May is firmly in place, and Herb Day is here — the fifth day of the fifth month of the year.
Tonight’s full moon — the biggest one of the year, maxing out at 10:35 p.m. — is known in Indian lore as the Full Flower Moon.
Today is traditionally the day when I go plant-crazy — maybe I sniff a few too many herbs — so it all fits together perfectly.
You didn’t hear a lot of complaints about herbs surviving in the heat last summer; they were among the few happy survivors. Not only are herbs easy to grow, they look great mixed up in contrasting colors and foliage textures, smell fabulous, are edible and don’t even like to be fertilized. Can you ask more from a plant, really?
The Herb of the Year for 2012 is the rose — proof that herbs can be more than mint and basil. To be honest, I don’t know where the definition starts and ends. I do know that I love to drink rosy-colored rose-hip tea, and I always want to make any recipe that contains rose water. So I think it will be interesting to hear the talk “How to Eat a Rose” at Herb Day. Sugar-coated rose petals is what I’m envisioning. Herb grower and author Jim Long of Blue Eye, Mo., will give the talk, along with one on growing and using the 10 most popular herbs, at 9 a.m.
Herb Day also will feature other talks, seminars, a master gardener plant sale, a garden magazine and book sale, children’s activities, vendors with herbs and other garden items for sale, the Kansas Grown Farmers Market, and a box lunch for sale. This is the 17th annual edition of the celebration, sponsored by the Herb Society of South Central Kansas and the Sedgwick County Extension Master Gardeners.
Only one caution I can think of with regard to herbs: If you’re putting together combination pots, separate the drier Mediterranean herbs from herbs or other plants that are thirstier. Herbs that like their soil on the dry side often have gray leaves and are shrubby. They include hyssop, lavender, rosemary, marjoram, rue, sage and thyme.
I love herb lists. Here’s one from a new book, “The Naturescaping Workbook” by Beth O’Donnell Young (Timber Press, $25), of edibles or herbs that attract beneficial insects:
Did I see dandelion on that list? Yes, I did. I don’t think it’s considered an herb — unless it’s on that list that includes the rose — but it is edible (if not sprayed with poison), and, from what a friend who has a yard full of dandelions tells me, a mass of dandies is a butterfly magnet. That’s looking at the sunny side of “weeds.”
Herbs I can never do without: chives, mint (choose spearmint for most recipes but types like chocolate or orange for more fun), thyme (you never have enough), basil, oregano, parsley, fennel, dill. I use some of them in cooking, but I don’t (usually) feel guilty if they just sit there and look pretty.
If you want to eat herbs, pick flower buds off as soon as they start to form. But if herbs do go to flower, many look beautiful that way and are good for those beneficial insects we mentioned. They also make nice little bouquets in the house.
One herb that makes a darling short edging akin to a mini boxwood hedge: rue.
After an invigorating day of herb-celebrating and inevitable planting, when it’s time to say “Good night, moon,” you also can refer to May’s milky orb as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon. I love all the names very much, but I’m thinking about calling it the Rose Moon.