Basil in the Landscape

Among herbs, I consider basil and parsley the dynamic duo. No herb or vegetable garden is complete without a few plants of each. Whether making pesto or spicing up a spaghetti sauce or a salad, basil is a must. Now plant scientists  have developed basil varieties that work as landscape plants as well as edibles.

Pesto Perpetuo, Proven Winners photo

Recently, I’ve heard of two basils worth planting for beauty and flavor. Pesto Perpetuo, left,  is a variegated basil that does not produce flowers, so there’s no need to worry about snipping off the flowers to prevent the leaves from changing flavors. The ultimate height of the plant is listed as anywhere from 18 inches to 4 feet (has anyone grown it in Minnesota? If so, let us know how big it got) and it has a nice columnar shape. Pesto Perpetuo has a lemony flavor, and, despite its name, the Herb Society of America says it may not be the best basil for pesto.

'Boxwood' photo
'Boxwood' photo

Basil ‘Boxwood’, right, is a cute little basil that really looks like a boxwood. The plants grow 10 to 12 inches tall and are very bush. Some gardeners suggest you could make a topiary with them, but I think they would be lovely edging a patio or deck in pots. The leaves are tiny, so there’s lots of picking and cleaning to get to pesto, but the word is the flavor is delicious. This variety is being sold as both plants and seeds, but only by Burpee’s. The comments on several garden forums indicate that the seeds are fairly easy to start.

I make pesto every year and freeze it, and I think there’s one package left in the freezer. Just talking about basil makes me want to cook up some pesto pasta tonight.

2 Replies to “Basil in the Landscape”

  1. Basil! Just what I needed to snap out of this February rain funk. I’m heading for the seed catalog stack. Thanks!

  2. Pesto Perpetuo has been showing up in the farmers markets here in Vancouver, BC, and after tasting it, I agree that it makes a better show plant than edible basil. The leaves are softer and thinner, and don’t have the characteristic crisp crunch you get when biting the traditional sweet basil. The flavor in itself is not as vibrant, either. But I’m sure it is wonderful in salads, where you’re looking for variety, and it is beautiful. It bushes up nicely here (one plant I saw was 18″ tall).

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