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Artemisia annua, commonly called Sweet Annie is a graceful and sweetly fragrant annual with tall stems with fine bright green ferny foliage. With sweetly fragrant foliage it has a wide variety of uses both medicinal and for handcrafting but is most often grown for fresh and dried cut flower arrangements and for wreath making.
This is a tall, large ferny green plant that branches out like a shrub. It can grow to around 120 to 150cm (4 to 5ft) tall and 60 to 120cm (2 to 4 ft) wide in one year. It makes a graceful accent in the back of a flowerbed or a pretty quick screen, especially behind other plantings in the garden.
The scent is so different that it is difficult to describe accurately many say sweet and fruity, while others say camphor-like. In the garden, place it where you can occasionally brush the plants, as the scent is the biggest reason for growing.
Sweet Annie is a sun lover and adaptable to many soil types. It needs only average moisture and will grow even under quite dry conditions. It is a member of the Asteraceae family and usually flowers between August and September. The flowers are tiny and olive green and can't really be seen unless you look hard. However Sweet Annie is mostly grown for the lovely aromatic scent of the foliage which can fill the whole garden when the breeze rustles it branches.
Sweet Annie has been used for centuries in its dried form in wreaths and other aroma projects. It is one of the best natural air fresheners around. Just wave a sprig of Sweet Annie in the air and it freshens the whole area. The plant, once dried holds both the colour and fragrance very well and will last for years. The stems have scent but moving them around releases a quick burst of scent, all you have to do is gently wave a piece in the air and the aroma bursts forth.
Sweet Annie is one of those things that once you’ve grown it in the garden, you just don’t ever want to be without it.
January to May or July to September.
Sow indoors in spring 6 to 8 weeks before last frost. Seeds can also be sown directly where they are to grow after all risk of frost has passed. Sow thinly and thin out seedlings as required. Remember that this is a large plant so broadcasting the seed is not recommended.
For indoor sowing, fill trays or pots with a good free draining seed compost. Stand them in water to moisten, then drain. Sow the seeds thinly onto the surface and firm into the soil. Do not exclude light or cover the seed as light aids germination.
Place the trays or pots in a propagator or seal container inside a polythene bag until after germination which usually takes 10 to 21 days at temperatures 24°C (75°F). Keep the seedlings moist at all times, remembering to water the soil only and keep water off the leaves.
Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow on in cooler conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
It self-seeds easily when happy, so harvest the whole plant if you don't want seedlings. Otherwise, leave one or two branches at the base of a plant to set seed, this will ensure a good supply of seedlings for next year’s harvest.
In late summer, watch for the development of ‘beads’, the tiny yellow flowers in loose panicles along the branches. That’s when you’ll have that distinctive aroma. If the branches are cut too soon, they will be of poor quality, so wait until the blossoms open, giving the plants a yellowish cast. Harvested at this time, the plant will dry to a nice medium green and will gradually turn golden brown over time.
The main stem will have become thick and woody by harvest time, and you’ll need a heavy pair of lopping shears to cut it. Cut the top 60 to 90cm (2 to 3ft) off the plant and then cut the remaining branches off the main stem.
Group the stems into handful-size bunches and wrap a heavy rubber band around the stem ends several times to secure them. Hang the bunches in a warm, dry, dark location with good air circulation, garage or attic rafters are ideal. Leave it hanging for as long as it takes to dry. This might be anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the weather conditions, When the centres of the bunches feel completely dry, hang them in a dry place to store them or place them in a cardboard box.
Sweet Annie’s most common home use is in crafts. It works well as a base material in wreaths and swags, and it’s an excellent filler in bouquets and arrangements. Long branches can be used whole or broken into smaller pieces, depending on the size of the arrangement. Its fragrance makes it a good addition to potpourri and sachets.
Handling dried sweet Annie can generate quite a bit of dust, but this will be minimised if you mist the branches with water before you start to work.
The fragrance of sweet Annie is more pronounced during humid weather. Some people like to hang a bunch in a bathroom, where the damp air will release the fragrance.
In the Middle Ages, Europeans would strew the dried foliage around their chambers as an air freshener and moth repellent. It was also thought to counteract many poisons as well as plague. Crumbling the dried herb over a carpet before vacuuming is another way to enjoy its sweet scent.
Artemisia annua has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for decades in the treatment of many diseases. The earliest record dates back to 200 BC, in the ‘Fifty-two Prescriptions’ unearthed from the Mawangdui Han Dynasty tombs. It is called qinghoa and used for the management of fevers and bleeding, for conditions of the digestive tract like flatulence and diarrhoea and for skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
Its antimalarial application was first described, in Zhouhou Beiji Fang ‘The Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies’, edited in the middle of the fourth century by Ge Hong. In this book, 43 malaria treatment methods were recorded. In modern allopathic medicine, a chemical component of this plant has shown astounding activity in the treatment of malaria. This constituent is a sesquiterpene lactone called artemisinin and it appears to kill and inhibit the growth of malaria-causing protozoa like Plasmodium falciparum.
Both Sweet Annie and Absinthe Wormwood were sometimes used to flavour beer before the Bavarian Purity law dictated that only hops, barley and water could be used in beer.
Sweet Annie is used in tea from leaves and flowers dried or not. But is anything but sweet, it's fairly bitter and medicinal tasting, and most people would dislike it.
Artemisia species provide a wonderful range of greens from baby's breath to nettle green.
Artemisia annua is native to southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and Iran. It has found throughout the world, especially in temperate zones at altitudes between 1000 and 1500 meters.
The genus name artemisia ultimately derives from the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman Diana), the namesake of Greek Queens Artemisia I and II. A more specific reference may be to Artemisia II of Caria, a botanist and medical researcher who died in 350 BC. The genus includes over 400 plants, including the delectable herb tarragon.
Artemisia II of Caria, a botanist and medical researcher who died in 350 BC. She was the sister, the wife, (yes, that is correct) and the successor of Greek/Persian King Mausolus.Because of her grief for her brother-husband, and the extravagant and downright bizarre forms it took, she became to later ages "a lasting example of chaste widowhood and of the purest and rarest kind of love", in the words of Giovanni Boccaccio. In art she was usually shown in the process of consuming his ashes, mixed with drink. To perpetuate his memory she built at Halicarnassus the celebrated Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and whose name subsequently became the generic term for any splendid sepulchral monument, the word mausoleum.
The specific name annua is Latin and means year or annual and refers to the annual biological cycle of this plant.
Common names include Sweet Annie, Sweet sagewort, Sweet woodworm, and Chinese woodworm and is called Qing Hao in China.
The name Annie is used as a pet form of Anne and Anna and means gracious, full of grace, gentle towards others.