Rosemary topiary

Topiary three months later.

We previously lived in northeast Tennessee rather than the southeast section of the state where we now reside. Rosemary would not survive outside during the winter in the north. There was a large potted plant of this herb that was wintered over in a sunroom we had added to that house. It was moved in and out each year, but was worth the effort for its beauty was rewarding. We next moved to Texas and found it to be a great landscape plant there. Who knew it would grow so large. Moving to our present location, rosemary was planted along some paths and left out all winter. It could be replaced easily the next spring if it succumbed and we were busy with the house remodel. It was a pleasant surprise to find it unscathed by the cold. Being on a slope, drainage was perfect, that is part of the key to its hardiness, I believe.

This is a winter shot of my Karl Foerster grass, calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. Its planting forms a semi circle around the tall blue pot. The two rosemaries at each side of the slope give some winter interest. They must be pruned to prevent their interference with the grass as it blooms at about six feet. In the background is what was formerly the lavender bed, now being transformed into the black garden. More about that later.

The plants had no cultivar names, just ‘rosemary’, when purchased. Most have these blue flowers and are upright in habit.

This is the only plant that is more rangy in growth habit. Pruning does not change the spindly new branching. The flowers are white even though they look blue in this picture. White flowers are very hard to photograph I have found.

I started experimenting with cuttings from the rosemary early on. These pots were protected in a cold frame, in the greenhouse, in the garage, in the shed and just at the side on the house under the eaves during the cold weather. They survived for the most part and were fun to play with. The ivy growing on the wall is long gone, thank goodness.

Last year I received this large square pot as a present and decided to make a little forest of the rosemary topiaries in it. The trouble was that the plants were too short for such a large pot. The decision was made to limb up the little fragile stems for more height. The scotch moss underplanted is doing great, however.

As winter returned to us in April of this year, the little topiaries were put back under cover.
This is how these plants are now over wintered. The back of the house faces south, getting good warm winter sun. The gravel holds heat and the slope helps protect the area. The glass is one of two old shower doors from the house next door that became our garage. I highly recommend shower doors for garden use. The glass is thick, the frames are waterproof and there is a handle to hold on to. The plants are even flowering. The middle tree of the nine in the planted square didn’t survive the severe pruning done to give the ‘forest’ more height. The trunk was left standing with nothing on top and the others plant tops filled in to fool the eye. I call it a success.

This shot was taken this week. Back behind the shower door all is well. The scotch moss suffered during the drought this summer but was replanted. It will fill back in.

Rosemary has so much to offer; cooking uses, fragrance, and lovely in the landscape. There is much lore about it as well. The flowers were said to be white, then turned blue when touched by Mary’s blue cloak on her journey to Bethlehem around this time of year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice,


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14 Responses to Rosemary

  1. Carol says:

    Merry Christmas, Frances. I have never successfully grown rosemary, but my only attempts were purchasing those rosemary “trees” sold around the holidays. They would slowly die inside, which I blamed on them being exposed to below freezing temps when I brought them home. Your post makes me want to try again, but perhaps I’d do better with a smaller plant purchased in the spring.

    By the way, I have added your blog to my list of garden blogs on my blog.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. Frances says:

    Carol…Thanks so much for reading and the link. Those rosemary trees sold now have never survived for me either, inside or out. Wrong time of year I think. Too bad that discourages people from trying to grow this wonderful plant. I really enjoy your blog subjects. You do a good job of getting readers involved. Merry Christmas.

  3. tina says:

    Very informational post. I love the shower door idea. It looks so simple propping it up in front of the house so it can catch sun. I live in the Clarksville area and am new to the blogging community. I found your blog through Dave’s The Home Garden. Anyhow, I have tried rosemary and it never comes back. I suppose I could grow it as an annual but why bother. Now I might try it again. My problem with it is it succumbs to the heat and humidity.

