Rodale's 21st-Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature's Most Powerful Plants



For gardeners and plant lovers, the enormous selection of interesting herbs available at local nurseries and on the Web can seem both exhilarating and a bit overwhelming. Herbs are easy to work into an existing landscape—especially if you want to grow only a few of them. Culinary staples like parsley and basil can tuck neatly into a shrub border or large container outside your kitchen door. And flowering herbs like purple coneflower and bee balm are naturals for the perennial border.

But why stop there? With a dedicated herb garden, you can enjoy a full range of herbal colors, fragrances, and flavors—both outside and inside your home. Nature’s most useful plants can provide the ingredients for delicious meals, healing teas and salves, refreshing facial scrubs and soaps, green cleaning preparations for your home, and so much more.

The style of your herb garden is up to you. An herb garden can be as formal as a 16th-century knot garden or as informal as a wild cottage garden, where these wonderful plants casually intermingle with flowering shrubs and vines. To help you begin, we’ve provided plans for 12 different herb gardens (starting on this page). You can choose one of these to follow or draw inspiration from several of them to create an herb garden uniquely your own.


Designing a garden can be great fun, as you consider potential plants and plant combinations, plant placement, and hardscape features (such as walls, pathways, and steps). The design and planning phase of a garden is also criticalto its success—so take time to do it thoughtfully. It’s a lot easier, and less expensive, to make changes on paper than in the garden.

Measure your garden site, then transfer the outline to graph paper, making the layout to scale. (Perhaps 1 foot can equal 1 inch on your graph paper.) Mark trees, buildings, and other obstructions, and note which direction is north. Be sure to leave enough space for comfortable paths, and keep your beds narrow enough to work in—4 to 5 feet across maximum—but wide enough to look both seductive and effective.

After you’ve established a design, choose the herbs that will bring it to life. Consider not only plant color, form, and texture, but also bloom time and mature height, as well as the conditions of the site. When planning where to place your plants, remember that herbaceous plants usually look best (and most natural) when planted in groups of a given type. Individual plants get lost, creating a blurred, jumbled effect, but masses of plants stand out and create a more unified design. The noted Brazilian landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx once described plants in a garden not only as individual species, but also as “a color, a shape, a volume, or an arabesque in itself.”

In your design, arrange plants so that taller and larger ones won’t hide smaller ones. If your design features a border backed by a wall or fence, plant the tallest herbs in back and the lowest herbs in front. If you’re planning an island bed, put the tall plants in the center and the low plants around the edges. Include a focal point, such as a large shrub or birdbath, to help anchor the planting.

Good design also considers perspective. For instance, if you’re planning a knot garden—one of the styles in this chapter—make sure the garden “floor” contrasts with the knotted edging, or the pattern will be lost. If your design is meant to be viewed from a distance, use plants that will grab the viewer’s eye—large ones with bright flowers or silver foliage.

Finally, a few words on maintenance. All gardens require some work, but keep in mind that the more formal your design and the larger its scale, the more weeding, clipping, mulching, and watering you’ll need to do, and the more precise the planting will have to be. Herb gardens, like any others, look best when the plants are full and lush. This is vital when an herbal hedge or solid block of plants is integral to a design. It’s a good idea to grow extra plants in a nursery area or greenhouse so you’ll always have spares to fill in gaps.


If you own a house with a distinct architectural style—such as Early American, Victorian, or Craftsman—you might want to echo the style of that period in your landscape and herb garden. Period gardens generally follow the designs, materials, techniques, and plants of a given era. Before you embark on a historical design, read up on the aesthetics and garden designs of that period. For a more formal look, you can draw inspiration from Renaissance gardens, which featured geometric patterns, topiaries, fountains, and even statues.

An enclosed medieval-style garden can make a tranquil refuge. You can enclose it with hedging, a tall wood fence, latticework covered with climbing plants, plaited wicker (wattling), or walls of brick or stone. Ideally, it should include a fountain. Surround the fountain with an herbal lawn studded with flowers—columbines, irises, lilies, pinks, primroses, and violets. If you have a tree in your garden, you can create a turf seat beneath an arbor. The turf seat—a medieval inspiration—is an earth-filled rectangular box surfaced with a creeping herb such as one of the prostrate thymes or creeping chamomile.

The symmetry of a colonial-style garden is also appealing. To make a colonial herb garden, lay out raised, board-sided beds along a central walk. The walk should lead to a sundial or bench. If possible, enclose the garden with a picket fence or a low hedge. Within the beds, you can mix vegetables and herbs or plant only herbs—such as angelica, borage, burnet, calendula, caraway, catmint, chamomile, chervil, comfrey, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon balm, licorice, lovage, madder, mint, nasturtiums, parsley, rue, sage, sweet cicely, tansy, tarragon, and woad. If you’re attempting a true historical recreation, use only the materials available during that period. Wood, wattling, stone, gravel, brick, and clay were the usual building materials during the colonial period.


