Still green

Today I worked on the perennial/alpine/small stuff garden on the north side of the house. This section of our yard is over the septic field, so I chose non-edibles with small, uncomplicated root systems for that location. I flunked the “root” test by planting a ground sand cherry here almost a decade ago and by the time I got wise to its evil, septic-tank-clogging ways the trunk caliper was 4″ and its root system was immense. Digging it out was a nightmare.

After that I thought I was being very conservative with my plant choices for this garden: daylilies, heaths and heathers, varieties of sedum and geraniums, candytuft and anise hyssop.  Today while cutting stalks and mulching for the winter I noticed that the Sweet Cecily (Myrrhis odorata) had spread to a dozen new plants – it’s easy to see this time of year because it’s still green and ferny after the frost.  I dug some out to transplant and surprise! A very impressive root system.

Cecily, or Sweet Cecily, is a member of the family Apiaceae and the only species of the genus Myrrhis. There is a North American relative, but my plant is the variety native to Central Europe. The leaves stay green and fresh almost all year round and the whole plant is highly fragrant of annis. The unripe seeds can be offered as an after-dinner mint, the dried leaves make an excellent mothproofing sachet, the root – along with dill and caraway, is used to flavor akvavit. It would probably make a nicely flavored vodka, too, if it wasn’t growing over the septic tank.

I’ve transplanted six “daughter” plants around the yard, and next year I may try flavoring vodka for Christmas lunch, when the Swedes say the herb “helps the lutefisk swim down to the stomach”. Skål!




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