Several species of aromatic evergreen shrubs belong to this genus, which occurs in Mediterranean regions and northern Africa. The specific species, Myrtle communis, standard size and in a dwarf form, is also found in Mediterranean regions, southwestern Europe, and north America, including our region. It makesa beautiful evergreen shrub in our gardens.
In ancient Greece, myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. It is still carried today in wedding bouquets in many regions of the world. Its small white, delicate blooms are wonderfully fragrant. True Myrtle is an erect shrub with lustrous, oval-shaped pointed leaves. The plant has a juniper-like aroma when crushed. Some cooks use its leaves as a substitute for bay leaves. Its fragrant white flowers appear in spring and summer, followed by blue-black berries. True Myrtle is sometimes pruned in the same way as boxwoods, and thus can be used in a parterre style herb garden as a formal border.
A popular year-round landscape plant, True Myrtle can be grown in part shade as well as full sun, and needs only little to moderate water. It can be grown in wide range of soils as long as drainage is good.
NOTE: During 2013, my monthly Arbor Gate Herb Picks will emphasize herb choices as great landscape additions. Many of them also have culinary uses, of course, but our focus will be on their visual, scent, and textural qualities.