Another approach to garden design is to focus on a common feature, or theme—such as herbs that are medicinal, herbs used for cooking, or herbs that attract butterflies. Theme gardens can also feature a common color—such as an all-white garden. You might even base your design on plants that have special significance. A Shakespearean garden, for instance, includes the Renaissance herbs mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare. Biblical gardens feature herbs from the Bible, such as anise, coriander, cumin, dill, mint, mustard, rose, rue, saffron, and wormwood. If you are a tea drinker, you might create a garden composed of chamomile, lemon balm, mints, basils, rosemary, and the natural sweetener stevia to make your own infusions. A collection of lemony herbs might include herbs that provide a citrus scent and flavor, such as lemon balm, lemon thyme, and lemon verbena.

On the following pages, you’ll find garden designs that you can use as blueprints or as inspiration for your own herb garden. Many of the plants in the garden designs that follow are featured in Part II (see this page), while other plants are wonderful companions that you may want to consider researching and adding to your collection. Most of the suggested plants are widely adapted, but feel free to experiment. (If you live in Zone 5 or colder, you might need to substitute more cold-hardy cultivars for some perennials.) Play in your horticultural sandbox by choosing plants better suited to your conditions and the environment you wish to create. By definition, all gardens, and gardeners, evolve over time—and experimenting with new plants and plant combinations is fun. For more design ideas, visit local public gardens. Many include outstanding period or theme herb gardens that are beautifully maintained. For more details about the individual plants in the following designs, see their entries in Part II, “Herbs to Know.”

A Formal Knot Garden

During the 16th through 18th centuries, the grounds of many European and American estates featured formal knot gardens. The intricate, geometric pattern of the knot was meant to be viewed from above, so you could reflect on the pattern by looking down from a terrace or window.

Typically, knot plants are herbs that can be easily pruned to a uniform height, such as boxwood, germander, lavender, rosemary, sage, santolina, southernwood, winter savory, and wormwood. Accent plants within the knot add contrasting color or texture. You can play around with the background by using a contrasting mulch material—such as white marble chips or red crushed stone—to make the plants stand out. The entire garden can be framed in brick or stone.

1 Green santolina (Santolina virens): 2-foot-tall perennial with rich green, aromatic leaves and yellow flowers in early summer. Keep plants clipped to about 1-foot tall.

2 Lavender ‘Munstead’ (Lavandula angustifolia): Compact, 1-foot-tall perennial with aromatic gray foliage and bright lavender flower spikes in summer.

3 Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys): 18-inch-tall bushy perennial with dark green foliage and pink to purple flowers in midsummer to late summer. Keep plants clipped to about 1 foot tall.

4 Lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus): 2½-foot-tall mounding perennial with wide, finely cut, silver-gray foliage and yellow cotton ball–blooms in summer.

5 Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): 2- to 3-foot-tall perennial with aromatic green foliage and white, blue, or pink flowers in summer. Shear to desired shape.

6 Rue ‘Blue Beauty’ (Ruta graveolens): 2-foot-tall perennial with blue-green aromatic foliage and yellow flowers in summer. Shear to desired shape.

Cottage Herb Garden

Even a white picket fence can’t contain the enthusiasm of a cottage garden. The climbing, creeping, and sprawling herbs seem to mingle randomly throughout the growing space. Self-seeding annuals reappear each year—often in surprising places—adding to the casual look.

Although this romantic style might look carefree, you’ll need to do occasional maintenance to keep it from looking unruly. Space the plants tightly to inhibit weeds, use mulch, and remove volunteer seedlings that threaten to take over less-aggressive plants. Be sure to include a focal point—such as a sundial, bench, or birdhouse—to help unify the design. Also, remember to plant in groups to form masses of color, rather than jumbling together many different individual plants.

1 Climbing nasturtium ‘Moonlight’ (Tropaeolum majus): 6- to 8-foot climbing stems with pale yellow flowers in midsummer to fall; annual.

2 English lavender ‘Hidcote’ (Lavandula angustifolia): Deep purple, highly fragrant blooms cover 18-inch-tall perennial plants all summer; gray-green foliage.

3 Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Biennial plants bear 4- to 6-foot-tall spikes of purple, pink, or white blooms in late spring to midsummer; self-seeds.

4 Calendula (Calendula officinalis): 1- to 2-foot branching plants with orange or yellow flowers in summer; self-seeding annual.

5 Bee balm ‘Blue Stocking’ (Monarda didyma): 3- to 4-foot-tall perennial with violet-blue flowers in early to midsummer; aromatic leaves.

