NO matter what the international herb situation might be, the local scene is still growing strong.
The National Arboretum in Washington boasts the largest collection of herbs in the world. The garden holds 1,000 herbs, says curator Holly Shimizu, including 12 different basils and 12 to 15 different thymes.
Shimizu spends a lot of her time giving advice to people who want to grow their own herbs. Her first suggestion is to avoid growing them inside. In pots indoors, she says, most herbs thin out and die. One exception is rosemary--"You don't have to fiddle with it," she says. Other garden experts, who agree with her advice for the most part, suggest chives as another indoor choice.
Alison Brown, director of Garden Resources of Washington (GROW) looks at it with a different perspective. While she admits that herbs don't grow well on windowsills, you might be able to get a few sprigs of basil through the winter. "It can be done," she says, "but is it worth the effort?" She suggests freezing summer herbs and using those to get through the winter.
Outside, it's a different story. "Just about everything will grow here in the summertime if you have good sun and proper drainage," says Betty Rea, former president of the Herb Society of America, who grows 15 or 20 herbs in her 6-by-8-foot herb garden in McLean. Off the top of her head, Shimizu names chives ("very easy"), garlic chives, French tarragon, thyme, dill ("does very well"), fennel ("grows very well here"), sage and rosemary (but rosemary may die back during harsh winters). To that, Rea adds basil, parsley ("it takes a long time to come up") and lovage.
People curious about eating, growing and using herbs can attend Herb Day activities at the National Arboretum on May 19.