These heat-loving rosemary plants—'Herb Cottage' (rear left), 'Miss Jessopp's Upright' (front left), and 'Pinkie' (right)—spend the winter in the author's Minnesota greenhouse.
In 2000, rosemary was selected as Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, and it's easy to see why. This aromatic evergreen is an indispensable kitchen herb, it's used as an ornamental element in the garden, and it is used in aromatherapy.
Rosemary is a member of the Labiatae or mint family, and it grows as an evergreen perennial shrub in mild-wintered regions of the world. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means "dew of the sea," a reference to its Mediterranean roots.
But I don't live in anything like a Mediterranean climate. Here in Minnesota, conditions are less than ideal for growing rosemary, but I don't let this deter me. Still, growing rosemary indoors in the winter can be a challenge. It is easy to nurture and care for indoor rosemary too much. Excess water will damage the roots and cause the plant to die, so I let the soil dry, then water thoroughly. Rosemary needs a southern exposure, and my kitchen window is perfect for this.
When I was first learning about rosemary, it struck me that there is a great deal of variability within the genus Rosmarinus. The many cultivars offer diverse plant shapes and flower color, as well as a range of foliage color and subtly different flavors (both leaves and flowers are edible).