6 Cowslip (Primula veris): 10-inch-tall perennial bears fragrant, bright yellow, bell-shaped blooms in spring.

7 Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): 4- to 6-foot-tall sprawling perennial with fernlike leaves; clusters of white or pink, sweetly scented blooms in midsummer.

8 Catmint ‘Walker’s Low’ (Nepeta cataria): 2-foot-tall perennial covered with small, lavender-blue flowers in spring to late summer; fragrant foliage.

9 Violet (Viola odorata): Creeping perennial to 6 inches tall with heart-shaped leaves and sweet-scented dark purple or white flowers in spring.

10 Thyme ‘Bressingham Pink’ (Thymus praecox): Evergreen perennial groundcover studded with tiny pink flowers in early summer; withstands light traffic.

11 Apothecary rose (Rosa gallica var. officinalis): Sprawling shrub, 3 to 4 feet tall and up to 6 feet across; fragrant, deep pink blooms in late spring to midsummer; orange hips in fall.

Kitchen Herb Garden

This kitchen garden includes the most common culinary herbs, arranged in an ornamental design. The borders of the central path are lined with the purple foliage and pink flowers of ‘Dark Opal’ basil and the green to purple foliage of purple sage. Large clumps of ‘Genovese’ basil fill the centers of both beds, but you could substitute a cut-and-come-again lettuce mix, arugula, or a salad tomato variety, or edible flowers, such as calendula.

A bark chip mulch accents the herbs’ forms and foliage as it suppresses weeds and preserves moisture. To keep the aggressive mints from overtaking the entire bed, plant them in sunken, bottomless buckets, leaving an inch or so of the rims aboveground. Remove runners as soon as you spot them. Border your garden with bricks or flat stones for a clean finish and easy mowing.

1 Basil ‘Dark Opal’ (Ocimum basilicum): Annual plants up to 15 inches tall with dark purple leaves and pink flowers in midsummer to late summer. For heaviest leaf production, pinch off flowers as they appear.

2 Purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’): Perennial up to 10 inches tall; aromatic gray-green to purple leaves; purple flowers appear in June.

3 Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Bushy, 12-inch-tall biennial plants with dark green, curled leaves. Replant annually.

4 Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Perennial that forms spreading clumps up to 18 inches tall; tubular, deep green leaves with bright pink to lilac flowers in June.

5 Garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Sprawling, woody perennial, 6 inches tall with tiny, aromatic evergreen leaves and mauve to pink flowers in early summer.

6 Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus): Mounding evergreen perennial, 8 inches tall with pale pink flowers in midsummer; tiny leaves have a lemon scent and flavor.

7 Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Evergreen shrub up to 7-feet tall with needlelike gray-green leaves and blue flowers in early spring. Hardy to Zone 7; sink in pots to bring indoors for winter in colder climates.

8 Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Bushy, 2-foot-tall perennial with spikes of purple, pink, or white flowers in midsummer to late summer.

9 Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Spear-shaped, bright green leaves on 2-foot stems; pink, white, or purple flowers in midsummer; perennial. Confine the roots.

10 Peppermint (Mentha × piperita): 2-foot-tall perennial plants bear smooth, purple-tinged leaves and midsummer spikes of lilac-pink flowers. Confine the roots.

11 Basil ‘Genovese’ (Ocimum basilicum): The classic pesto variety. Annual, 2-foot-tall plants with bright green, aromatic leaves; white flowers in midsummer to late summer. Pinch off blooms to increase leaf production.

Healing Herb Garden

The leaves, flowers, or roots of the herbs in this garden can be used to make healing teas or salves. In this design, the herbs are loosely grouped by their healing properties: Tension tamers, such as valerian, marshmallow, and catnip, are grouped together; cold and flu fighters, like elderberry, horehound, garlic, and echinacea, are near each other; and muscle, joint, and skin savers, such as arnica and calendula, grow together. Most of these plants also add beauty to the landscape, so you’ll enjoy their soothing qualities even when you aren’t using them medicinally. Locating this border next to a fence or wall provides support for tall, rangy herbs like valerian.

For more details on using these herbs to make healing preparations, see Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s chart on this page and the individual entries in Part II of this book.

1 Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): 10- to 12-foot-tall shrub; creamy white flowers in early summer, followed by deep purple-black berries. A tea from the flowers relieves colds and flu. The fruit, made into jam or juice, has antiviral properties.

2 Horehound (Marrubium vulgare): 24-inch-tall perennial with soft, hairy leaves; white flowers in early summer. A tea or syrup made from the leaves relieves coughs and sore throat.

3 Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis): A 4-foot tall perennial with soft, velvety, leaves; five-petaled pinkish white blooms in midsummer. A-tea from the root or leaf soothes coughs and gastrointestinal troubles.

