Green Fairy--the top of a yard art sculpture I'm making for the upcoming Loving Garland Green Plant Sale*
Part of acquiring plants for the upcoming Loving Garland Green plant sale involves not only planting and growing seeds, but also taking cuttings from shrubs and perennials.
Yesterday, during a walk in the Garland Community Garden, I noticed that some Artemisia donated by a Master Gardener friend a few years ago had spread. I dug up a few clumps and they are now growing in pots on my front porch. If they survive they will be for sale at the garden. Artemisia for most gardeners is a low-growing shrub that reaches about a foot in height. It adds color and dimension to a flowerbed.
Artemisia plants waiting for Loving Garland Green's plant sale.
Not only is Artemisia a pretty addition to your garden, it’s also a great conversation piece that has an interesting history.
Artemisia (also known as “wormwood”) has a rich history, as it is the main ingredient used to make absinthe. Absinthe originated in Switzerland in the 18th century and rose in popularity as an alcoholic drink in early 20th century France. Absinthe was especially popular among writers and artists. Because it was associated with the bohemian culture, absinthe was, of course. opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists.
Thujone, a chemical compound that is present in trace amounts in Artemisia was touted as being a dangerously addictive hallucinogen. It garnered the nickname of “la fee verte” or the green fairy and by 1915 absinthe had been banned in most of Europe.
However, almost 100 years later, studies show the psychoactive properties of Absinthe to have been greatly exaggerated. Today nearly 200 brands of absinthe are being produced in Europe. Absinthe is even legal in conservative USA.
Artemisia is also used for medicinal purpose in many parts of the world. People take Artemisia for cough, stomach and intestinal upset, the common cold, diabetes (said to lower blood sugar), muscle weakness, and for parasitic infections.
Every Plant Has a History and a Story to Tell
Plants are interesting and critical to our survival—not only because they supply us with food, but also because plants are the source and basis for all our medicines.
For example, Foxgloves, a beautiful flower, are the common name for the Digitalis genus, used in ancient times as a drug, and still used today in some heart medicines. Digitalin, a cardiac glycoside that can be extracted from the plant, can help stead rapid heartbeats and arrhythmias in small doses. The name Foxgloves is likely a distortion of “folk’s gloves”. “Good Folk” was the name sometimes used for fairies who were said to live within the flowers.
*Absinthe earned the name of Green Fairy because of its green hue and because of its "magical" properties--largely discredited today.