Thyme is an aromatic perennial herb. It's woody, compact and evergreen or in colder climates, semi-evergreen. You can grow it from cuttings or root division (or you can buy a plant at the nursery). Originating in the Mediterranean, it's happiest in dry, sandy soil in full sun.
However, thyme is a very forgiving plant and thrives even in the greater Seattle area where dry soil and sun can be rarities. I've successfully grown thyme in the arid climate of Eastern Washington and near a spring in the morning only sun in Western Washington. (Planting it in a boggy spot was an accident. We'd just moved here. It wasn't wet in August.) It's equally content in a pot on your balcony.
Thumb through a catalog and you'll find a dozen varieties of culinary thyme. My favorites are lemon thyme, Caribbean thyme, English thyme and orange thyme (great ground cover). I'd like to try caraway thyme.
You can use culinary thyme fresh or dried, as a garnish or to flavor soups, salads, meat dishes. Use it to flavor vinegars, or make tea and herbed butters.
The plants have their best flavor just before the flowers open. The flower portions of the stem, near the ends contain more essential oil-producing glands and offer better flavor.
Pruning thyme encourages new growth and you'll reap the rewards of the chore. You can eat what you remove!
• Prune thyme for propagation. You can start plants from stem cuttings. Just dip in rooting hormone solution or soak in a jar with a willow clipping. Then plant in a sandy soil, cover with a jar for a couple week and keep moist.
• Prune to shape the plants. Clip to reduce legginess and to encourage air circulation. In coastal or humid areas, thyme can be prone to fungal infections. Pruning cuts down on the risk.
• Stop making cuts in late summer if you live in a cold climate. Your plant needs time to recover before winter.