Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring some must-have plants for your cocktail hour garden. Many of these are featured in the newly published The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining, but some will be other suggestions that didn’t fit in the book.
Today I have to rave on one of my must-plant herbs for summer. Lemon verbena, aka Aloysia citrodora, is a woody shrub in Zones 8-10 but an annual for those of us who garden in colder climates. This is an herb that will lift your heart every time you smell it…a must have plant for aromatherapy! It’s also delightful in all manner of beverages, from iced tea or lemonade to cocktails or a white wine sangria.
To use lemon verbena in a cocktail, just muddle it in the bottom of your mixing jar before adding other ingredients. And be sure to save an un-muddled sprig to garnish the glass before serving. Try it in your favorite martini recipe, or use it instead of mint in your mojito.
Grow lemon verbena in a pot or in the garden, in full sun. A small plant will grow into a small bush by mid-summer, so don’t shy away from the 4″ pots in the garden center. Pinch the growing tips regularly to form full, bushy plants.
Although you can save the plant indoors over the winter, in my experience Aloysia citrodora will continue to drop leaves all season until it’s pretty much all bare branches come spring. They do come back once the pot is put outdoors again, so don’t hesitate to overwinter this plant if you wish.