Fragrance and Flavour
My suggestions for a bit of the South of France in your garden:
A Rose Arbour
Climbers for growing in the Lower Mainland: ‘Mme. Alfred Carrière’ (white); ‘Altissimo’ (medium red); ‘Compassion’ (orange-pink, sweet fragrance); ‘Royal Sunset’ (apricot, fragrant); ‘Westerland’ (apricot-blend, fragrant)
Grape varieties for the Lower Mainland: Interlaken – early, green, seedless fruit Candice – early, medium-sized, red fruit Sauvignon Blanc – mid-season, medium-sized, white fruit for wine
The Mediterranean Meadow Plot
Mint (Mentha x piperita or M. spicata). La menthe. These hardy perennials will grow from 45 to 60 centimetres high, blooming in July and August. As they are grown for their aromatic foliage, pinching off their flowers will both prevent them from going to seed and keep their foliage looking its best. They are invasive, so I plant them in pots in the ground to keep them under control. The leaves are used for flavouring foods, as a tea, medicinally for upset stomach and toothache, and topically as an astringent and antiseptic. Zone 3.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). La melisse. This invasive member of the mint family is grown for its aromatic foliage. Its uses are similar to those of mint. Zone 3.
Sage (Salvia officinalis). La sauge.
This is another member of the mint family growing to 60 centimetres, a perennial with woody stems, purple flower spikes and grey-green, woolly, aromatic leaves. Prune after flowering, but do not cut into old wood. There are several varieties. In addition to its use in flavouring foods, sage tea is reportedly effective against hangovers, headaches, fever and diarrhea. Externally, it is used to relieve itchy skin, as an astringent and as a hair rinse. Zone 5.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Le fenouil.
Fennel will grow to 1.8 metres, producing a finely cut, flavourful leaf used in soups, stews and salads. Its yellow flower umbels appear in late summer, followed by edible seeds that will self-sow freely. A bronze-leaf variety is available. Zone 4.
Lavender (Lavandula). La lavande.
This is an evergreen shrub with grey-green, aromatic foliage and fragrant lavender or purple flowers in July and August. The most common variety found here is L. angustifolia or L. officinalis. L. dentata is the French lavender, with short, spiky flower clusters, each topped with tufts of petal-like bracts. The hybrid L. x intermedia ‘Provence’ is especially aromatic. Zone 5.
Mallow (Malva alcea or M. sylvestris). La mauve.
The perennial version grows to 1.2 metres and produces five-centimetre-wide, saucer-shaped, pink to lavender-pink flowers from late spring to fall. The annual, Lavatera trimestris, has similar flowers; try the compact varieties as they don’t require staking: ‘Mont Blanc,’ with white flowers, or ‘Silver Cup,’ with bright pink flowers. Zone 4.
Shirley or Flanders field poppy (Papaver rhoeas). Le coquelicot.
These are slender, branching, hairy annuals that range from 60 to 150 centimetres high. The flowers are five centimetres or more across and are available in scarlet, pink, white, orange, salmon and bi-coloured. Sow successively for flowers from spring through summer. Deadhead to prolong flowering. Zone 4.
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis). La chamomille.
A 30- to 60-centimetre-high perennial featuring ferny foliage with an apple scent and daisy-like flowers. Try the yellow-flowering A. tinctoria ‘Wargrave Variety’ or ‘Perry’s Variety.’ It is used to make a restorative tea. Externally, it is used as an antiseptic, an astringent and in hair care products. Zone 6.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Le romarin.
Growing from 60 to 180 centimetres high, this evergreen shrub has narrow, glossy-green, aromatic leaves and produces purple or white flowers in April or May. Prune after flowering. Its culinary uses are extensive – in soups, stews, salads and especially in lamb dishes. It is also used in personal care products. Zone 8.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Le thym.
This is a woody-stemmed evergreen that, depending on the variety, may grow to 40 centimetres in height. The leaves of ground-cover varieties, if grown in between paving stones, release their fragrance when walked on and crushed. Many varieties are available: T. praecox ‘Albus,’ white moss thyme; T. x citriodorus ‘Variegatus,’ variegated lemon thyme; and T. praecox ssp. arcticus, nutmeg thyme, are just a few. Zone 4.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Le basilic.
A tender annual, but a must for the summer kitchen garden. Again, a number of varieties are available that are appealing to the senses. Try O. basilicum ‘Purpureum,’ purple-leaved basil; and O. basilicum ‘Crispum,’ with large, soft green leaves. Zone 9.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). La civette.
This herbaceous perennial has edible stems; flowers in spring are also edible. Zone 3.
Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum). Le geranium.
Many hybrids of these long-flowering, drought-tolerant plants are available, in colours ranging from white to orange, salmon, red, pink and pinky-purple. For decorative leaves try the fancy-leaved geraniums ‘Mr. Henry Cox’ and ‘Caroline Schmidt,’ and for hanging baskets try the basal branching ‘Breakaway’ or the ivy-leaved geraniums (P. peltatum). Look also for the scented geraniums. Zone 7.
French marigold (Tagetes patula). Le souci.
Bright and long-flowering, colours range from lemon-yellow to orange-red, with single, double and crested flower forms. Note: Annual No Zone.