I’ve grown the herb rosemary many times from cuttings. Easy to do. Just take a 4 or 5 inch tip cutting from early spring growth and stick in the ground (or a pot with moist grow mix) and wait for roots.
A few years ago I decided to grow some rosemary from seed.
I started it using the wintersown method.
Rosemary is known for extremely poor germination, so out of package of 100 seeds I thought I did wonderfully to have almost a dozen germinate. (I was expecting 2 or 3.)
Long story short – the bitter cold last winter killed every rosemary plant I had, whether fully mature or seedling. Of course, everybody else lost theirs as well.
If someone had asked me, “Why go to the trouble to start rosemary from seed?”, I’d have been hard pressed for an answer. I did it, just because I wanted to try it.
Is there a benefit or advantage in starting from seed?
I think I may have stumbled across the answer.
I was reading an article on Stephen and Cindy Scott in Chino Valley, Arizona, who are part owners of the open-pollinated heirloom garden and seed company, Terroir Seeds LLC (home of Underwood Gardens).
Their approach to gardening is holistic and they work with the soil and plants (nature) instead of trying to get nature to work some other way. (You’ve heard that many times, here on TMG.)
They offer heirloom and open pollinated seeds, soil building and seed saving education, and a good selection of seed.
The Benefit to Growing Rosemary from Seed
According to the Scotts the primary reason to start with seed rather than a cutting revolves around flavor. “Rosemary that grows from seed is more intense (in flavor).”
They go on to say that seed grown rosemary has a lot more oil and aroma than a plant grown from a cutting.
Of particular interest was the implication that if you grow a plant from a cutting and take a cutting from that plant and start another, the aroma drops off with every new generation started.
The Scotts say it’s like making copies of copies. Most of us can relate to that. If you have an original document and make a copy and then use a copy to make copy and so forth down the line, you loose quality with every copy.
Does This Apply to Other Herbs?
I have no way of knowing. But if I had to venture a guess, I would say it does.
I’ve noticed that the thyme I grew from seed last winter seems to have much more aroma than thyme I’ve grown from cuttings in the past.
I thought this piece of information was really interesting and wanted to share it with you.
If you want maximum oil and aroma from you herbs, why not try growing them from seed and do your own aroma testing.
You can wintersow thyme, rosemary, and many other herbs right now.
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