Saturday, March 10, 2012

a little success story

I was looking for a picture from last summer so I could show you a "before" of something exciting I just discovered in the leafing out department.  I wound up distracted by this photo in dreams of last July...

There's my little bog garden in bloom!  It's just now waking up again. I wonder if the Pogonia made it through the winter...will be nice to have an orchid bloom in there.  What was I thinking trying to grow that variety of tomato?  Not a good pot type and not enough sun there, anyway...exciting to see parasitized hornworms on it, though.  I can't wait for the little Viburnum I rooted to leaf out's still dormant, but the buds are fat.  Mid-July is so green!  

Etc.  You do this, too, right?  :)

But eventually I came back to March and the reason for the post -- the lemon verbena I wanted to show you in one of the pots on the patio.  

You can see it much better here.  Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is the plant right in the middle with the wild, leafy branches.  It actually got quite a bit larger than this by the end of the season.  All those side branches grew tall, and the tree took on quite a nice shape.  (The empty pot on the right wound up with a Majesty palm in it and the one to the left got herbs, in case you were wondering.)

In October, lemon verbena began losing its leaves and by Thanksgiving was completely leafless, dry as a bone, brittle -- to the casual observer, dead.  For a moment imagine the plant in this state, sitting in an unheated, north-facing room for months, mostly forgotten, watered once or twice.

Winter creeps by, but now it's getting warm outside.  It's hard to be patient with the straw-colored twigs in a pot when there's new growth on all the other houseplants.  Leaves and flowers are bursting forth outside.

Throwing out the goner comes to mind, but I get close and check the branches one last time...and...I see...this!

I can barely believe it.  It lives!

The scent of lemon verbena is one of the best in the herb garden.  You can put the leaves in a jar of sugar to flavor it, or layer them under the batter when you bake a cake.   I like to make lemon verbena tea with honey, or put branches in flower arrangements where I can touch and sniff occasionally.

I tried overwintering lemon verbena many years ago, but either got impatient and threw it out too soon, or really did kill it. Normally, I treat it as an annual and put it out in the garden. I like that this one will be able to grow larger and larger, as long as I keep the twiggy thing from freezing each winter.

Do you have it in your garden?  How do you use it?


PS  Those black and white blobs to the left of the fresh leaves are my husbands shoes.
PPS  Even the tiniest new leaves are already strongly scented!


More posts from the patio:
Backyard Renovations
Marsh Pink, Sabatia in my tiny bog garden
Tomatoes Don't Like Shade
Praying Mantis on Viburnum dentatum


  1. Daricia, I love your back patio. All that rock is really beautiful. Nice story about your lemon verbena. I think that a lot of gardeners can relate. Have a great weekend!

    1. thanks, lucy! the weather is great for being outside today...hope it is where you are, too.

  2. How exciting! I have not used Lemon Verbena, will have to get some and give it a whirl. I leave all my herbs out on the deck all winter, basil of course is an annual, so it dies. All the rest handle even our coldest winters so far.

    1. janet, i had parsley that stayed full and green outside all winter this year, and marjoram. biergarten sage looked bedraggled but had usable leaves all winter. most everything else died down, but i noticed some cilantro seedlings are coming up. basil is one of my favorites...i wish it was perennial here!

  3. That back patio garden is extremely drool worthy!

  4. Lemon Verbena is one of the few plants leftover from the previous owner, but only because it has weedy tendencies in my garden.

    1. les, my first thought was that you must be talking about lemon balm instead! i can't imagine lemon verbena in weedy terms, although it can look sort of weedy sometimes. but, i have never known it to spread nor set viable seed. as far as i know, it has never come back after winter in my garden, but you've prompted me to take more notes and maybe experiment a bit. the info available online is widely variable with regard to hardiness.

  5. That is wonderful that you find it lives. I don't have lemon verbena in the garden, but I do have lemon balm. I, too, get very excited when something I thought was gone comes back.