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They're oreganos. Or are they?

When is oregano not oregano? When it's sweet marjoram. Gardeners selecting oregano or marjoram for an herb garden face a confusion of botanical and common names. This has frustrated botanists and nursery owners for years but need not cause major problems for gardeners.

Basically, sweet marjoram and oregano are both species of Origanum and taste very similar. The essential difference for a gardener is that all oreganos are hardy perennials, while marjoram (O. majorana, sometimes sold as Majorana hortensis) is a tender perennial, treated as an annual in cold-winter areas.

Common oregano (O. vulgare) is the oregano most widely sold in nurseries and grown in gardens. You may also find some trailing oregano (also O. vulgare). This variation of the common kind has a more prostrate habit.

What about Greek oregano? This common name is usually associated with O. heracleoticum and O. vulgare prismaticum. Because they have more oil glands in the leaves, both have a stronger flavor than common oregano. Greek oregano is often the source of dried oregano sold at markets.

The common and Greek oreganos reach about 2-1/2 feet; marjoram grows 1 to 2 feet high. They all do best in a sunny spot in the garden in fast-draining soil. Once established, they take only moderate watering. Marjoram tends to prefer slightly damper conditions.

Foliage tastes sweeter if flowers are not allowed to develop. To prevent flowering and keep plants from becoming woody, be sure to trim them regularly.

Replace marjoram after it starts to decline or become woody. Common, Greek, and trailing oreganos usually need replanting every three years.
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Date:Apr 1, 1985
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