Home herb gardens were an essential part of life in colonial and 19th-century America, says the West Virginia University Extension, and they are seeing resurgence today. Many of these plants have ornamental flowers or aromatic foliage. Some have valuable medicinal properties. Chefs rely on fresh herbs for their culinary creations. Herbs attract butterflies, birds and bees or repel insects. Perennials in an herb garden reward gardeners with years of performance.
Bronze Fennel 'Purpureum'
A Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, bronze fennel 'Purpureum' (foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum') is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 9 (minimum temperature of -25 degrees F or higher). A mounding perennial up to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, it has anise (licorice) flavored foliage and seeds. The seeds, says the Missouri Botanical garden, give a distinctive flavor to sausages and baked goods. Add leaves to salads or pork, fish, and chicken dishes.
The "Purpureum" cultivar has attractive, feathery bronze-purple foliage with a noticeable licorice scent. In June and July, clusters of small yellow flowers bring birds, bees and butterflies to the garden. Flavorful seeds that follow will self-sow. Plant fennel in full sun and rich, moist well-drained soil. Poor drainage can cause stem or root rot.
Marjoram 'Kent Beauty'
Another Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, marjoram (Origanum) 'Kent Beauty' is a small, easy-care perennial herb in plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, where winter temperatures remain above -5 degrees F. A heat-and-drought tolerant plant, it stands only 9 inches high and 1 foot wide. Its low trailing habit and dense silvery leaves, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, make 'Kent Beauty' a good choice for rock gardens, edgings and containers.
Plants have drooping pink flowers between June and September. Foliage is mildly aromatic but not enough for culinary use. Dried flowers are attractive in floral arrangements. Plant in full sun and dry to averagely moist, well-drained sandy loam. Cut plants to the ground in autumn. Good drainage is critical.
Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a perennial for herb gardens in hardiness zones 6 through 8. It stands up to 1 foot high and 18 inches wide. Winter savory's aromatic, deep-green glossy leaves are attractive in the garden, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, especially when clipped to create a low hedge for garden borders. They're also valuable as culinary seasoning. Spikes of small white or lilac blooms appear from June to September. Plant winter savory in sun for best performance to part shade and dry to averagely moist, well-drained soil. Cut back as needed in early spring.