colorful herbs

Rows of colorful herbs

Gardening produces more than beauty. You can grow herbal plants that provide food, spices, medicines, dyes, and so much more. Herb gardens can be vast, or tiny. They can scramble over rocks, fences, open areas or decorate container gardens in small spaces. They can be planted in carefully controlled knot gardens to create designs and patterns, or sprawl naturally in a native-looking landscape. Herbs are versatile, productive and each one has its own individual beauty.

Some herbs have attractive growth forms and colors. Use them for their practical applications – food, spice, dyes, healing – or plant them for their ornamental values. Here is a small list of some herbs for double-duty that you can uses yet still be showy enough to include in the flower garden.

Go for showy habits of growth


angelica herb

The tall, red angelica creates a focal point in this mixed garden

Angelica Growing to 3 – 6 feet in height, this feathery plant offers seeds, leaves and stalks are often candied. It also adds a bold, vertical element and a deep red color that is decorative in the garden.

Basil Low growing and bushy plants can offer tiny green leaves, lush foliage or deep purple leaves, depending on the variety. All are good used fresh or in cooking.

Borage Outrageous sapphire blue flowers are colorful in the garden or fresh in salads. Young leaves have a cucumber flavor.


colored fennel

Feathery color with the smokey bronze fennel leaves

Fennel Check out the intriguing smoke-colored, finely-feathered foliage of bronze fennel for a soft billowy effect and eat the bulbous licorice-flavored stem or seeds. The regular, green fennel is best for eating, but the bronze variety is oh-so-showy!

Rosemary Large or small shrubs and low-growing ground-cover forms all offer flavoring, scent and color to the fast-draining, drought-tolerant garden.

Thyme Low, tiny-leafed mounds are excellent for flavoring floods, teas and decorating the landscape with green, yellow, white or rose colored foliage and little purple or pink blooms.

Sage The commonly used culinary varieties offer foliage painted with purples, yellows, and whites. They offer glowing deep violet or indigo spires of blooms. The Pineapple sage is smothered with brilliant scarlet flowers and pineapple-flavored foliage. Flavor iced water with a sprig of the latter for a fresh, healthy summer drink.

Some less common uses

Catnip Not only decorative in the drought-tolerant landscape, these blue and purple flowing catnip plants (Nepetas) are loved by cats with the catnip gene. These low-growing shrubs are are in the mint family.

Lavender These plants come in a variety of sizes and offer flower spikes in blues, purples and blends. They offer a yellow to olive green fabric dye and can be used for scenting candles, sachets, pillows, soaps and much more.

Calendula This ornamental bright annual flower is cheerful in gardens and even in wildflower gardens. It also yields a pale yellow dye for yarn or fabrics.

Bay The California Bay tree grows into a full sized, handsome, evergreen shade tree that contributes both shade and flavorful leaves in your landscape.

Water cress Not only is this plant good for eating, it roots easily in water so you can use it to grow in decorative ponds and waterfalls.

Useful ground-cover herbs (Not good for traffic areas)


garlic chive blooms

Garlic chives in bloom

Chives These are actually little bulbs that cluster together in masses. The common chive grows like a 4 – 6 inch tall clump of hollow, cylindrical green leaves with round globes of pink-lavender flowers. They are tasty in salads and useful for cooking.

Oregano Another great cooking herb, oregano can sprawl several feet wide and there are varieties from rich green to golden yellow.

Parsley Parsley is only a biennial so it will only last for a year – one season to grow and one to flower. It offers textural green foliage, flat and deeply cut for Italian varieties,  rounded and billowy for curly-leaved types. Grow lots in a blanket form or spot them individually in gardens. It is extremely high in vitamins C and A.

Italian parsley

Italian parsley

Peppermint This and other mints are all good for covering large areas. They spread readily rooting over the surface or underground. They are so enthusiastic you may want to confine them in pots unless you don’t care if they become invasive.

As you can see there are so many different looks and uses for herbs. They are great plants to use in the landscape. Or grow them in interesting containers. Think about getting double-duty from your plants. Herbs are perfect for this since there they offer a wide range of growth forms, colors, leaves and uses.