Ornamental oregano first caught my eye in my first Logee’s catalog when, as an impressionable lad of 15, I spied Origanum ‘Kent Beauty.’ My interest in all plants Mediterranean had begun to percolate, and it was one of the catalysts. Years later, it wasn’t ‘Kent Beauty,’ but ‘Pilgrim’ I happened upon at a local nursery whilst shopping for an interesting groundcover. Its leaves were marketed as blue and fragrant, its flowers pink. Sold!
‘Pilgrim’ did well its first year; in its second year it truly came into its own. Those blue-green leaves were up with the first rays of spring, clean as a whistle and turning ever bluer by the time dark pink bracts appeared around July 4. With the bracts, Pilgrim’s a stunner. By end of July, it was in full bloom, and okay… The pink of full bloom is a bit livid for my taste, but I love the bracts-only stage well enough that my love for ‘Pilgrim’ is still a no-brainer. Midsummer alternative to ho-hum pink creeping phlox? I think so.
I suspect ‘Pilgrim’ is a good candidate for sheering after bloom to get a fresh flush of foliage and some rebloom, but my garden philosophy is to keep maintenance to a minimum, so I decided to see how it looked if I left it. I won’t lie to you… When the flowers browned, they were ugly, but I could live with them. That said, I tried sheering a patch this year in the sunniest spot it’s planted, because it had completely burned out. I’m not expecting a rebloom from this bit (the plant does that some, I’ve noticed), but a new flush of leaf would be nice.
- COLOR, COLOR, COLOR: Pilgrim’s blue leaves and pink flowers are a complementary color enthusiast’s daydream.
- LIGHT: Oreganos would like sun, please.
- WATER: Established oreganos are drought tolerant plants, as are many from the Mediterranean.
- LOW MAINTENANCE: See aforementioned note about sheering. Cut down the dead stuff in late fall or early spring. That’s it!
- DESIGN TIP: I really enjoy the contrast of rounded, bluey oregano leaves with the deep green needles of the pine it lives in front of.
- FAMILY TREE: Oreganos are in the family Lamiaceae, the mint family, who pretty much have your spice rack covered: basil, rosemary, lavender, thyme, and, of course, mints of all kinds.