4 Catnip (Nepeta cataria): 2-foot-tall perennial covered with small, lavender-blue flowers in spring to late summer; fragrant foliage. The leaf tea soothes anxiety and indigestion.

5 Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): 4- to 6-foot-tall sprawling perennial with fernlike leaves; clusters of white or pink, fragrant blooms in midsummer. Root tea reduces nervous tension and promotes sleep.

6 Sage (Salvia officinalis): Up to 24 inches tall; aromatic leaves are gray-green; purple flowers appear in June. The leaf tea is excellent for sore throats, coughs, and colds. Also used to treat excessive sweating, menopausal hot flashes, and night sweats.

7 Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Sprawling, woody perennial, 6-inches tall with tiny, aromatic evergreen leaves and mauve to pink flowers in early summer. The leaf tea is excellent for relieving coughs, colds, and congestion.

8 Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Bushy, 18-inch-tall perennial with lemon-scented leaves; white flower spikes in early to midsummer. The leaf tea eases tension, digestive upset, and colic. A topical cream can help fever blisters.

9 Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): Perennial evergreen groundcover with feathery leaves and white, daisylike flowers in late spring to late summer. A tea made from its leaves aids digestion and promotes relaxation and sleep.

10 Garlic (Allium sativum): Linear leaves arise from a bulb of 4 to 15 cloves; small white flowers in umbels on stems to 2 feet tall. Garlic has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties.

11 Arnica (Arnica montana): 1- to 2-foot erect, branching perennial with downy leaves; yellow-orange daisylike blooms appear in midsummer. A salve made from the flowers helps sore muscles and joints, sprains, bruises, and swelling.

12 Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea): Perennial plants, 2 to 3 feet tall, bloom in midsummer to late summer; purple, daisylike flowers. Root tea relieves colds and upper respiratory conditions.

13 Calendula (Calendula officinalis): 1- to 2-foot branching plants with orange or yellow flowers throughout summer; self-seeding annual. Flower tea soothes throat and mouth irritations; external salve helps heal skin problems.

Garden for Fragrance and Beauty

The bloom season of this fragrance garden extends from the first sweet violets in April until the last blooms of witch hazel in winter. A bench or swing below a rose-covered arbor provides a private spot to take in the scents. But fragrant flowers are only half the story. The aromatic foliage of scented geraniums, pineapple mint, and artemisia can be enjoyed spring through fall. Potted tropicals like ylang-ylang and patchouli come inside in autumn to scent the air until temperatures warm up again in spring. Besides stimulating your senses in the garden, many of these herbs can be used to make fragrant potpourris, sachets, soaps, and beauty-care preparations.

This design is located in a corner, backed by a fence or wall. 7 If you don’t have a fence or wall, you can expand the border a few feet in the back and fill that side with more low-growing 5 herbs, such as calamint.

In the Garden

1 Witch hazel ‘Jelena’ (Hamamelis × intermedia): Woody shrub up to 15 feet tall; fragrant, copper-colored, threadlike flowers in early winter; coarsely toothed leaves turn orange-red in fall.

2 Damask rose ‘La Ville de Bruxelles’ (Rosa × damascena): Hardy, 5-foot-tall, rounded shrub with clusters of intensely fragrant, large pink double flowers; blooms late spring to early summer.

3 Cabbage rose ‘Dutch Provence’ (Rosa × centifolia): 8- to 10-foot climber with a profusion of pale pink, double, highly fragrant blooms in late spring to early summer.

4 French lavender ‘Grosso’ (Lavandula × intermedia): Woody, 2- to 3-foot-tall perennial, hardy to Zone 5; purple bloom spikes in late spring to midsummer.

5 Clary sage (Salvia sclarea): Erect biennial up to 4 feet tall; broad, opposite, heart-shaped leaves 6 to 9 inches long; spikes of purple or pale pink flowers in early summer.

6 Calamint (Calamintha nepeta): 15- to 18-inch perennial shrub forms a tidy mound of small, bright green leaves; lavender-pink bloom spikes last 6 weeks or more in midsummer to late summer.

7 Southernwood ‘Tangerine’ (Artemisia abrotanum): 3- to 4-foot perennial with finely divided, downy, olive green leaves; neat, upright form; citrusy scent.

8 Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’ (Artemisia stelleriana): 6- to 12-inch perennial with velvety, divided, silvery leaves; drought-tolerant edging.

9 Violet (Viola odorata): Creeping perennial up to 6 inches tall; oval to heart-shaped leaves and dark purple or white springtime flowers. Let them wander below shrubs and around the bases of containers.

In Containers

10 Dwarf ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata var. fruticosa): 6-foot-tall tropical shrub with long, oblong leaves; scented yellow flowers throughout summer. Bring indoors to overwinter.

