Artemisia "Silver Mound" - Van Gogh's Bad Choice For Absinthe

     Van Gogh may have kept his ear had he not been sipping absinthe ( Banned in the U.S.), a toxicating substance derived from the plant species "artemisia".   Yes it was known that Van Gogh was imbibing on absinthe when he made that fateful choice to amputate his ear.   But the basic rule is not to use artemisia internally for it's medical properties but to use  externally as a poultice for:

    Artemisia is also called  "wormwood," and has been used over the centuries to treat people for worms - accounting for the common name.  There are presently over 400 varieties of artemisia.  Depending on native plants artemisia had numerous other medicinal uses; i.e., to treat poor circulation, rheumatism, colds, fevers, jaundice, stomach problems, and more.  However, it is generally considered unsafe for internal use; because the active ingredient in artemisia is thujone, which is a narcotic and a poison which causes convulsions.  

Practicial Uses:
    It is an effective insect repellant, especially against black flea beetles, cabbageworm butterflies and in some instances ants.  It is also a great plant to have around to discourage slugs.  Due to the absinthe in the plant it is not always the best neighbor for surrounding plants and some feel it dwarfs their growth. If you have concerns, though, give your artemisia its own special place and use as a true specimen plant in it's own niche.

     One of the nicer aspects of artemisia is using it in your landscape as a specimen plant or for borders or mounding as a visual feature.  The silvery aspect of the leaves makes it stand out in areas where greens, yellows, and browns are predominant coloration.   At night the silver leaves reflect the moon's light and it becomes a very attractive night time addition to the landscape.  Many people use artemisia as a ground cover plant and plant it to edge out areas of their yard, gardens in the overall landscape design.   The distinctive color and habit helps to deliniate borders.  The problem with artemisia over time is the plant tends to get "heavy in the middle" and the branches will flop down leaving a mound with a hole in it.   The way to avoid this issue is to simply cut back the branches in early spring so they do not get as heavy and thus the moundings aspects of the plant's habit are retained.  The other control method is to divide and plant each spring when one of the plants is getting too large.    Artemisia does have a flower, generally yellow, however it is of little concern as the flower does not last long and is small in overall appearance of the plant. 

Growing Conditions:
   Artemisia grows in zones 3- 7 and is known as a Mediterranean herb.    It requires little, if any, fertilization.  The more sunlight the better for growth.  The "deal killer" to artemisia in your landscape is "wet feet".  Being a meditteranean herb the ideal soil is sandy, not rich in nutrient content, and rain falls on the plant, into the ground and passes away from the roots.  The plant will not survive in a moist environment.

Artemisia "powis castle"


Artemisia 'Silver Mound' and 'Powis Castle" will be available at HerbFest 2014.   Artemisia is the International Herb Association Herb of the Year in 2014.

Category: Gardening with Herbs
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