Newcomers to the area may not be aware that Arp, a small town in Smith County, has lent its name to a particularly hardy strain of herbgarden favorite, rosemary.
Though northeast Texas generally has relatively mild winters, long-time residents recall a particularly harsh winter in the early 1980s. Temperatures fell to the single digits at night and did not rise above 32 degrees during the day for a period of more than a week. As a result, many plants were severely damaged or killed. However, in Arp, a stand of rosemary survived and flourished. Cuttings of these plants have been grown successfully in colder climates ever since. Although rosemary is considered a tender perennial in most plant books, 'Arp' (Rosmarinus officinalis) has proven winter hardy as far north as Washington, D.C.
Rosemaries are available as a prostrate cultivar suitable for hanging baskets; however, Arp Rosemary grows as an upright plant that has gray-green needle-like leaves. As the plant matures, the stems develop into woody limbs. Rosemary plants as small as four to six inches tall are readily available at local specialty nurseries. Just be sure to look for a label that says "Arp." The plant is a relatively slow grower; heights eventually reach 36" to 48" and widths of 18" to 24".
Although full sun is ideal, rosemary will tolerate up to a half day of shade. My rosemary plant is three years old, has already survived one transplanting, and is about 15"to 18" tall. Other than a light application of mulch, it has received no special attention and has proved pest and disease resistant and pleasing to grow. The rosemary fragrance is unmistakable, and the herb is useful for flavoring lamb, pork, or beef.
Susan Holloway, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
"Rosemary is for remembrance." So goes the Victorian saying that gives virtues to popular children's names. Rosemarinus officinalis is a common, easy-to-find plant in nurseries. It has an upright growing pattern and grows quite large, up to seven feet in ideal conditions. I like it here in East Texas planted in a pot that serves to contain its growth. As it is an evergreen plant, it looks attractive year around. It has dark green, needle-like leaves that bear pale-blue to dark-blue flowers. Occasionally, it bears white or pink blossoms, too. As it is hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be grown easily here in East Texas. It likes sun and is resistant to most pests.
This harsh, aromatic herb has many uses. It marries well with poultry and game. It dries well for giving to friends. I have made rosemary vinegar with good results and given it as gifts. I sometimes cut some twigs off and tie them together with cotton twine to make a homemade basting brush for the grill. When finished with grilling, I just toss it onto the briquettes for a delightful aroma. There are other cultivars and even a prostrate-growing version; however, these are not as cold tolerant. Planted in a pot, it can be moved to shelter in prolonged cold weather.
Gardeners, remember rosemary when you are thinking about herbs or searching for an attractive evergreen plant for a container.
Toni Gilberts, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service