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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grow, Make, Enjoy Your Own Fresh Herbal Wreaths

If you are interested in herbs grown for crafts and wreath making, then your plantings should include members of the genus Artemisia. These shrubby herbal perennials are grown for their aromatic oils and as interesting speciman plants.


Silver King


 Artemisias included here are Wormwood (Artemisia absinthius), Southernwood ((Artemisia abrotanum), and Silver king (Artemisia Indoviciana).
The characteristic odor of these plants make them useful for making a plant spray against pests. They can also be used indoors to repel fleas and moths. In past times, households would strew these herbs around the home to deter pests and freshen the indoor air. Artemisias can even be used to suppress weeds, because their roots secrete substances that inhibit the growth of surrounding plants.

Wormwood is attractive but due to its height of 4 - 5 ft/ it is best used as a background plant. Silver King gets to be about 3 feet tall and is very pretty with its silver gray foilage. Southernwood is more shrub like and with proper spring pruning maintains a nice mounded shape.  Its compact form grows to be 2 - 3 feet tall and about 3 feet in width.

Sweet Annie

Sweet annie (Artemisia annua) is a much finer textured plant than the wormwoods or mugworts. This herb is a reseeding annual and though beautiful, these 4 - 5 ft. plants will pop up everywhere if given the chance. Use these cuttings as your base when making your wreath. They wilt rather quickly so are best used as the foundation as you would with moss.

Russian Sage

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), is beautiful and compliments well with other plantings. This lanky plant needs room and shows off best if given space to spread in width as it wishes. It reaches about 3 - 4 ft in height but can reach 3 - 4 ft wide. It adds a touch of gray with its foilage and is striking when in bloom with its purple flowers. The dried flowers add a delightful touch of color to the green and gray of the wreath.

Lamb's Ear

Lamb's Ear in flower
Used as an edging plant and rock gardens, lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina), is a low growing perennial loved by children and bees alike. The thick, fuzzy leaves are soft, easily dried and a pleasure to "play" with whether you be an adult or child. If happy where it is planted, lamb's ear will quickly spread but is easy to control as it pulls out easily. It does not like humid, wet conditions. Lamb's ear develops a spiky purple flower which the bees absolutely adore. Once done flowering these spikes can be cut off for a more attractive plant.

All these plants like full sun but will tolerate some shade.
Artemisias or any of the woody, shrubby plants can be shaped during the summer season but don't prune after August.  Wait until spring to cut back and remove dead parts.  Don't cut back into old woody sections at any time.If you don't prune at all, growth continues from last seasons bushy ends and the whole plant gets lanky and dies out in the center. Tall plants like Wormwood (Mugwort) are to be cut back by about a third. When pruning your woody Artemisia plants like Southernwood, make angle cuts at about 45 degrees. Make your angled cuts away from the direction of the buds and branch growth. For older and more mature artemisia plants, make cuts of about 6 inches. For younger artemisia plants, cut only about three or 4 inches off the end of the branches. Make sure not to cut away too much in one pruning. While an older and more mature Artemisia plant may be able to withstand severe pruning, younger artemisia plants will almost certainly die if too much growth is removed at once.
Sweet annie is an annual so can be pulled in late fall.
Lamb's Ear just needs the finished flowering spikes removed which can be done in the late summer.

For craft purposes, take cuttings of these plants (use the softer, pliable pieces that bend easily; the stiffer stems are better if used for swags) and attach them fresh to a straw wreath base with floral pics or wire. Attach small bunches at a time by anchoring the stem ends onto the wreath base with the pics or wire. Work around the wreath in whatever direction is comfortable for you, covering the stem ends each time with the next little bunch. Overlap the layers as you work your way around.

These fresh herbal wreaths can be hung as is to freshen the air in a room and add interest as it dries. If desired, once this base is dried you can glue or attach focal points such as flowers, pods, pine cones, herbs for a unique creation. If hung out of direct sunlight and not jostled by bumping, the herbs should dry nicely, hold their color, not get messy, and perhaps last till you are ready to make a fresh wreath next season.

Rather than a wreath, you can simply cut several longer woodier branches, gather and tie together and hand as a swag. Ribbons and/or other items can be attached at the bound end to cover the twine used to tie together.

Enjoy discovering your unique touch of creativity!