Artemisia, the gray magician in the garden

Wormwood, Mugwort, Tarragon and Lemongrass are all plant species from the Artemisia genus. Around 250 species worldwide present themselves as Artemisia. Outwardly, it is mainly the gray leaves and small bud flowers that indicate their relationship. Artemisia vulgaris, Mugwort is our native Artemisia that can thrive on wastelands and along roadside. With its unsightly gray flowers that look as if they don’t want to open, and its leaves that are not quite gray enough, this is certainly not the plant that the average citizen wants in his smooth garden. A plant might just work well in the herbaceous ornamental garden, but we will make it more beautiful by surrounding it with the grayer Wormwood and, for example, a dark purple flowering Mallow.
Other, low wormwoods such as Artemisia schmidtiana and Alpine species such as Artemisia genepi are especially suitable for the dry and calcareous rock garden.
You can make a funny mini rock garden by placing 4 pieces of stone lying around together, putting some calcareous humus in between, and then adding a low wormwood, a few rosaries and a silver thistle between the plants and possibly filling in the gaps . with some moss, which had to be removed from that roof. For me, these types of mini gardens form boundary markers for the large garden. At least the dogs don’t piss on it!

Aperitif in the garden

In herbal medicine, it is mainly Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) that is used together with Fennel and Calamus as a bittering plant. They stimulate the appetite and promote the digestion of food. So ideal for a copious meal. Hence our aperitif before dinner. Aperitivum is a medical term and simply means appetite-stimulating.
Many liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse are nothing more than infusions of bitter plants in alcohol. The most infamous is still absinthe, a green substance to which Van Gogh and other painters were addicted. The Genepi is another popular aperitif, made from various Artemisia and Achillea species. This strong drink is offered to you everywhere in the Alps. Especially in the French mountain huts, where I am a frequent visitor, you have to be careful not to be sent into the mountains drunk.
To avoid any misunderstandings, it is not the wormwood but the alcohol that makes you drunk. I use wormwood during my hikes or just at home to get my sluggish stomach going. Rubbing a fresh leaf between your thumb and index finger and then licking your fingers is enough to give your stomach a boost. It will remain bitter!

Wormwood in nature and garden

Artemisia absinthium grows exuberantly on dry, stony roadsides and paths in the Southern Alps. Despite its naturally dry and warm habitat, it is completely winter hardy in our wetter climate. The silver-gray leaves even remain visible above ground and can therefore also be used fresh in winter.
Gray plants often bring harmony to a busy multi-colored border. They combine especially well with purple flowers such as mallow, purple coneflower or sturdy hollyhocks. The small yellow bud flowers of the Wormwood are inconspicuous, but these modest flowers bring balance to a somewhat showy border. Wormwood grows in any soil, but in a sunny and dry environment it will look more compact and gray, and therefore more beautiful and easier to work with.

Other grays

Grayer than gray you get with Artemisia ludoviciana, an American species that is silvery white down to its flowers, is very hardy in our climate, is used by Indians in smoking rituals and is also medicinal. It’s worth a lot for little money, because it can be purchased in an average garden center.
Other healing grays that belong here are the Real sage, the Saint’s flower, I would plant it just for the name alone, the Lavender varieties of course and possibly the Curry plant. At first glance, all these plants seem like a strange jumble, but in the garden they form a fascinating whole bursting with meaning. Truly a garden to completely immerse yourself in as a gray natured person.

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