Usually when we talk about xeriscape gardening, we think of rock garden kinds of plants or natives, but there are a lot of herbs that survive and even thrive in low water conditions. I learned about this from my own herb garden which went from low water irrigation to next to no watering. It had been established for ten years and then three years ago, I had to cut back the watering to only a couple times a year.After three years of this brutal treatment, there are quite a few herbs that are still doing well. Here are the ones that are doing fine: Oregano didn’t seem to notice that I had stopped watering; neither did garlic chives, bronze fennel, santolina, lamb’s ears, clary sage, rue, horehound, ephedra, yucca, motherwort, mullein, mugwort, thyme and yarrow.
Others are doing well but are small or would look better with a little more water: salad burnet, horseradish, hops, lovage, sage, lady’s mantle, wild parsley, echinacea, lavender, rhubarb, evening primrose, and mallow. The small pot of hardy Arp Rosemary I planted last year is only 5″ tall but looks good. Of course juniper is fine, and dandelion and hen and chicks are at home in the full sun and dry.
Many herbs are only useful weeds whose tap roots, spreading root systems and abilities to excel on poor soil, drought and no care have allowed them to follow humans through the worst weathers, wars and social upheavals. The herbal values or potencies are supposedly even greater with herbs grown lean and dry.
So when my life style allows me to care for an herb garden again, I will have two herb gardens: a xeriscape one for the many varieties than I now know will succeed dry, and a mesic one for the herbs that need moderate watering.