Perhaps the easiest annual herb for your garden, basil adds a great touch to any bouquet and, of course, a sensuous aroma. To use it in arrangements, let the flowers develop, and then cut a 6- to 12-inch stem that includes both the foliage and flowers.
Growing basil from seeds is simple. For the best results, wait until the soil warms up--usually around mid-May. Scatter the seeds in a garden bed, and lightly cover them with soil. Keep them moist until they germinate, and then water when the soil dries out. Basil doesn't need particularly fertile soil and, in fact, produces a stronger flavor if grown in poor soil. It is also easy to transplant as a seedling.
Growing in clumps of flat, gray-green leaves, garlic chives are valued for their mild flavor--perfect for a hint of garlic but not too overwhelming. They also produce 2-foot-tall stalks with 2-inch white seedheads, ideal for mixing-and-matching in flower arrangements. Used either fresh or dried, they add a refreshing scent to any room.
Garlic chives are especially easy to grow because they spread from both their tuberous rootstocks and from seeds. Scatter their seeds in a well-drained garden bed that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily, and let them grow. Garlic chives self-seed so profusely that the only maintenance they really require is cutting them back to make sure they don't spread to every part of your garden.
Often used as a seasoning in the kitchen because of its aromatic, oily leaves, rosemary also makes a great perennial cut bloom. Putting out small clusters of pretty blue flowers starting in winter and going through spring, it can be cut and added to any arrangement. The stalks possess a great scent and make a wonderful filler to complement showier flowers. When the plant isn't blooming, its foliage works as an evergreen backdrop in arrangements.
Rosemary is one of the easiest herbs to grow, requiring only plenty of sun and good drainage. Selections vary in height from 1 to 6 feet, so read the plant tags before buying. Avoid the prostrate types if you want to cut stems for arrangements. Instead, try 'Arp' for a great cold-hardy choice, 'Hill's Hardy' for repeat blooms during the fall, 'Collingwood Ingram' for deep blue flowers, or 'Blue Spires' for an excellent landscape plant.
Although dill won't last as long in a vase as the other herbs, it's such a breeze to grow that you can keep one in bloom all summer. Scatter the seeds in a garden bed, and keep the soil moist until germination. Thin the seedlings to one plant every 2 feet. In a few weeks, with full sun, the seedlings will begin producing flower stalks. Let one or two go to seed for a continuous supply of new dill.
This article is from the May 2005 issue of Southern Living.