Sarah Raven shares her favorite herb for growing in a small garden – and how to look after it

Sarah Raven sings the praises of the 'overlooked' plant that can make for a stunning display in your garden if grown correctly

Rosemary in bloom
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Rosemary is sometimes forgotten about in favor of trendier, less common plants, but the humble rosemary is the star of gardener Sarah Raven's latest gardening podcast. 

See: Small garden ideas – maximize a compact gardening space

In conversation with Arthur Parkinson on her new podcast 'Grow, cook, eat, arrange' Sarah praises the plant. Not only is the scented herb a favorite in her own garden, but she reveals if she were to choose three plants to grow in a small garden they would all be rosemary.

 ‘If I had a tiny city garden with a sunny wall and I only room for a bench and three plants it would be a slatted bench and three different rosemary planted around it, and that will keep you going and replenish the soul 12 months round,' she confesses.

Flowering in winter the herb is perfect for winter color and year-round fragrance. If you are tempted to add rosemary to your garden the famed plantswoman went on to share her tip on growing rosemary in your own garden.

Sarah raven tips for growing rosemary

(Image credit: Photography © Jonathan Buckley)

1. Rosemary thrives on sun – and a bit of neglect

Remembering that rosemary hails from the Mediterranean should give you all the information you need to care for this plant Sarah explains in the episode. Rosemary thrives on sunlight, neglect, and good drainage making it one of the best drought-resistant plants for your garden. 

'Rosemary really does love the sun,' explains Sarah. 'Its favorite spot of all is at the top of a terrace. Like in the Mediterranean where you see it with wines and olives on it.  And right on the edge of the terrace where there is almost no nutrition at all, you will have a thriving great bush of flowering rosemary.'

'That’s where it loves it, with its roots baked and pretty dry, and it doesn’t need nutrition it just needs that good drainage.'

2. Avoid pruning woody rosemary

Rosemary bush with bee

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The only area to be very careful in when growing rosemary is pruning. Arthur and Sarah agree that you must never try to prune an old rosemary bush that has gone woody. 

'You’re much better to propagate a new one,' says Sarah. 'I would tend to do any pruning twice a year, so you can keep it quite compact and I would do that after flowering. So in May and then maybe again in August – September time if you want to tidy it up again.'

3. Take cuttings after June


(Image credit: Unsplash)

If you do want to propagate a rosemary plant Sarah suggests taking these cuttings between June and October. She explains that she tends to avoid taking cuttings in March and April when it is growing really rapidly because it can be a bit sappy.

To propagate a rosemary plant take a juicy stem. Strip the side stems, and remove the leaves from the side of the stem that will be below the soil level. Put six or seven cuttings around the edge of a pot and place on a sunny window ledge, in gritty compost mix. The cuttings will root in a couple of months and then will be ready for planting out.

Sarah Raven's favourite rosemary varieties

Sarah Raven rosemary tips

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Sarah also revealed that her favorite types of rosemary are 'Rosemary Tuscan Blue', with dark blue foliage. 'Prostratus' is another firm favorite for planting up in window boxes because it cascades down.

However, her current obsession is 'Foxtail' which Sarah overlooks in the herb garden from her office window. This variety looks just like a fox tail, it is very upright and busy, with a silvery underside, and catches the light in a beautiful way during the winter.

When you are done admiring this gorgeous plant, don't forget to take it into the kitchen to spice up dinners. 

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.