Agastache ‘Tutti Frutti’
Photo/Illustration: Holly Shimizu
What makes an herb an herb? The term usually brings to mind plants used in cooking—like the parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme of the popular Simon and Garfunkel song. Botanically, herb is short for herbaceous, meaning a plant that grows from a soft—not woody—stem. Historically, however, the word herb refers to plants that are useful to people by way of their flavor, fragrance, or medicinal properties, no matter what type of stem they grow from.
When I first became interested in growing herbs, I was fascinated by all of their traditional uses, but as I continued to cultivate them, I came to value herbs for their ornamental attributes, too. By experimenting with herbs in decorative garden settings, I found that their exquisite foliage and flowers can blend artfully with other annuals, biennials, and perennials.
Although I could name many herbs that are as beautiful as they are useful, I’ve narrowed my list to 10 top performers. These plants needn’t be confined to designated herb gardens, but can be used to fill in cracks and crevices, to wander along bed edges, and to punctuate perennial borders.