is a similar hardy rosemary and might be more available where you are.

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  8. Beautiful! I was surprised that rosemary grows well in my own garden. I thought it was a lot like lavender, which perishes in our humidity, but the rosemary doesn't seem to suffer. Mine doesn't have a name. I originally bought it years ago, potted up as a Christmas decoration, then planted it out after the holiday.

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    1. Deborah, lavender is such a fussy plant, and I had limited luck with it. Rosemary of any kind seems an easier plant, tolerating humidity and in my case even snow.

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    2. Hi, Laurrie! I'm Nadezda! Although rosemary doesn't grow here, it's very nice among the snow.
      http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/

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    3. Nadezda, Welcome! I visited your city 45 years ago when it was Leningrad and that was a long long time ago. I was just a student. It was June and the days were long, the nights stayed bright and all the bridges of the city rose up at night. You are too far north for rosemary to grow, but you have many other beautiful sights and plants and some day I will return for another visit.

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  9. I can top this, Laurrie--my rosemary survived the whole winter here--in a pot outside! Of course, I don't expect to see another winter quite like last year. The year before that, I dug mine up and brought it indoors where it thrived until March...and then promptly died:) Go figure. Anyway, I grow rosemary as much for its looks as for cooking; thanks for the info on a hardy cultivar. I love the way it looks in the snow.

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    1. Rose, who knows what winter will bring in the future --- you may well be able to keep your rosemary in pots again. Rosemary just doesn't like to live indoors, and very few can get it through the whole winter inside. So the hardy varieties have to be the answer for us!

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  10. oh I'm jealous Laurrie. I love rosemary, both as a plant and for culinary uses but I have the worst time trying to keep it alive over the winter. I'm still too cold for this one, not to mention the clay soil and sogginess, but I can dream.

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    1. Marguerite, you will just have to book a vacation cruise to the Mediterranean to see rosemary in the ground in winter : )

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  11. I love my rosemary, luckily it is indigenous here, so I don't have to worry about it, winter or summer.

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    1. Ruth, I envy you living in a true Mediterranean climate. Your rosemary is the real thing growing where it is supposed to grow and it must be beautiful.

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    2. Ruth, I tried to leave a comment on your latest post, but it says I am not allowed to access the server : (

      So here is what I wanted to say about your plans for your garden:
      I love to read about gardeners' problem solving in their spaces and how they go about picturing what they want to plant. (I could completely relate to the comment that you sit around "confusing yourself with garden plans" --- that's me).

      Your hibiscus privacy screen will be perfect. And yes, some native trees will add so much!

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  12. Thanks Laurrie, the site was doing some security updates so commenting and posting was problematic for a few days. I appreciate you commenting all the same :-)

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    1. James, I got my Madeline Hill from, of all places, a mail order seed company called Vermont Bean Seed
      http://www.vermontbean.com/dp.asp?pID=12272 (it was a tiny plant start, not seed)

      Their site says this rosemary is hardy to 15 degrees, but others claim its hardy to below zero and my own experience bears that out.

      You can get a similar hardy variety that is taller (and I think a little rangier) called 'Arp' at most local nurseries, at least around here in CT. But supposedly Madeline Hill is the one that withstands cold better.

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  14. I'm not sure what variety we have, but for the first time we were able to overwinter our farmer's market rosemary plant last winter--and we live in New Hampshire! We now have a lovely little shrub in our south-facing garden. Last winter was especially mild, so this year we will super mulch the plant and build an A-frame over it, hoping to keep it for good. We'll have to bring in the banana plant we planted right next to it, though!

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    1. I am impressed that you have rosemary that will winter over in NH! Here's hoping for another mild winter (although I'd like good snow cover, just not bitter temps). and here's hoping your rosemary makes it!

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  15. This is just the info I was looking for! Imagine my horror when I read that my beloved rosemary shrub, which thrived on zero care, in a sun-cracked patch of clay back home in Maryland, might not survive up here. Thank you very much for sharing your source for cold-hardy rosemary.

    KN in NW CT, Zone 5

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    1. KN, I have some bad news for you -- despite growing this rosemary successfully for several years over winter here in northern CT, it did not make it through last winter. In spring 2013 it never came back and I took it out. But bear in mind I had it out in the open and I think it was the winter wind and not the temps that crisped it. You may do better if you put yours in a protected spot near the house or a wall. Good luck!

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    2. Oh, no! I'm so sorry to hear about your poor plant! I still very much want to try rosemary, and I will be sure to put it in a protected location. Thanks again, and I hope you give it another shot!

      KN

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  16. Also got a Hardy Hill Rosemary , have it started in a pot

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