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A Chicago herb garden

Herb gardens are specialty gardens that produce plants used for practical purposes. These purposes are culinary, medicinal and aromatic. Chicago gardening begins a new series on herb gardening. Important features of herb gardening will be covered in this series.

Tending a garden
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Botanically speaking, any non-woody plant can be herbaceous if it behaves in certain ways. It must lose its top growth at the end of a growing season. At the same time, it must also become dormant and survive winter through its underground root system. While it has soft-stems, it may develop a woody base. Growth resumes in the next growing season if it is a perennial. Annuals complete their growing cycle annually.

Herbs are herbaceous plants used for specific purposes. It’s these purposes that are important to gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Some herbs help mankind by curing or alleviating illness. Others enhance the natural flavors of foods like meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and breads. Some protect against animal and insect pests. Aromatic herbs produce fragrant scents that are pleasing and often protective.

Herbal gardens can be created in small or large beds outside in a variety of innovative designs. These designs are limited only by the gardener’s imagination. They can also be grown indoors in containers.

Products made from herbs are numerous. Scented potpourri can be made by combining scented herbs. Candles, soaps and creams blended with herbs can be fragrant and healthful. Sweet perfumes can be made from a variety of herbs.

The wonderful world of herbs and herb gardens will be explored in this new series. Herbal garden designs will be reviewed. Popular and little known herbs and their uses will be explored. Techniques for using herbs for a variety of purposes will be explained. Methods for storing herbs will be described. Herbal products will be discussed.

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