Friday, June 18, 2010

Introducing into the Garden: Sweet woodruff

Now this is the stuff that I was really after at my mom-in-law's place! (Thanks's mom!)

I have been lusting after more fun (and free herbs) and an herb that act as a groundcover, is rumored to be a bug repellent, and will work in the shade, and is commonly used in wine? Totally there.

This is a hard herb to come by (at least in my area) and when I saw that it was being sold at a local garden store I sorely wanted to buy it, but no, no, no my plant moratorium was still in place.  I remembered vaguely in the recesses of my mind that my MIL had mentioned having it at some point and I fired a quick email to her before leaving for her place a couple of weeks ago to ask if she still had it.

YES SHE DID, and it was now taking off too. (And she was willing to share) Excellent....

The patch of sweet woodruff my MIL donated to me was ginoromous (ginorous=1.5ft diameter).  I hadn't expected so much, but she wanted to help get me started, so I am one lucky garden nut!

Unfortunately as I was receiving the herb later in the year, I think missed I missed its glorious flowering that I read occurs in late spring/early summer.  Granted there still might be time for it to flower, but after moving it and chopping it up I won't blame it for giving me the finger and deciding to settle down and root up rather than flower out.   

Sweet woodruff, or Galium odoratum is well known in German culture for its use in maiwein or also known as maibowle where the dried sprigs of the herb are soaked in white wine for hours to days in some cases giving the wine a heady vanilla, honey herbal note. Sweet woodruff's aroma is only perceptible and useful in wine (and other food items commonly found in Germany apparently) when dried.   Trust me, I crushed some up fresh in excitement and that was a letdown.

Apparently sweet woodruff contains a natural sedative, but also coumarin (which is probably part of the source of the sweet scent of this herb), so it is important to not over consume sweet woodruff because it can result in headaches and coumarin can be an anticoagulant.

Dave's Garden reviews seem to give sweet woodruff relatively good ratings from gardeners, though some people cite some invasiveness, though others apparently enjoy that slight invasivity.  This could be the reason why Germans also give sweet woodruff the name waldmeister, or "Master of the Forest."

It is hardy from zones 5-8 and I'm excited to learn too that it is also partially evergreen so it will provide some green during the winter months.  Beyond flavors/odors and medicinal things, the plant physically is very interesting too.  I find the new leaves coming up from the center of older leaves and stems forming in the center as well to be very fun to look at.  The flowers appear to be cute things and no work flowers makes me a happy gardener.

My new sweet woodruff has been halved ( as it was nice and large) and is experimentally being placed in two locations.  One location is in full shade, keeping the lungwort company in a microclimate underneath some holly bushes where this is ample moisture from leaf mold/cover/mulch.  The other half is in part sun with my mature oregano plants and I think as long as I keep my oregano bushy, and not too rambly when I do get lazy, the Galium will be happy and stay above the oregano at its expected foot tall height as long as I make sure I keep the moisture level good.

The following links provide recipes for maiwein and other random information I might not have covered about Galium odoratum as well as pics of it in flower that I don't have personally (yet!):