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.
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.
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.