“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…”Print
So says Ophelia in Hamlet, and it appears she wasn't far wrong! Recent studies by psychologists from Northumbria University, Newcastle found that a whiff of an essential oil made from rosemary improved both the short and long term memories of participants, as well as helping to sharpen the mind when doing mental arithmetic.
Of course, rosemary has always traditionally been a symbol of remembrance. In the Middle Ages, it was a feature in wedding ceremonies as a promise of love and loyalty over the years to come. The bride would wear a headpiece constructed of this fragrant Mediterranean herb, while the groom and guests would wear a sprig about their person. And in Australia and Europe, it is often symbolically used in war commemorations and at funerals to remember those who've passed on.
Nutritious and delicious rosemary
Rosemary is also known for its other health-giving properties too: it's popularly used in herbal medicine to treat migraines and digestive problems, for instance, and for boosting the immune and circulatory systems. Don't quote us on this, but some say it even promotes hair growth…
And it is, of course, a firm favourite in cooking, not just for the flavour it imparts to roasted meats and stuffings, but what's more, it is a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin B6, so you can add it to your favourite recipes with confidence. Use sparingly in the kitchen as the flavour can be quite bitter and potent if too much is added. Its needles closely resemble pine needles and they have the same kind of texture too, so it's best to chop or crush the herb before adding it to dishes. You can also add a sprig to soups and stews, but remember to remove it before serving.
Looking after rosemary
'I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one's hand, and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness to greet me as I pass ….'
– Gertrude Jekyll
But how easy is it to grow and maintain? The good news: very easy. Originating from the Mediterranean, it has been known to survive long droughts – not that this should be a problem in the UK. However, it equally thrives in our cooler climate, provided you protect it from the worst of our frosts. It prefers well-drained soil, though, so make sure your pots don't get water-logged or plant it in in stony or sandy soil a sunny spot in your garden for best results.
One of its many advantages is that, as an evergreen, it will provide interest, indoors or outdoors in any season. In warmer climates, it has the potential to blossom all year round, but even here, it can surprise by flowering as early as February and as late as December. Some cultivars take a trailing form and are great for providing ground cover in a garden, even more so if you factor in one of its other valuable properties – it's a positive pest deterrent. The upright varieties rarely grow taller than 1.5m (5 feet), so you are not in danger of it blocking the light!
As you may expect from us here at Top Topiary, you'll find a range of ready-grown specimens on our website – from pot plants to potted pairs – which will look lovely right away. But if you are after a more formal or trained look, then as with practically any woody plant, it can be trained and topiarised with a little bit of patience and pruning. If you don't trust your own eye to maintain the shape you're after, check out our selection of frames. Our rosemary pair of standards on 20cm stems are ideal for sculpting into a neat ball, for example. These will look lovely either side of your patio doors or will add an attractive feature to a balcony.