Artemisia - Ambrosia, Dusty Miller, Estragon, French Tarragon, Ghostplant, Lad's Love, Mugwort, Old Man, Old Woman, Sage Brush, Southernwood, Summer Fir, Tarragon, Wormwood
DESCRIPTION: These hardy, shrubby or herbaceous plants are from Asia, Europe and North America. They belong to the Daisy family, Compositae. Some Artemisias are grown for their ornamental or fragrant leaves and others, for their flowers. A. tridentata (Sage Brush) is a shrubby native of desert and semi-desert regions in the West. A. vulgaris (Common Mugwort) is a perennial, herbaceous kind that is often a pestiferous weed. A. Abrotanum (Southernwood, Lad's Love or Old Man) grows 2 to3 feet high and has gray, fragrant, finely divided leaves and small yellow flowers in August. A. ponticum (Roman Wormwood) has very divided, feathery leaves that are whitish or ash-gray underneath. They are very fragrant when crushed. A. arborescens isn't hardy in the North, but will survive in mild climates; it has light gray, finely divided foliage. This plant can be grown in pots in a greenhouse throughout the winter and set outside or planted in a flowerbed for the summer. A. lactiflora (Ghostplant or White Mugwort) is a perennial, herbaceous kind that bears tons of creamy white flowers in September. Its foliage is dark green and divided into jagged-toothed segments. A. annua (Sweet wormwood or Ambrosia) is an annual that is valued for its fragrant foliage, which is soft and feathery. Many Artemisias are valuable drugs because of their vermifungal or insecticidal properties. The most important is A. Cina; from it the drug Santonia or Santonin is made. Only the flower heads are used and the supply is from northern Turkestan and Persia. This drug is widely used to get rid of intestinal worms. Wormwood, A. Absinthium, is used for that same reason and it also provides an ingredient of the absinthe liqueur. The shoots of Southernwood, A. Abrotanum, are used by druggists because they have stimulating, detergent and vermifungal properties. A. Dracuncunus (French Tarragon or Estragon) is a half-hardy perennial that is grown for its leaves, which are used in salads and seasoning and in the manufacture of Tarragon vinegar. This herb is essential to fine cuisine, having an anise flavor. The woody stems grow up to 2 feet high and are covered with lance-shaped, thin, blue-green leaves, 2 inches long. The flowers are unnoticeable. Tarragon's leaves are used both fresh and dried.
POTTING: These plants need a sunny position and grow best in light or well-drained soil. The best times to plant the perennial kinds are in early fall or spring. A. Dracuncunus (French Tarragon) should be planted in early spring, 3 feet apart in rows 4 feet apart. Water the soil in dry weather and feed often. As the flower buds appear, they are pinched off to give all the energy to leaf production. In warmer climates, French Tarragon usually goes dormant during the summer but will come back in the autumn if you water and fertilize them. Top growth dies down with the first heavy freeze. Since French Tarragon needs winter dormancy, it is difficult to grow where winters are very mild. In cold climates, cut plants to the ground after frost has killed top growth and mulch well with straw. French Tarragon will endure fairly heavy cutting of tip growth. Start to harvest the branch tips when the plants reach 12 inches high. Just before the first heavy frost, harvest the whole plant. Use the leaves fresh or freeze them. To provide fresh, green shoots for winter use, a few plants may be lifted, cut to 6 inches high and planted in a deep box filled with regular garden soil. If the box is placed in a warm greenhouse, young growths will grow throughout the winter. To provide a supply for the winter, the shoots should be cut off just as the flower buds begin to develop; this is because the necessary oils are more abundant then. Tie the shoots in bundles and hang in an airy, dry room. In a few weeks, the leaves may be stripped off and packed in bottles. Dried French Tarragon is acceptable, but not nearly as good as fresh leaves. Fresh leaves may be used on roasted chicken and in egg or fish dishes.
PROPAGATION: Shrubby Artemisia can be increased by cuttings inserted in sandy soil in a cold frame in August or September. The perennial kinds (kinds whose stems die down in the fall) are increased by lifting them in October or March and separating the rooted pieces and replanting. Annual Artemisias are raised from seeds sown right outside in the spring. The seedlings are thinned out enough to allow adequate space for their development. A. Dracuncunus (French Tarragon) is increased by dividing established plants or, less usual, by tip cuttings. Plants should be divided every spring before new growth begins to show. This needs to be done every 3 years in the North and every 2 years in the South and warm West.
A. pontica (Roman Wormwood);
A. tridentata (Sage Brush);
A. vulgaris (Common Mugwort);
A. Abrotanum (Southernwood, Lad's Love or Old Man);
A. Absinthium (Common Wormwood).
Perennial, herbaceous kinds
A. Stelleriana (Beach Wormwood, Old Woman or Dusty Miller);
A. albula (also grown as Artemisia Silver King);
A. Schmidtiana nana;
A. Dracuncunus (French Tarragon).
A. sacrorum (Russian Wormwood) & its variety is viridis (Summer Fir);
A annua (Sweet Wormwood or Ambrosia).
A. DRACUNCUNUS (FRENCH TARRAGON)
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