Rosemary

About

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, but it does great west of the Cascades (I can’t speak for elsewhere). Rosemary doesn’t like the cold; here in Seattle, I know of a few rosemary bushes that died out or suffered quite a bit as a result of our December 2008 Snowpocalypse. Our rosemary went from a uniform boxy shape to a weird upright cluster and a left-leaning cluster on long woody trunks.

You may see several varieties of rosemary near you, such as the bushy Tuscan blue, with blue/purple flowers, or Severn Sea, which stays low to the ground, with curving branches and dark violet flowers. (1) Though the flowers come out in springtime only, rosemary is a year-round plant, among the hardiest of the herbs, so you can always go out to pick some.

Look for rosemary in your neighbors’ front yards, especially used as hedges or as part of a landscaped edge. The smell is usually unmistakable, but if you have trouble determining if what you have is rosemary, pick a leaf, break it in half, rub the ends on your hand, and smell.

Growing Your Own

If you want to keep your own rosemary plant, you can grow one in your yard or in a large container, and as the title of this blog indicates, you don’t need to buy any; just use a bit of a neighboring bush. Propagate (grow a new start of) rosemary by cutting a 3-6 inch twig, removing the rosemary leaves from the lower half, and placing it into very moist soil. Keep it very well watered for about two weeks so it gets established. Use a length of spring growth, cut between March and June, for best results. (2)

Locations

The best place to find rosemary is in your own neighborhood. A walk around the block, to the store, or just about anywhere, tends to lead you past a rosemary bush. Since rosemary has a strong flavor, you normally don’t need more than a 3-6 inch cutting for any cooking or baking use. Don’t go wandering into people’s yards unless you really don’t mind the potential for negative encounters or consequences, but hardly anyone will care if you pull a bit of rosemary off their sidewalk-adjacent bush.

Two locations I know of in Northwest Seattle with a lot of rosemary are near the northeast corner of NW 80th St and 3rd Ave NW (Greenwood Elementary School), and bordering the north side of the Ballard Commons at NW 58th St and 22nd Ave NW.

updated April 12, 2011 and May 22, 2014