Monday, September 24, 2007

Wreaths and Roosters

I was first introduced to Sweet Annie (Artemisia Annua) by a friend who used to groom our dogs. I had taken the "girls" over for a visit and she showed me the swag of Sweet Annie she had hanging on the door. I was struck by it's frothy appearance and fresh, pungent aroma.

Years down the road, when we had our herb shop, one of our annual workshops was a Sweet Annie Wreath. (My sister, Tina, has basic instructions for making an herbal wreath on her blog here.) We planted a big row of it for just that purpose the first year and have never been without it since - although it is no longer in that nice neat row!

One year, it reseeded itself in a patch of Mesclun mix our young son had planted. He proudly cut and served it to us and we were surprised at the bitter taste. The next day we learned what had caused it and also that Sweet Annie has a laxative and vermifuge effect Well, at least no one had worms!

I expect to see it all over the farm now and was surprised today went out to photograph the stand of Sweet Annie that I had been watching all summer. As I got closer, something was odd about it. There's a picture of it to the left.

Those seed heads looked graceful, but certainly not the light, lacey look I expected, in fact they were so heavy the plant was bent over from the weight. I approached and gave the tops a squeeze. What? No scent? Wait a minute... these aren't Sweet Annie!

Nope, after taking an even closer look at the leaves, it turned out that the plants I'd been protecting from my husband's weed whacker ever since we cleaned out the corn patch were just overgrown Lamb's Quarters, gone to seed!

So, on with the hunt... I had gone far afield to avoid an attack by the angry rooster gang that lives at the bottom of the hill, but I was just going to have to brave them to get to the good stuff!

The guy to the right is the biggest bully of the bunch. He leads the attack and is shortly backed up by his lieutenant, a red rooster.

Tina has a pretty funny story about this bunch in her blog here.

But, I digress ... on with the hunt.

So, watching my back, I approached what I was SURE was Sweet Annie and took a nice shot.

You can see how lacey and upright the real stuff is. It's a bright yellow-green and the stems toward the middle of the plant are red. The aroma alone will give it away, but just watch out for those pretenders out there!

When it is ready to cut, the seeds bulk up a bit and the branches really fill in.

To the right is a shot of another patch of Sweet Annie next to a piece of equipment - it's a front end loader that is about 6 ft. tall - so you can see the relative size. It really gets BIG!

I was always surprised when I needed to get out the heavy "loppers" to cut the thick stems (trunks) in the fall.

So, now you probably want to know what we do with this stuff.

Well, this this a wreath I made last year around this time. The whole picture is faded, I'm afraid.

I can describe it to you though. The base is sweet annie with a some pampas grass plumes added in and a bit of blue garden sage. The flowers are the most beautiful hydrangeas - an unusual variety I found in one of our brothers' yard last fall. They were purple and burgundy - just beautiful.

This wreath hangs in our bedroom and I really wanted to plan a color scheme around it.

So, be sure what you are cutting and you may have the makings for a gorgeous, fragrant wreath in your backyard too! Just tying a bunch together with a ribbon makes a nice fall swag for the door.

Just watch out for roving rooster gangs - and don't eat the Sweet Annie!

1 comment:

Tina Sams said...

I smell fried chicken. Or fricasee, roast chicken, chicken ala king, chicken potpie, chicken cordon bleu, chicken kiev, creamed chicken, chicken parmesan, white chili, chicken corn soup, chicken salad. Lots of stuff.