By Joyce Arleen Corson
Returning to Phoenix and visiting Jennifer and Tarik’s herb garden with its scalloped borders was a pleasure. Finding two delightful herbs Thai basil and Rosemary very healthily growing in the Ari- zona sun-shine was rewarding. Thai basil , native of Vietnam, has many cultivars; Siam Queen, or cinnamon basil, (Ocimum basili- cum) are two popular ones to choose. This Thai basil has survived all the seasons and the most colorful new branch is a very deep pur- ple. Some spent blossoms in the back are remaining to reseed. It is a member of the mint family and maintains a minty/spicy fragrance.
Thai basil may sometimes be called anise basil or licorice basil, in reference to its anise/licorice like scent and taste.
Occasionally, Thai basil is also called cinnamon basil, which is its literal name in Vietnamese. The most commonly used basil in our community is broad leaf basil. It may have light or dark leaves depending on sun exposure. Another herb to plant with basil is Rosemary. They share the same growing conditions. Well drained soil, part sandy to some compost and full sunlight to minimum shade.
For container planting use potting soil of your preference and plant small plants in 5” pots to start your arrangement. Add a layer of “My Garden’s Best Friend” on top and a depth below the top edge as the height of the pot leaving a space at the top for water. Press gently to release any air from around the roots.
An ideal pattern for herbs. Start with two Thai basil across from each other and two purple ruffles across from each other. Substitute Persian Shield, Strobilanthes dyerianus if possible. Fill in with other herbs or favorite flowers of your choice. If the artist in you is saying use complimentary colors for a well planned container and beauty to the eye, consider using a yellow hosta, lemontini or curly fries for accent.
Now is the time to start indoor seed planting if you want to grow your own plants. A starting soil recipe of mine is a sterile mix, such as organic Espoma, without any fertilizer amendments. Add worm castings, (1 part castings to 3 parts soil) “My Garden’s Best Friend” and water. Any container that will allow light to shine through and not leak is desirable. Keep constantly moist, under lights and warm to 75 degrees is essential. Expect seeds to germinate the first week. Do not remove cover or transplant until second leaves are growing. A lite top dressing of castings may be used over the seeds. Forget-me-not is a favorite of mine.