Pruning herbs

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It may seem like a contradiction in terms to include shrubs in an herb garden, but many herbs grown for fragrance or for culinary or medicinal purposes are woody plants and therefore are dealt with here.

One of the best ways to display herbs and at the same time put a little "oomph" in the herb garden is to do as they did in Elizabethan times—make "knot gardens," which were greatly in favour then. The herbs that form the "thrids" of the knot must be naturally compact and/or kinds that can be kept so by pruning.

Among the best of the comparatively hardy kinds are: Artemisia pontica (Roman Wormwood), Lavandula officinalis (Lavender), especially such compact forms as Hidcote and Nana, Teucrium chamaedrys (Germander), Ruta graveolens (Rue), Allium schoenoprasum (Chive), and Viola odorata (Sweet Violet).

Where mild winters are the rule, such as in Washington D.C., and southward, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa (Dwarf Boxwood), Santolina chamaecyparissus (incana) (Lavender Cotton), and S. virens may be used. These can be added to those previously mentioned or substituted for the Sweet Violet and the Chive, thus making an all-shrubby knot.

Clean-cut lines are necessary for an effective knot. This involves frequent pruning, which can be done with grass or hedge shears. A spade is necessary to curb the Germander. This is operated by pushing the blade into the ground alongside the row to cut the underground spreading stems and then bearing down on the handle to throw out the superfluous parts, thus preventing it from becoming too "roynish and cumbersome." The portions cut off can be used for propagating.