Mugwort. Wormwood. Sagewort. One doesn’t conjure up attractiveness when hearing the common names given to Artemisia, but I think Artemisia x ‘Powis Castle’ is a beautiful plant with its silvery grey, feathery leaves and its camphor-like aroma.
Powis Castle does extremely well here in the Phoenix area year-round, and can grow into a three-foot mound in one season. It is great in containers, especially when combined with anything purple or orange in color, and it is good as a border or to fill in flowerbeds when nothing else will grow in the heat of summer. I also like using it standing alone as a specimen plant, as shown in the photo. Because it is evergreen in this climate, I prune Artemisia in late winter to maintain its bushiness and size. It does have a tendency to become woody as it matures, so pruning is a necessity.
Artemisia is not often suggested for Arizona gardens. Many think it looks too delicate amidst the boulders, gravel, and cacti that dominate desert landscaping. Used extensively years ago in Victorian gardens, it may seem more suitable for verdant landscapes, but I think it softens some of the strong elements that make up Southwestern gardens and fits right in with the cacti and rocks.
Artemisia, considered an herb, has been used throughout history for a variety of things from a moth repellent to the flavoring in vermouth, but I don’t plan to put it to work anywhere but in my garden. On second thought, I might make some potpourri. I’ve always liked the smell of camphor.