Don't despair if your wet soil seems to prohibit a classic herb garden. It's true that Mediterranean-style plants like sage and lavender grow best in sun-baked, dry soil. But you'll still find a wealth of culinary, medicinal and ornamental herbs that love boggy conditions and are hardy to at least USDA Zone 4. Many of these herbs grow so vigorously that it's best to stick with two or three unless you have a truly large wet area to plant.
Mints often arrange themselves along stream banks and other wet places in the wild, making them a safe bet for wet spots in the home garden. Choose from low-growing Corsican mint or creeping pennyroyal or taller peppermint or spearmint, which grow about 2 feet tall. Other mint species include lemon mint, ginger mint, and Bowles mint. The plants thrive in sun or shade.
This member of the mint family delights gardeners with its citrus-mint scent and fuzzy, colorful flowers. Grow it in the back of a border; depending on the species, bee balm reaches between 3 to 5 feet. Flower colors range from scarlet to pale pink. These herbs will flourish in part shade or sun. The leaves and flowers make excellent teas and potpourris.
This bog dweller sends up tall spikes of lovely pink flowers and stately foliage. Reaching up to 6 feet in height, marsh mallow prefers full sun. Its seeds, flowers and leaves are edible, while its root contains the gelatin-like substance once used to make marshmallows. Enthusiasts of home-grown beauty products prize the roots and leaves for this mucilaginous quality, using marsh mallow infusions for moisturizing skin creams and hair treatments.
Sweet Joe Pye
A tall flowering herb with large, dusky purple blooms and vanilla-scented leaves, Sweet Joe Pye comes into its own in late summer. The plant towers over other plants, reaching up to 9 feet in some gardens and wild places. The dried roots were once used to treat fever and rheumatism. (Joe Pye was a Native American healer who used this plant to treat typhoid sufferers.)
Prized in Asian cuisine, the low-growing chameleon (Houttuynia cordata) spreads vigorously in all soil conditions, including wet. Plant the variegated variety for a truly stunning display of pink, orange and green leaves in midsummer. The plants tolerate sun or shade. Use the young leaves in salads, stir fries and pickles.
One of the most useful--but most aggressively growing--herbs around, comfrey boasts vivid purple or blue flowers on bushy, tall stems. Organic growers cut the leaves continuously through the growing season for mulch and for breaking down plant material in the compost pile. The leaves also make excellent skin-care aids when infused in hot water and used in cream or lotion recipes. Plant comfrey where it has room to spread. It tolerates sun or part shade.
Meadowsweet's frothy cream-colored flowers and fragrant leaves have been used for everything from flavoring wine to scenting rooms with their sweet almond fragrance. The plants grow 2 to 6 feet tall and are happy in moist or wet soil, in sun or part shade.
Other foliage and flowering herbs worth seeking out for wet gardens include purple aster, boneset, bugbane (also known as black cohash), jewelweed, lungwort, meadow rue, milkweed, Solomon's seal and sweet flag.