11 Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin): 2-foot-tall tropical perennial with handsome serrated leaves; white or pale pink flowers in autumn. Bring indoors to overwinter.

12 Variegated pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’): Perennial up to 2 feet tall; terminal spikes of tiny, purple-pink flowers; attractive light green leaves edged in white.

13 Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): Tender perennial up to 2 feet tall with frilly leaves and pink flowers. Bring indoors to overwinter.

14 Lemon-scented geranium (Pelargonium crispum): Tender perennial, 10 inches tall, with frilly leaves and pink flowers. Bring indoors to overwinter.

Garden of Everlastings

Featuring four different yarrow varieties, the perennial herbs in this circular garden will beautify your landscape and home year-round. Their flowers and foliage make gorgeous and long-lasting fresh or dried arrangements and wreaths. To dry the flowers or foliage, cut the stems on a dry day after the dew has evaporated. Because flowers continue to open as they dry, cut them before they are fully mature. (For information on drying herbs for crafts, see Chapter 7.)

1 Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Artemisia hybrid): 26-inch-tall perennial grown for its feathery gray-green foliage; small yellow flowers in late summer to fall.

2 English lavender ‘Hidcote’ (Lavandula angustifolia): Deep purple, highly fragrant blooms cover the 18-inch-tall perennial plants all summer; gray-green foliage.

3 Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’ (Solidago rugosa): Brilliant yellow flowers on 3-foot stems in late summer.

4 Yarrow ‘Paprika’ (Achillea millefolium): 2-foot-tall perennial with erect stems and feathery foliage, topped with red-and-gold flower heads in midsummer to late summer.

5 Purple marjoram (Origanum laevigata): 2-foot-tall perennial with deep purple-red flowers in late summer to fall.

6 Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare): 3- to 4-foot-tall perennial with yellow button flowers in midsummer to late summer.

7 Yarrow ‘Moonshine’ (Achillea hybrid): 2-foot-tall perennial with erect stems and feathery foliage, topped with light golden flower heads all summer.

8 English lavender ‘Munstead’ (Lavandula angustifolia): 1-foot-tall perennial with gray-green foliage; bright lavender flower spikes throughout summer.

9 Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): Vigorous, hardy biennial or perennial 2 to 3 feet tall; small, white, daisylike flowers in tight, flat-topped clusters in midsummer to late summer.

10 Yarrow ‘Pomegranate’ (Achillea millefolium): 2-foot-tall perennial with erect stems and feathery foliage; topped with magenta-red flower heads all summer.

11 Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum): 30-inch perennial with fragrant leaves; white bloom spikes in late summer to fall.

12 Yarrow ‘Coronation Gold’ (Achillea filipendulina): 3-foot-tall perennial with erect stems and feathery foliage; topped with golden flower heads midsummer to late summer.

Garden and Butterflies for Birds

Create a haven for beautiful winged visitors with this garden flies can’t of colorful resist sipping herbs. Hummingbirds nectar from bright and tubular butter-blooms, like those of anise hyssop, calamint, and bee balm. Host plants meet the dietary needs of the caterpillars: Swallowtail larvae, for instance, feed on dill, parsley, and rue, while monarch caterpillars prefer milkweed—a showy native plant. The hawthorn tree attracting anchors blooms the planting, in spring and providing bright red butterfly- berries that feed birds in fall and winter. Look for a species native to your area.

A birdbath helps entice feathered friends to stop, splash, and play on hot summer days. For butterflies, provide shallow saucers of water at ground level.

1 Calamint (Calamintha nepeta): 15- to 18-inch perennial shrub forms a tidy mound of small, bright green leaves; lavender-pink bloom spikes in midsummer to late summer; fragrant.

2 Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): Upright, 3- to 6-foot plant with maroon-tinted leaves; spikes of bright blue flowers in midsummer to late summer; aromatic.

3 Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa): Light purple flower heads atop 3-foot stems in midsummer to late summer; dark green leaves with toothed margins; aromatic.

4 Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): Sturdy stems 2 to 3 feet tall; purple daisylike flowers in midsummer to late summer.

5 Soapwort ‘Rosea Plena’ (Sapo-naria officinalis): Erect leafy stem up to 2 feet tall; clusters of double pink blooms in midsummer to late summer.

6 Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Bushy, 12-inch-tall biennial plants with dark green, curled leaves. Replant annually.

7 Dill (Anethum graveolens): 2- to 3-foot upright stems topped by yellow-green flower umbels up to 6 inches across; feathery leaves; aromatic.

8 Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): Shrubby, 3-foot-tall perennial with showy pink blooms in early to midsummer; large, dark green leaves. A monarch favorite!

9 Rue ‘Blue Mound’ (Ruta graveolens): Compact evergreen shrub, 12 inches tall; grayish blue, spade-shaped leaves; bright yellow flowers in midsummer to late summer.

