Lavender Cotton – Santolina
22.01.2024 - 21:21
/ Frederick Leeth
I think that one of the best things about gardening is that when I am weeding or planting or pruning, I worry a great deal less about losing my mind. The seeds of insanity, or at least confusion seem to lurk indoors-—in the stuffed-full file drawers, the paper-strewn desk, and the Everest-like laundry pile. If I do not get out into the garden for at least a few minutes every day, those seeds tend to take root and the green shoots of chaos quickly establish themselves in my mind.
I was restoring my sanity in the garden a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed the green santolina (Santolina virens) that I planted last summer in one of my sunny back beds. It was flourishing at a time when more timid plants were just beginning to poke tentative shoots out of the ground.
Santolina, sometimes known as lavender cotton, is an old-fashioned herb, native to the Mediterranean. It has been used in American gardens since colonial days, and was appreciated in Europe long before that. Many of the old herbals tout its properties as a “vermifuge”. Fascinated by the word, I turned to the dictionary and found that a vermifuge is a concoction taken internally to expel parasitic worms. It is reasonable to suppose that it is not used much anymore for this purpose.
Fortunately for the continued popularity of santolina, the plant has numerous other sterling qualities. For one thing, the finely dissected gray leaves of Santolina chamaecyparissus (the most common variety that is commercially available), and the green leaves of Santolina virens are pleasantly aromatic. You can put them in your linen closet or sweater drawer and rest secure in the knowledge that moths find the odor unappealing. One of the santolina species, Santolina ericoides,
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