Rosemary blossoms
Ah, beloved Rosemary! I would grow you for no other reason than that you bloom in January!

Rosmarinus officinalis: I love everything about her. I love her woodsy scent. I love how the bees flock to her in summer. Her medicinal properties are legendary – and surely something that strengthens the hive colonies.

Antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory … the lovely rosemary is powerful enough to help hold off the bubonic plague in the infamous “Four Thieves” concoction of medicinal herbs, which protected the scoundrels enough to allow them to rob the dead.

An astringent and stimulant, it has been used for centuries in personal care products (one of the ingredients in the “Queen of Hungary’s Water”). Add it with other herbs for a bath blend, facial steam, or footbath (try combinations of hops, sage, lavender, peppermint, chamomile, lavender, roses); steep it in water for a hair rinse.

Called the “herb of remembrance,” it is said to enhance cellular uptake of oxygen and stimulate the brain. I like to combine it with sage for a healthful tea. Infusions are used in treating colds, headaches, and depression. I can vouch for this. Rosemary makes me happy.

Mask of Venice
Fill nose of mask with herbs and breathe around plague victims at your own risk.

Rosemary also symbolizes friendship and fidelity; it makes a lovely wreath or bridal crown for weddings.

Combine with garlic, sage, lavender, mint, and thyme or marjoram and steep in vinegar for a salad dressing or braising liquid for meats and vegetables.

Rosemary is a great companion plant. It grows well with nutrient-demanding brassicas, cabbages, collards, and their ilk. It is said to repel cabbage moths, carrot flies, and bean beetles. I might try planting carrots and beans in a circle around it this year. (Keep it away from potatoes.)

It likes a sunny place, although it will do fine in dappled shade, but more critically: well-drained soil. The flowers bloom on new growth, so don’t prune it back too far. It is not too fussy about soil. It can weather through dry spells.

Rosemary Shrub
Rosemary shrub in early April, thriving against the south side of a building.

The shrub that has done best for me grows against the wall of our barn. Although facing south, it is behind a huge bay leaf shrub, so it only gets part sun; however, it has the advantage of the light and heat reflected from the wall behind it, and beneath the eave, it is not overly watered by rains. This plant has grown to be a sprawling 6-foot plus shrub and has outlived any other rosemary on our property. Other plants I have in full sun are more at the mercy of the wind and excessive winter/spring rains and do not do as well. The plants tend to get woody and a bit gnarly. I love that about it. But I think this year I will take some cuttings, just to ensure I have rosemary forever.