10 New Jersey tea (Ceanothus amer-icanus): Deciduous shrub up to 3-feet tall; finely toothed, dark green leaves; airy white flowers on racemes in early to midsummer, followed by seedpods.

11 Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.): A member of the rose family, this deciduous, thorny, small tree bears clusters of aromatic white flowers in spring; bright red berries persist into winter.

“Grand Opening” Entryway Garden

Say “good-bye” to boring foundation shrubs and “welcome” to visitors with this bright herbal entryway garden. Colorful blooms and refreshing scents make a positive first impression. And unlike many front-door landscapes, this one practically takes care of itself, requiring little upkeep once established. Many of these plants are drought tolerant, so they’ll adapt well to the often-dry conditions around a home. Most of them also attract butterflies and hummingbirds!

When designing an entryway garden, plan for at least three layers, with the tallest plants closest to the house, medium-height plants in the middle, and the shortest plants farthest away from the house. Choose two or three dominant colors with a neutral background color, such as gray foliage, to unify the design.

Cabbage rose ‘Pompon de Bourgogne’ (Rosa centifolia): Compact, 2 x 3-foot plant densely covered with foliage; bears a profusion of fragrant pale pink to purple double blooms in late spring to early summer.

2 Purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’): Perennial up to 10 inches tall; aromatic, gray-green to purple leaves; purple flowers appear in June.

3 Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): Sturdy stems 2 to 3-feet tall; daisylike flowers with cone center surrounded by purple rays in midsummer to late summer.

4 Oregano ‘Hopley’s’ (Origanum laevigatum): Shrubby perennial up to 2 feet tall; spikes of deep purple blooms in midsummer to late summer.

5 Anise hyssop ‘Blue Blazes’ (Agastache foeniculum hybrid): 3- to 5-foot-tall perennial with upright form; lavender-purple flower spikes in midsummer to late summer; butterfly and hummingbird favorite.

6 Purple marjoram (Origanum laevigata): Shrubby perennial up to 2 feet tall; spikes of red-purple blooms midsummer to late summer.

7 Yarrow ‘Cerise Queen’ (Achillea millefolium): 1½- to 2 ½-foot-tall perennial with erect stems and feathery green foliage; flat-topped deep rose-pink flowers in early to late summer.

8 Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys): Shrubby perennial up to 18-inches tall; bright green leaves; rose to purple blooms on small spikes in midsummer to late summer.

9 Thyme ‘Pink Chintz’ (Thymus serpyllum): Creeping ground-cover with tiny green leaves; forms a carpet of pink blooms in late spring to midsummer.

10 Thyme ‘Lime’ (Thymus vulgaris): Mounding groundcover with bright lime green, citrus-scented leaves; light pink flowers in midsummer.

Four-Season Woodland Border

Most of the plants in this large border are native to the eastern woodlands of America. They provide four seasons of natural beauty—from the flowering of black hellebore in earliest spring to the brilliant fall foliage of sassafras and fragrant early winter blooms of witch hazel. Even through melting snow, the wintergreen groundcover provides bright red berries and glossy green leaves. In spring and summer, a variety of interesting and ornamental perennials and shrubs light up the shade. Watch for wildlife: You’re sure to have visitors!

Over time, as the trees and shrubs mature and produce a larger canopy, the shorter perennials and groundcovers will naturalize to form an understory that thrives in the moist, acidic conditions created by decomposing leaves, twigs, and bark—much like a natural forest floor.

1 Sassafras (Sassafras albidum): Tree or large shrub 30 to 60 feet tall and 25 feet wide; leaves have two or three distinct lobes and brilliant fall color.

2 Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): Woody, spreading shrub up to 15 feet tall and wide; fragrant, yellow, threadlike flowers in late fall; coarsely toothed leaves turn gold.

3 Elder ‘Black Lace’ (Sambucus nigra): 6- to 8-foot-tall shrub; deep purple-black stems and contrasting creamy pink blooms that appear in airy clusters in early summer; deep purple berries.

New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus): Deciduous shrub up to 3 feet tall; finely toothed, dark green leaves; airy white flowers on racemes early to midsummer, followed by seedpods.

5 Black cohosh (Actaea rac-emosa): Perennial with small, creamy flowers on 4- to 7-foot-tall bloom spikes in early to midsummer; broad, lacy leaves up to 2 feet long.

6 Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Biennial plants with 4- to 6-foot-tall spikes of purple, pink, or white blooms from late spring to midsummer. Self-seeds.

7 Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides): Perennial with bluish green leaves and 1- to 3-foot-tall stems; dark blue berrylike fruit in autumn.

