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Gray lace-like perennial easy to grow, reproduce

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Posted: Saturday, June 2, 2012 12:00 pm

By Jann Dworsky

Special to the Daily Herald

A delightful plant I have discovered from my master gardening friends is artemesia. In one year, my first small plant became the size of the hood of a car.

The lacy-like gray leaves make a delightful mound and have a gentle camphor smell. I liked it so much, I planted seven more and they have all done well. These wonderful plants look best beside/in a dark container, or in the foreground of a small dark stand of trees. Other plants with dark leaves, such as lantana, show a good contrast.

Artemesia Powis Castle, or wormwood, is a perennial. It grows 24 to 36 inches tall and should be spaced 4 to 6 feet across. Many of mine are in partial shade, but they also do well in full sun and dry areas. Dave's Garden.com states these beautiful plants have inconspicuous flowers that are sterile and do not mature into seeds. They do not like the acidic soils of East Texas, but prefer our alkaline Bell County soil. They will grow well in sandy or clay soils, too.

Herbaceous cuttings can be made by cutting a stem about 10 inches long and removing all the leaves off the stem except a few tiny ones at the top. Next, take a fingernail and gently scrape the top layer of "skin" away from each node where the leaves were. Put this in a well-drained pot. Keep moist and in the shade for about a month and you will have a new artemesia.

Digging and dividing the root ball also can propagate artemesia. This is the most energetic, but quickest method of having more plants. A large root ball could be divided into two, four or six plants. Plant them in a new location and water for the first season or until they are well established.

If you are not that energetic, you can gently pull an artemesia stem up until you can see under it, and notice where the curve naturally touches the ground. Leave the stem attached to the main plant. Pull the leaves off the stem and gently scrape the layer of "skin" away from the nodes. Dig a 1-inch depression in the ground and ease the stem into the small hole. Professionals have large bobby pin-like devices to hold down the stem, but I usually just take a rock to maintain soil contact. In a month or two you, will have an additional artemesia with roots that you can clip from the main plant and move to the location you desire.

Try this good little, drought-tolerant plant and you will have lots of "lace" in your garden.

Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? Email ask.bcmga@gmail.com.

Become a Master Gardener

Applications are being accepted for the next Bell County Master Gardener class, which starts in January. Download an application at http://txmg.org/bell or pick one up at the AgriLife Extension Office, 1605 N. Main, Belton.

The fee is $250, including all materials. For more information, call (254) 933-5305.

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