Rosemary: the herb of remembrance that thrives on neglect

Rosemary is well renowned as the herb for remembrance. Picture: Shutterstock.
Rosemary is well renowned as the herb for remembrance. Picture: Shutterstock.

Rosemary is well renowned as the herb for remembrance and Anzac Day is a fitting time to consider a place for it in your garden.

Rosemary is also symbolic of friendship and love and has been the subject of myth.

One interesting Turkish myth surrounding rosemary, is that it grows vigorously in the garden where the woman is the head of the household.

In the 16th century many Turkish men ripped rosemary from the garden in effort to demonstrate their status.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of the benefits of rosemary not just as a culinary herb but for its medicinal benefits.

Greek scholars wore garlands of rosemary during examinations for the reputed benefit of improving memory.

It is for this reason that we embrace rosemary as the herb of remembrance and wear sprigs on the lapel on Anzac Day in remembrance of our fallen service men and women.

Rosemary is embraced as the herb of remembrance, which is why it's worn on Anzac Day. Picture: Shutterstock.

Rosemary is embraced as the herb of remembrance, which is why it's worn on Anzac Day. Picture: Shutterstock.

Of the many different varieties available, one that stands out is the Gallipoli rosemary.

In 1915 a wounded digger repatriated to Adelaide Army hospital, brought back with him a rosemary plant from the slopes of Anzac cove, where rosemary grows wild on the peninsula.

This bush was planted out in the hospital grounds and has since provided propagation material for the distribution of rosemary sprigs on Anzac Day.

Originating from the Mediterranean, rosemary can be easily grown in most gardens and tends to thrive on neglect. This hardy, water-wise plant is well-suited to a range of soils and requires little maintenance other than some regular pruning.

Full sun positions with good drainage are ideal and the addition of a little lime to the soil to raise pH will help rosemary flourish. Growing to around 1.5 metres, it is ideal in the herb garden or grown in a container and can be trained as topiary.

Rosemary also makes an ideal hedging plant. Prostrate forms are also available and make excellent groundcovers, trailing over rocks or retaining walls and spilling from containers. The dense carpet of foliage is virtually impenetrable to weeds.

The aromatic needle-like leaves of rosemary can be used fresh or dried and the stems of varieties such as Tuscan blue or goriza, once stripped of its leaves make fantastic skewers for lamb pieces on the barbecue.

This beautiful and versatile herb is worthy of a place in any garden.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher and loves a green space.