8 Black hellebore (Helleborus niger): Perennial up to 1 foot tall; deep green, divided evergreen leaves; pinkish white roselike blooms in late winter.

9 Wintergreen (Gaultheria pro-cumbens): Creeping perennial up to 6 inches tall; glossy, evergreen leaves and tiny, bell-shaped white flowers in midsummer; round, red berries appear in late summer, persist through winter.

10 Bloodroot ‘Multiplex’ (Sanguinaria canadensis): 4- to 6-inch-tall perennial; naked stems topped with 1- to 2-inch white flowers in midspring; deeply lobed palmate leaves up to 8-inches across.

Rock Wall Herb Garden

Drought-tolerant, compact Mediterranean herbs—such as creeping thymes, prostrate rosemary, Roman chamomile, and many oreganos—can turn an ordinary stone wall into a wall of living color and fragrance. If you don’t have a stone wall, you can plant this combination in a hillside rock garden or other sunny, dry location. In addition to the suggested plants, also consider aloes, portulaca, sedums, and other succulents. Some specialty suppliers offer “alpine plants” uniquely suited to these conditions.

To plant in the crevices of a stone wall, you’ll need to make a growing medium of gravel, sand, and compost, then moisten it well with water. Use a trowel or small spatula to work the growing medium between the rocks; make indentations in the medium for planting. Tuck in your plants, and then tamp the medium firmly around them. Gently water the wall from the top down, and continue watering occasionally until the plants become established.

1 Golden oregano, also called ‘Aureum’ (Origanum vulgare): 4-inch-tall creeping perennial with golden leaves; white flowers in midsummer to late summer.

2 Compact oregano, also called ‘Humile’ (Origanum vulgare): 3-inch-tall creeping perennial with green leaves and purple flowers in midsummer to late summer.

3 Variegated oregano, also called ‘Variegata’ (Origanum vulgare): 8-inch-tall perennial with golden variegated leaves; pink-white flowers in midsummer to late summer.

4 Prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Perennial with cascading form and short, deep green, needlelike leaves; deep blue, long-lasting blooms.

5 Sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood’ (Sedum spurium): Creeping, 4-inch perennial plants with succulent green leaves; dark red flowers in midsummer to late summer.

6 Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus): Forms a thick, fuzzy carpet of gray-green leaves with pink-purple flowers in midsummer.

7 Nutmeg thyme (Thymus praecox): Forms a thick carpet of spicy-scented green leaves with lavender-pink flowers in early to midsummer.

8 Thyme ‘Goldstream’ (Thymus praecox): Low-growing ground-cover with variegated green-gold leaves; pale pink flowers in early to midsummer.

9 Double Roman chamomile, also called ‘Flore Pleno’ (Chamaemelum nobile): Compact, 3-inch-tall form with double, white, daisylike blooms in early summer.

10 Dianthus ‘Tiny Rubies’ (Dianthus gratianopolitanus): 2-inch-tall clump-forming perennial with silvery blue foliage; bright pink, double fragrant (edible) blooms in late spring to early summer.

11 Creeping winter savory (Satureja montana ssp. illyrica): 4-inch-tall creeping perennial with bright green leaves; white to pale purple flowers in early to midsummer.

Silver Terrace Garden

This terrace or patio garden features herbs with light-reflecting silver-gray foliage, such as arte-misia and sage. Their leaves seem to shimmer, creating a serene setting for an outdoor garden room. The blooms in the surrounding border and pots light up the area with contrasting hues of hot pink, vibrant purple, and creamy white. Simply brushing the herbal foliage releases a cloud of scents—providing the perfect ambience for relaxing summer evenings alone or with friends. Fragrant old-fashioned roses (small enough to grow in large containers) flank the steps.

Cover the sitting area with crushed white stone to reflect even more light, or set flagstone pavers in gravel. Between the flagstones, plant a creeping groundcover that can tolerate foot traffic, such as ‘Annie Hall’ thyme. Bring tender perennials, such as Mexican bush sage and scented geranium, indoors in fall to enjoy their beauty and fragrance throughout the winter.

In the Garden

1 Artemisia ‘Lambrook Silver’ (Artemisia absinthium): Finely cut silver-gray foliage on mounding, 30-inch-tall perennial plants; fragrant.

2 Silver sage (Salvia argentea): Big, bold biennial produces a 3-foot-wide mound of large (up to 12-inches long), downy silver leaves in its first year; 2-foot-tall white bloom spikes appear in early summer of the second year.

3 Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ (Dianthus gratianopolitanus): Forms neat, 8-inch mounds of silver-gray foliage; fragrant magenta-pink blooms in early summer.

4 Foxglove ‘Camelot Lavender’ (Digitalis purpurea ssp. heywoodii): 3- to 4-foot-tall biennial plants bear spikes of lavender-mauve flowers in early to midsummer.

