10 AGM herbs

These herbs have valuable ornamental features as well as great culinary value. These attributes have earned them the RHS Award of Garden Merit

H1 - H7 indicated the new hardiness ratings

Full details of hardiness ratings (510kB pdf)

Basil 'Aroma 2'

Awarded the AGM after the 2012 trial at RHS Garden Wisley. The shiny, dark green, 7.5cm (3in) leaves are thick, powerfully aromatic and have plenty of that distinctive sweet basil flavour. The plants are slow to bolt, so are productive for the longest possible season. Resists Fusarium disease which is a huge bonus for outdoor and indoor cultivation. 50-60cm (20-24in). H1c.

RHS advice: How to grow basil

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) ‘Hidcote’

A classic English lavender, introduced in 1950, with dense grey foliage and slender upright stems carrying crowded spikes of strongly scented violet flowers. A few nurseries offer plants propagated by cuttings which are true descendants of the original plant, always ask for these. Not to be confused with the taller L. x intermedia ‘Hidcote Giant’. 50cm (20in). H5.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) ‘Purpurascens’

‘Purpurascens’ is rather a different creature from ‘Berggarten’. Its narrower, slightly wrinkled, velvety leaves are a lovely soft purple grey and in summer are covered in open spikes of rich purple-blue flowers; but because it can flower prolifically plants tend to need propagating and renewing more frequently. 60cm (2ft). H4.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) ‘Berggarten’

‘Berggarten’ is especially useful as its foliage is much broader than that of the usual form, its wide leaves overlapping to create a beautifully textured mound.

It also flowers much less readily than most forms of sage, ensuring that the dome of leaves stays attractive for much longer and yields a better crop for the kitchen. 45cm (18in). H4.

RHS Gardening: Colourful culinary sages

Thymus ‘Silver Queen’

There are many different types of thyme. Some are bushy and upright and some are creeping. The tiny leaves of some are plain green, while some are variegated with a creamy leaf margin. ‘Silver Queen’ is a bushy, variegated, lemon-scented type with the bonus of pink-tinted winter shoot tips. 25cm (10in). H5.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) ‘Severn Sea’

Another essential kitchen herb which is a good ornamental for sunny raised beds, Mediterranean gardens and large containers.

The brilliant, slightly purple tinted blue flowers of ‘Severn Sea’ are carried in late spring on spreading branches. It will trail attractively and show off its flowers well when planted at the front of a high raised bed. 1m (3ft). H4.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) ‘Bravour’

Crisply curled parsley is one of the most attractive and most adaptable of foliage plants for the garden, as well as being one of the kitchen’s truly essential herbs. The fresh colouring of its tightly curled leaves makes an ideal summer foliage plant, associating well with low-growing annuals, as an edging, or in containers. ‘Bravour’ is also exceptionally well flavoured. 23cm (9in). H4.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) ‘Aureum’

Herbs with colourful foliage make a valuable ornamental contribution to the garden. The leaves of this popular form of oregano begin the season bright yellow, then slowly become greener as the weeks go by.

In summer the plant is covered with lavender pink flowers, much loved by bees and butterflies. 75cm (30in). H6.

RHS advice: How to grow oregano

RHS Gardening: Which herbs for shade?

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) ‘Imperial Gem’

Similar to ‘Hidcote’ but with more silvery foliage and with slightly shorter spikes of deep violet, highly scented flowers.

With its dense growth and bushy habit, ‘Imperial Gem’ tolerates clipping better than many lavenders and so is ideal for a hedge. It is also good as a container specimen. 60cm (23in). H5.

Narrow-leaf bay (Laurus nobilis f. angustifolia)

So many recipes call for a bay leaf that every garden should have a bay tree. Leaves picked fresh from the tree have a much richer flavour than the brittle brown flakes of dried bay.

This form has narrower leaves than the species, and has one great advantage: it’s much hardier. 5m (16ft). H4.


The Garden: Making more of herbs

Read about how displays at RHS Garden Wisley showed that herbs can pack a punch in the garden as well as the kitchen

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