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Grow Marjoram! Seriously, Grow It

You Can Grow That!

Ithaca NY backyard vegetable garden

After stopping to photograph a nicely-planted boulevard, I got an invite to the back yard where a small farm was well on its way to harvest. The bushy clump in front of the gas grill (front-left) is the out-of-control marjoram from which I received a rooted stem.

On a trip to Ithaca last spring, I happened through a neighborhood in which people tended their boulevards as gardens rather than as barren rectangles of useless grass. I parked and walked so I could take pictures and was capturing a particularly engaging scene when its gardener walked out from behind the house.

We became friends and she invited me to see what was growing in the back yard. There was a small farm back there. As we chatted, we discovered we had a mutual acquaintance. It’s an unlikely story, so here goes:

Crazy, unlikely back story

My dad was a college professor. One of his students in the 1960s had two boys who I would visit and play with—they were toddlers and I was, perhaps five or six years old.

Marjoram contained

I transferred my marjoram (a rooted stem from someone else’s garden) from a planter to a containment ring in my herb garden last year in late summer or early fall. The plant had developed a healthy root ball during its 4+ months on my screened porch. Here, about 10 months later (and after a very harsh winter), the plant is enormous. It hasn’t filled the containment area, but I suspect it will next season.

After I entered college, we had little contact with my dad’s former student and her family. I moved to Boston and began a corporate career where I met the woman who married me. We reproduced and moved to central Pennsylvania where we reproduced a bit more.

When my kids were about old enough to be babysitters, we got word that my dad’s student’s son (the toddler I’d played with some 40 years earlier) had moved to Williamsport—about 20 miles north of us. He was married with children and his family eventually moved to Lewisburg where my kids provided them with baby sitting services.

My childhood playmate’s wife is a musician who had performed in several academic settings, and we were fortunate to attend a private concert that she put on for friends as a rehearsal for an upcoming public concert. Alas, eventually, my childhood playmate and his family moved toward the Midwest (his eldest daughter is now driving).

Marjoram heavy with blossoms

My marjoram sprawls in part because huge clusters of flowers weight the ends of very long stalks. Blossoms started to open about July 15, and the display has been brilliant for three weeks with no end in sight.

June, 2013 in Ithaca

I was enjoying the small farm in the back and chatting with this pleasant couple and I learned that the husband is a musician who has performed at Bucknell University (the college in Lewisburg where I live). He had been offered the gig by the musician wife of my childhood playmate son of my dad’s graduate student! Freaky.

We became friends and realized we’re practically related! (It gets better: The musician husband is from Uganda. Our family had come to know a Bucknell student from Uganda who had started the awesome charity Bicycles Against Poverty. Turned out our student friend had attended the concert performed by the Ugandan musician husband booked by the wife of my childhood playmate son of my dad’s graduate student… and they—the two Ugandans in the story—had met each other!)

But that’s not the point.

What marjoram has to do with it

We got to be such good friends (happens all the time among gardeners) that my new acquaintances decided I might like to take some marjoram home with me. The marjoram patch was out of control, they said, and pulled a stalk out by its roots.

Butterfly on marjoram blossoms

If marjoram’s beautiful purple flowers aren’t enough eye candy, my plants draw a lot of butterflies. It’s encouraging to see so many flitting around while I’m working the in garden.

I thanked them for the gift and nursed it for a few days until I got it back to Lewisburg. There, it languished in a small planter on the porch until October or November. Finally, I set a containment ring in the ground in my herb garden and planted the marjoram stalk in it. That marjoram is a superstar!

Photos make the case: you should have marjoram in your garden. In fact, grow it among your ornamentals; plant a meadow with the stuff. It’s amazing! Best of all, it grows like a weed.

Find a friend who grows marjoram and ask if they’ll pull a stem for you. Or, buy a marjoram nursery pot at your local garden center. You won’t need a large pot; in less than a year, a single sprig will grow into a large clump. You can grow that!

Honeybee on marjoram blossoms

Nothing in my kitchen garden draws more honeybees than does the marjoram. This is encouraging; there must be at least one honeybee hive surviving within a few miles. The honeybees have a lot of company. The marjoram blossoms draw several other types of bees as well as pollinating flies and wasps.

Follow this link for more You Can Grow That posts.


7 Responses to “Grow Marjoram! Seriously, Grow It”

  • That’s nice to hear that the marjoram is attracting bees to your garden. Being that marjoram is part of the mint family, do you find it to be invasive in your garden?rnrnJust curious. I have not grown marjoram myself.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Mike the Gardener: So far marjoram isn’t invasive the way mint is. From the looks of things, it behaves much more like oregano which spreads fairly aggressively but tends to clump. The clump grows bigger every year until it meets an obstruction… but I don’t think it’ll start popping up in lines across your garden the way many mints do.nn-Daniel

  • alex:

    I believe it self seeds as I’ve had it in pots and it then pops up somewhere else … Fabulous stuff … Wouldn’t be without it …

  • […] Amazingly, my marjoram plants still have blossoms! The plants started blooming in July and have satisfied pollinators for more than two months. I first wrote about this marvel in a post titled Grow Marjoram! Seriously, Grow It! […]

  • I’ve never planted marjoram, but it is my favorite herb and I use it in nearly everything!

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Jean: Thank you for your comment. Slow to reply here, but I was particularly impressed yesterday when I saw a large bee working the remaining blossoms on my marjoram plants. From July until October, these plants have been in bloom. I very well may add them to an ornamental bed or two throughout the yard. Incidentally, when I brought the original cuttings home, my wife commented that we never use marjoram implying it was pointless to add it to the garden. This summer, it has been a go-to herb for my cooking. I think because we haven’t used marjoram over the past 20+ years, it stands out when I use it in soups and sauces.

  • […] years ago, marjoram got its own place in my garden and last year it found a place in my heart. I wrote about it here. The stalks flowered for about two months and attracted pollinators more than any other plant. […]

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