5 Silver corkscrew chives (Allium senescens ssp. glaucum): Compact, 6-inch-tall variety with uniquely curled silver-gray leaves; lavender-pink blooms midsummer to fall.

6 Thyme ‘Annie Hall’ (Thymus praecox): Mat-forming ground-cover variety fills crevices between stepping stones, withstanding foot traffic; covered with rose-red blooms from late spring to early summer.

In Containers

7 Cabbage rose ‘De Meaux’ (Rosa × centifolia): Compact 3-foot-tall plants with tiny buds that open in late spring to 1-inch pale to deep pink blooms. Intensely fragrant; excellent for potpourris.

8 Scented geranium ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’ (Pelargonium × asperum): Tender perennial, 24 inches tall, with silver-gray dissected leaves edged with white; rose-scented lavender-pink blooms in summer.

9 Silver tansy ‘Jackpot’ (Tanacetum niveum): 18-inch-tall perennial with white, daisylike blooms all summer; finely cut silver-gray foliage.

10 Mexican bush sage ‘Purple Velvet’ (Salvia leucantha): 2- to 3-foot-tall tender perennial with lance-shaped, gray-green, aromatic leaves; showy purple bloom spikes midsummer to late summer.

Spiritual Retreat Garden

Modeled loosely on a cloistered medieval monastery garden, this herbal oasis includes a bench for sitting and meditating among raised garden beds. Enclosed by a clipped hawthorn or bayberry hedge, the garden feels secluded and separated from the often-hectic outside world—even if it happens to be located on a rooftop in center city.

Pink-flowered soapwort naturalizes along the base of the hedge and offers a continuous view of soothing color.

Although this garden includes herbs commonly grown during the Middle Ages, separated by their uses (household, kitchen, medicinal, and mystical), you could substitute your own favorites.

Hedge and Groundcover

1 English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata): Deciduous, thorny shrub up to 15 feet tall; clusters of aromatic white flowers followed by dark red fruits.

2 Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis): Single-stemmed perennial up to 2-feet tall; clusters of pink blooms in midsummer to late summer; roots used to make soap.

Household Herbs

3 English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Branching, aromatic shrub up to 3 feet tall; flowers used in bath and laundry.

4 Madder (Rubia tinctorum): 4-foot stems; panicles of tiny, greenish white flowers in midsummer; reddish brown roots used to make red dye.

5 Woad (Isatis tinctoria): Biennial or perennial, 3 to 5 feet tall; small yellow flowers appear in spring of second year; bluish green oblong leaves used to make blue dye.

6 Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria): Upright stems up to 5 feet tall; spikes of small yellow blooms in midsummer; aromatic leaves used to make yellow dye and potpourri.

Kitchen and Salad Herbs

7 Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Dark green, hollow, cylindrical leaves up to 10 inches tall; small, pale purple blooms in late spring; leaves used as flavoring.

8 Sage (Salvia officinalis): Woody-stemmed perennial up to 30-inches tall; gray-green leaves; purple-blue flowers in early summer; leaves used as flavoring.

9 Calendula (Calendula officinalis): 2-foot-tall branching plant; orange or yellow ray blooms add flavor and color to soups and salads.

10 Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa): 1- to 2-foot-tall perennial with lance-shaped leaves; spikes of yellow or reddish flowers in spring; lemony flavored leaves used in salads, soups, and sauces.

11 Borage (Borago officinalis): Succulent stems up to 18 inches tall, with fuzzy gray-green leaves; nodding clusters of small, bright blue star-shaped flowers; use cucumber-flavored leaves and flowers (sparingly) in salads.

Medicinal Herbs

12 St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): Erect perennial up to 2-feet tall; bright yellow blooms in midsummer.

13 Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): Biennial or perennial up to 3-feet tall; white, daisylike flowers in midsummer; strongly scented leaves.

14 Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Loosely branched perennial up to 2 feet tall; clusters of tiny white flowers throughout summer; lemon-scented leaves.

15 Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Erect, branching perennial up to 6 feet tall; spikes of blue flowers in midsummer.

16 Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): 3- to 6-foot-tall stems with dark green, lance-shaped leaves and clusters of small white or pink flowers in midsummer; large, pungent-smelling rhizomes.

Sacred or Mystical Herbs

17 Vervain (Verbena officinalis): 2- to 3-foot-tall stems topped by slender spikes of small, tubular, pale purple flowers in midsummer.

18 Rue (Ruta graveolens): Semi-woody evergreen shrub up to 3-feet tall; grayish blue, spade-shaped leaves; bright yellow flowers throughout summer.

19 Black hellebore (Helleborus niger): Perennial up to 1 foot tall; deep green, evergreen leaves; white blooms in late winter.