What is Artemisia?
The Artemisia genus (group of plants) contains over 180 different species. They are the namesake of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt, forests and protector of children.
Artemis is said to carry a quiver of silver arrows and many plants of the Artemisia genus have silver foliage, making them perfect for reflecting moonlight.
The Romans renamed Artemis as Diana, and she is also identified as Selene (Greek Goddess of the Moon) or Phoebe (The Bright One, like a shining Moon). From these associations it is easy to see the connection between Artemis and the Moon and Artemisias and Moon Gardens.
A very old herbal text refers to the associations of the Goddess and the genus as follows:
"Of these worts that we name Artemisia, it is said that Diana did find them and delivered their powers and leechdom to Chiron the Centaur, who first from these Worts set forth a leechdom, and he named these worts from the name of Diana, Artemis, that is Artemisias."
~Herbarium of Apuleius
Please note that "worts" is an old term for herbs or plants. Among the 180 species in the Artemis genus are several notable members worth considering in a magickal or moon garden:
- Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris
- Silver King & Silver Queen: varieties of Artemisia ludoviciana
- White Mugwort: Artemisia lactiflora
- Southernwood: Artemisia abrotanum
- Tarragon: Artemisia dracunculus (delicious, dracunculus means little dragon)
- African Wormwood: Artemisia afra
- Powis Castle: Artemisia arborescens cv. (very attractive ornamental that is a cross between true wormwood and southernwood)
- Fringed Wormwood: Artemisia frigida
- Roman Wormwood: Artemisia pontica
- Sagebrush: Artemisia palmeri (a.k.a. San Diego Sagebrush, used for purification)
- Dusty Miller / Old Woman: Artemisia stelleriana (a.k.a. Beach Wormwood, this is a nice temporary fill in for the garden design below when waiting for the perennials to get big. Dusty millers are usually annuals in most areas.)
It is easy to dedicate an entire moon garden to Artemis by incorporating even more of her namesake herbs such as those listed above, and mugwort in particular would be quite appropriate for a Moon garden. In the garden design below, Artemisias are used, but not exclusively. To incorporate more Artemisias, the Russia sage or one of the Wormwood plants could be replaced with Mugwort, and the Lamb's Ears could easily be replaced with Tarragon.
The Artemisias we will be focusing on for this Moon Garden are:
- True Wormwood: Artemisia absinthium
- Silver Mound: Artemisia caucasica or Artemisia schmidtiana (schmidtiana is more common and correct)
Wormwood is a wonderfully magical herb. Growing it near the home will lend great energy to the garden and to your rituals.
Please Note: Taking wormwood internally isn't a good idea, especially without consulting a qualified health care practitioner. One of the active chemicals in wormwood is thujone (C10 H16 O - Mol. wt.: 152.24). This chemical is technically classified as a convulsant and can cause respiratory failure, convulsions and death. Sensitivity to thujone varies greatly from person to person so the dose that you read about as being safe for one person can kill another person. Please be careful and keep away from children. Read the Cautions & Disclaimer before utilizing this information.
You don't need to consume wormwood to feel its magic. Growing it, using it in outdoor incense blends, hanging it in dried flower arrangements and incorporating the leaves into spell bags are all wonderful uses.
There are two primary magical uses for wormwood:
- Protection against negativity, hexes & curses, and psychic attack.
- To attain relaxed mind states, visions, psychic powers, and for divination and "between the worlds" work.
It also has a history of use in love magic.
Again, I emphasize using it externally or utilizing the magical properties by growing it, sprinkling it around the home (away from pets & kids, also repels insects) and by mixing it with other herbs for charm bags, sachets, spell bags, mojos and magical potpourri.
A good dream pillow recipe for having more dreams (sometimes prophetic) and remembering those dreams is as follows.
- 1 part dry marigold flowers
- 1 part dry rose petals
- 1 part dry cinquefoil
- 2 parts dry chamomile flowers
- 4 parts dry wormwood leaves
- 4 parts dry lavender flowers
- 2 parts dry mugwort leaves
- 1 part dry rosemary leaves
- 1 part dry spearmint leaves
- 1 part dry elder flowers
- 1 part dry linden flowers and leaves
- 1 part dry passion flower
Combine all the herbs, stuff loosely into a cloth bag and tuck the bag inside a pillow. If you don't have all the ingredients it is fine, use what you have. They are all designed to work together well but are not dependent on each other. The Lavender & Wormwood are the most essential parts.
Wormwood is an excellent "foil" or backdrop in the garden. The silvery-gray-green foliage of the wormwood harmonizes interestingly with blue and purple flowers.
It is also good in moon gardens, placed where the full moon will reflect on the lighter foliage and move mysteriously in night breezes. For this, it is nice to place white flowers in front of it, such as moonflower, white roses, etc.
It shouldn't get much taller than three feet (1 meter), but may spread to four feet wide or more with age. You can trim it to whatever size you wish and it will get bushier and fuller if you do so. It is grown primarily for its foliage appearance in the garden so don't worry about cutting any flower heads when pruning, they aren't too spectacular.
About every three to five years you may want to divide it or the very center may die out - which can cause a doughnut like ring of wormwood plant with a dead center. To divide a large wormwood, wait until late autumn, then with a sharp spade cut a slice down the center of the plant into the soil about a foot deep. Lift the two halves out of the soil with the spade, replant the halves in their new locations and keep them well watered for a few weeks.
Artemisia Moon Garden
This is a planting combination that works quite well and looks great during the day and on moonlit nights! All the plants work and play well together, favoring similar light, soil and water conditions. This garden looks best from Midsummer to fall here, so anytime after the Solstice, this garden is at its peak. To stretch the season you can plant small bulbs around the perennials, such as grape hyacinth, tulip or day lilies. To fill in the bare spots while you wait for the big plants to grow, try annual dusty millers (Artemisia stelleriana, see the Artemisias list above).
This garden incorporates some repetition to the pattern. Originally the garden began with one of each plant and as they grew and I divided them so the garden has become larger, and more balanced through the repeating specimens.
The bee balm is a purple flowering type such as "Violet Queen" and other hybrid names. Other blue-purple types would work too but the bright red flowering type a bit overpowering for the soft wispy tones of this moon garden.
Artemisia Moon Garden Design by "Friday"
In the design pictured above, there is a line indicator that reads "3 feet apart." This means that the stalk of the plant, or the main root balls are planted 3 feet apart on center, not that the foliage of the plant is 3 feet away from the foliage of the plant next to it. The botanical name of Silver Mound is usually listed as Artemisia schmidtiana instead of Artemisia caucasica as seen in the design picture, but you are in luck! Most nurseries, garden centers and other shops carry silver mound as just that, "Silver Mound" and you won't have to remember any Latin or Greek to find it.