    Do you know a lot about scotch moss? I love it in your plant pot. I bought some at the Nashville Lawn and Garden show and planted it in the yard between some stones. I did fine until we got rain. Then the grass overtook it. How can I make it grow in the garden?

    You are in southwest Tennessee? I have visited UT’s Ag Station each year for the past three years for Summer Celebration. Have you been there? Very nice place. Carol Reese says if they don’t know you took cuttings-then it is ok.:) We gardeners know taking cuttings sometimes helps the plants grow better and bushier. They have a lot of good plants for sale and great speakers and seminars.

    Talk to you later.

    I can be wordy but sometimes just a few words is not enough! Sorry.

  4. Frances says:

    Tina…thanks for visiting and good luck with your blog. I live in southeast not west TN. I know very little about anything really. About the scotch moss, it must like good drainage, some shade, and moderate moisture. What that means exactly, who knows. My best patch is between stone steps in partial shade. The rosemary is best planted in spring as a small plant. Check the herb tables in early spring and give it full sun and excellent drainage. I never water it, even during this year’s drought. It is worth trying again.

  5. Dave says:

    Rosemary is a great plant to have around. For us it’s essential in our cooking from spiced potatoes to an Italian herb olive oil mixture we use with bread. I took two sections from my parents Rosemary plant that had layered and put them in the front yard. They do need good light so they may not work too well indoors for long periods of time.

    I like the topiary idea you had with the moss as a dressing/mulch. Great idea!

  6. brokenbeat says:

    we bought two rosemary plants this spring. after cuttings and layering, they have been made into trees, spheres, upside-down spiders, and monolithic monuments. all seem to be doing well, but it’s still relatively warm. there is this little used-stuff shop by my first house that no doubt sells shower doors. i’ll hit it up this afternoon.

  7. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    I LOVE your pots! Are they ceramic? The Rosemary topiary looked funny when you 1st started it, but it ended up looking great. I’ve never tried to grow it, but I think my soil is well drained enough for it. Merry Christmas!

  8. Frances says:

    brokenbeat..look for that southern exposure to set up the shower door. I may want to swing by that store myself.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I can’t over winter Rosemary here either. I do love to use it when cooking and I love the way it looks. Your topiaries are something I have wanted to try ot do sometime. Maybe this summer. You have given me some inspiration.

    Merry Christmas to you too.

  10. Pam/Digging says:

    This is a pleasant and informative post about rosemary. As you found, Texas gardeners commonly grow rosemary not just as an herb but as an evergreen shrub. I have a prostrate rosemary in my garden, though it’s actually pretty tall, about 4′. I do like those pretty blue flowers in winter.

    I’ve tried growing rosemary trees in pots, but they always die on me. Someone once told me that rosemary just wants to be in the ground.

  11. tina says:


  12. Frances says:

    MMD…thanks. The pots are terracotta for the smaller ones and glazed pottery for the large square one. So far the glazed pots with the side tops also glazed have lasted best without cracking in the winter freeze/thaw cycle.

  13. chuck b. says:

    I could never get rosemary to thrive in pots either, until I planted it in a very, very big pot. So far, it’s not dead. Which is saying something.

    I’ve never seen a young plant grow quite as upright as this. Old, woody specimens take on this kind of upward habit where I am, but by and large rosemary is a sprawling, spreading thing.

    Tennessee is such a thin state. I laughed out loud reading that rosemary survives in the south but not the north. Is there a tall, narrow east-west mountain range in Tennessee I’m not aware of?! 🙂

  14. Frances says:

    chuck b….when we lived in orange county, CA we had a steep slope in back also that had been planted by the previous ownder in prostrate rosemary that was actually quite tall and gangly. The base was like tree trunks. Maybe that is the kind you have. TN is a weird shape. There are mountains on both sides of this little town and the southern winds make our weather more like Atlanta than the far northeast tip of the state. We are zone 7, they are 6 due to elevation perhaps.

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