Southernwood. Lad’s Love. Boy’s Love. Maiden’s Ruin. Old Man. Appleringie. Artemisia abrotanum…..This plant has such a cool history!
In Roman times one of its prescriptions was for balding. When it got introduced to England in 1548 pubescent country boys must’ve got wind of this and started making an ointment out of Southernwoods ashes, that they would then smear on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.
They must’ve been pretty chuffed when it eventually worked because it was also used in bouquets to give to their lasses they were a-wooing… St Frances de Sale says
“To love in the midst of sweets, little children could do that, but to love in the bitterness of Wormwood is a sure sign of our affectionate fidelity.”
Hence (apparently) why it was used in their flower arrangements. Or more heathenly, perhaps it was used because it was once considered an aphrodisiac and was an essential ingredient to make a love potion!
Paganism aside; many people planted Southernwood by their front gate, men would pick a sprig for their lapel buttonholes on their way to church. Haha! Whereas it was customary (a bit more conspicuously) for women to carry large bunches of this plant and (Lemon) Balm to church on the premise that the keen aromatic scent would prevent drowsiness. What does that tell you huh?!
Artemisia abrotanum is the southern wormwood, indigenous to Spain and Italy. It has feathery grey-green leaves (Wormwood Artemisia absinthium has silvery foliage with pinnated leaves) and very rarely if ever flowers, hence it can only be grown by cuttings or division.
It likes a nice sunny situation and handles drought conditions like a champion (’tis best kept on the dry side). Tends to die down a little in winter but comes back lush in Spring. It’s when Southernwood is in this flush of growth (about now) that it pays to give it a little trim to keep it nice and bushy.
You can use those trimmings to strew wherever you don’t want moths, hang in you closet or in those boxes of clothes you’re going to re-invent sometime soon! The scent is disagreeable to other insects including the bee so don’t plant it in your “bee garden”. Wonder if it would work against flies??
Medicinally it is used as an emmenagogue, take note it tastes a bit nicer as a tea than a decoction. Apparently the branches are said to dye wool a deep yellow, oooh natural dye, I know a few people who would be interested in that aspect!
So, naturally I have these plants for sale all ready and waiting for your garden!