Continuing my project of photography-derived botanical art. This is Artemisa douglasiana (Mugwort), a California native.
This California native mugwort, here growing in a container, is happy after this year’s wet winter. I acquired a couple of specimens last summer, and they looked pretty rangy during those dry months. Like many native plants, mugwort is pretty resilient, tolerating shade and aridity up to a point, but in nature it favors moist locations.
It’s an underappreciated perennial plant for the garden. While top leaves are whole, lower leaves are lobed in a sharply jagged cleft pattern. The evenly-spaced leaves are dark green above and silvery (and a little wooly) below. The plant is aromatic, especially when the leaves are crushed. It attracts butterflies and birds, and is said to be deer resistant. Stems grow erect from runners (which are not too difficult to control); some sources say they get to six feet tall, but I have never seem this plant above about three or four feet. Flowers (summer to fall) are insignificant.
Artemsias are in the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. Artemisia douglasiana is sometimes classed as Artemesia vulgaris var. douglasiana, but it is much more bitter and strongly flavored than the European mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) referenced in many herbals. (There is also a Korean variety, which is closer to the European than to this native California mugwort.)
Also known as Dream Plant, the leaves of mugwort contain some of the same substances (notably thujone and cineole) as those of another Atemisia, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). When smoked or drunk as a tea, they are said to produce vivid dreams, and to ward off the spirits of the dead. Native Californians sometimes wore mugwort necklaces for protection against such spirits. In the European tradition it was held that pillows stuffed with mugwort could reveal one’s future in dreams. One herbalist calls mugwort “ the star of any dream pillow.” A reference more to my taste is “The Natural History of Orange County, California and Nearby Places,” which cites several print sources.
At the Watershed Nursery in Point Richmond we picked up several California natives that we will be trying out in the garden. We also got a few nonnative plants from the nearby Annie’s Annuals. Stay tuned for updates on how these do. Here the new plants — in the black containers — are in an area near the house that gets the most attention. (The large ceramic containers contain three kinds of figs.) The new plants (nonnatives marked with asterisks) include:
Artemisia douglasiana (Mugwort)
Asclepius cancellata (Wild Cotton) *
Atriplex leucophylla (Beach Salt Bush)
Camissonia cheiranthifolia (Beach Primrose)
Cunonia capensis (Butterknife Tree) *
Datura wrightii (Sacred Datura)
Fraxinus latifoloa (Oregon Ash)
Malva assurgentiflora (Island Mallow)
Mimulus aurantiacus (Sticky Monkeyflower)
Monardella villosa (Coyote Mint)
Plantago subnuda (Tall Coastal Plaintain)
Ramnus California (California Coffeeberry)
Salvia melliflora (Black Sage)
Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)
Sambucus nigra (Blue Elderberry)
Scrophularia california (California Bee Plant)
Stipa pulchra (Purple Needlegrass)
Tanecetum parthenium aureum (Golden Feverfew) *
The Watershed Nursery, a cool place specializing in California Native Plants (reasonably priced), is located near the intersection of 580 and Richmond Parkway:
Our garden lies in what Sunset calls “one of Northern California’s finest horticultural climates.” We are located in an area of wet mild winters and dry mild summers — a Mediterranean climate zone. It’s region with unique challenges and opportunities. I love gardening here.
Approaches to gardening are strongly determined by scale. Our garden is a small family garden. Its core was formerly a swimming pool. Often we might be growing just a single plant in a container, or a handful of plants, where a larger-scale gardening operation might be planting long rows of crops. Over time we have adjusted to find the right balance for our home garden.
All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over, turn it over
wait and water down
from the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through
Sift down even
Watch it sprout.
A mind like compost.
— Gary Snyder
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