Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Half a Hundred Herbs Week 30 – Southernwood

southernwoodThis plant is hard to find in the jungle that is my rose bed. I should think it will need to come forward, between the roses, where it will get more light. It is one of those Mediterranean herbs with fine aromatic leaves that like poor dry soil and sulk in the wet. It doesn’t look too bad in this photo, but earlier this year it was hit by mildew, and has bounced back rather well over the last month.

Southernwood is one of the artemisias, and related to wormwood, but has a fresher, lighter and sweeter scent, which adds a touch of welcome sharpness to pot pourris. It is as good as its greyer relations at deterring moths too, and I like to make a mix of rosemary, southernwood, tansy and lavender for sachets to put among fabrics which need a less flowery presence – my husband’s sock and handkerchiefs, for instance.

This plant is deciduous and gets very twiggy and desolate over the winter. You would think it was dead, but it grows back with incredible vigour once the weather warms up. To prevent it getting leggy and to encourage an abundance of the ferny new leaves you are supposed to cut it hard back in autumn or spring (depending on the climate where you live). Having seen great billowing masses of the stuff in places where they take this instruction way more seriously than I ever did, I can only endorse this recommendation.

I took cuttings of southernwood just after we came home from holiday, and here they are.

southernwood cuttingsFor a few weeks I really thought they hadn’t taken, but they look quite perky now, and ready to pot on. I just have to find space for them somewhere —-






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