The genus Rosmarinus belongs to the same family of plants as lavender, namely Lamiacae and consists of three species native to the Mediterranean region. All the garden cultivars available today belong to the officinalisspecies. The other two, lesser known species, areeriocalyx and tomentosus. The name is derived from the Latin ros meaning ‘dew’ and marinus which means ‘of the sea’, popularly ‘sea dew’ in English. Rosemary is symbolic of fidelity, friendship and love, but is principally associated with remembrance. probably because it acts as a stimulant – getting the synapses firing!
Rosemary has been cultivated in the UK since the late 14th Century and its main use beyond the garden is in the kitchen as seasoning, particularly with lamb. It’s wonderful burnt on barbecues where the aroma seasons and where the stouter stems can be used as kebab skewers.
Generally, rosemary has a strongly aromatic, dark green, revolute (turned under at the edges) foliage. Leaves are silky on the upper surface and felty and white beneath.All rosemaries flower from April to June and often again from September right through the winter, blurring the distinction between autumn flowering and spring flowering! The flowers have a narrow upper lip and broad lower lip, typically with a well defined white throat and dappled or entirely coloured either side.
Most cultivars are hardy to -15C suffering more from wet winters than frost. Indeed the greatest threat to the health of rosemary is waterlogging which often results in die-back, particularly on older woody plants. All the more important to prune regularly straight after flowering in June to encourage new growth which carries flowers the following season. Take growth back by between a third and a half.
Rosemary thrives in a sunny site and in well-drained soil with a pH of 5 to 8.