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Bay leaf honored as 2009 Herb of the Year

From Greek mythology to the kitchen, bay leaves have savory history.  © Fotolia

From Greek mythology to the kitchen, bay leaves have savory history. © Fotolia

A savory, aromatic leaf that is the staple of soups and stews is celebrated as the 2009 Herb of the Year.

A native of the Mediterranean region, bay leaf (Laurus nobilis), sometimes called sweet bay is an evergreen shrub or tree with sturdy, waxy leaves. It is a basic ingredient in soups, stews, sauces and roasting, and has long been valued for its medicinal uses. It’s also an element in Greek mythology in the tale of Daphne, Apollo, spurned love and its consequences. Daphne was turned into a bay tree to avoid the unwanted advances of Apollo.

“Apollo was so astounded by the tree’s beauty that he claimed the laurel as his own and dedicated it to reward the highest achievements of Greek civilization. Bay was first an herb of poets, but also of oracles, warriors, statesmen and doctors. The leaves were made into wreaths for illustrious poets; thus, the term poet laureate, and the ancients used the leaves to crown heroes. Bay laurel was the symbol of wisdom, both acquired and intuitive,” according to the February/March 2009 issue of the Herb Companion .

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Old-fashion geraniums earn high marks

Summer cooler - Vining geraniums, such as Pink Blizzard, thrive in hanging baskets. (Photo courtesy Fischer USA)

Summer cooler - Vining geraniums, such as 'Pink Blizzard,' thrive in hanging baskets. (Photo courtesy Fischer USA)

Sometimes I think we’re plant snobs.

Geraniums (Pelargonium) seem to be at the bottom of the wish list for many gardeners because, well, they are geraniums — ordinary, old fashion, boring. Throw in reliable, easy and rewarding and you wonder why they are shunned.

For the common geranium, sometimes called zonal, you can buy plants grown from seed or made from cuttings. I opt for the more expensive cutting geraniums because they are so much showier that their seed-grown siblings. Seed geranium flowers are loose and a bit spindly, but work well in a mass planting.

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