Creeping Rosemary is one of the most popular and best-loved plants in Pacific Coast gardens. This is because, besides its personal charm, it has culinary virtues and many garden uses. Rosmarinus officinalis prostratus, together with its various forms, is native to Mediterranean countries where the climate is somewhat similar to that of California. These will grow in most exposures and most soils as long as they have sun and good drainage. They are not quite as hardy as the tall type and in the Northwest should be given warm, protected places.
Once you have creeping rosemary, it is yours forever, for a contented plant increases by layers and sows itself. lf you use layers, take the young, well rooted ones, for flat, old branches that have established themselves are harder to move. The propagation of a seedling hybrid with special qualities must be done by cuttings of half-ripened tips.
The common trailing rosemary soon breaks bounds and smothers neighboring plants. Think carefully before you place it and make allowance for its billowing exuberance, because if the edges are lopped off, most of the plant’s charm is lost. It is grand on a bank, in the large rock garden, beside wide steps (not too close) and for breaking the stiffness of taller bushes.
There is nothing stiff about this “dew of the sea,” which is what its name means. There is grace in each of its curving evergreen branches, and the easy color of the flowers and the short narrow fragrant leaves, green on top and grey beneath, make the plant a good mixer.
Water and warmth affect the time of bloom. Here in California the mild Fog Belt, flowering begins in December, reaches its peak in January and February and carries through until May. In late winter every arching twig is smothered in pale blue. When the plants are watered, a second but less heavy period of bloom comes from August into September.
In Southern California, and inland, bloom may not be as profuse or as prolonged, though there is always the fragrance and the graceful outline of this low wildly spreading bush to recommend its use. As the plant moves downward and not upward, plant it high on a bank or beside the steps, and if there is some erosion from above, creeping rosemary, you will find, is not adverse to a bit of smothering.
Unless you want your plants to mound up, cut out the taller central branches. Some of these older boughs are likely to turn yellow, when drainage is not good, but young green shoots will soon fill the gap. Old branches that get in the way can be used in the house. When cut and defoliated, the gray bark and the curved line of the branches show up quite ornamentally.
Rosemary is always found in herb gardens and herb nurseries. The plant has legendary interest and has long been used to make rosemary oil and as a perfume.