Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
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Betony in bloom

 

Betony
Stachys officinalis, S. betonica


Betony in early sources


             Description   Propagation   Cultivation     Harvest

Stachys officinalis,
S. betonica,
Betonica officinalis

Stachys - Spike, referring to the flower 
Officinalis - of the [apothecary’s] workshop 
Betonica - Pliny says betony takes its name from the Spanish tribe that first discovered its virtues, the Vettones; some modern etymologists trace it to early Gaelic bewton (bew, head; ton, good), referring to its use as a headache remedy.

Common names, modern

Betony, bishop's wort, bidny, bitny, kestron, wild hop, wood betony; in Welsh, Cribau S. Ffraid, St. Bridget's comb

Description
Lifespan Perennial
Cold hardiness Z 4-9; hardy to -30 degrees; tolerates light frost
Size 12-20" high and wide
StachysBet.jpgHabit Full, bushy habit; square  stems
Flower of Stachys officinalisFlower Spikes are 1-3" long, deep reddish-purple flowers
Betony leafFoliage Alternate, deep green, wrinkled, elongated heart-shaped leaves are 2-3" long with rounded teeth
Comments Lovely, hardy, durable plant
Propagation Propagate by seed, cuttings, or plant divisions. Easy from seed or by division.
By seed Stratify seed in refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Germination temperature After stratification, grow at 70 degrees during the day and 60-65 degrees at night.
Germination time 15-30 days after removal from refrigerator
Moisture Don't overwater; keep a little dry, rather than too wet.
Light Needs light; barely cover seed.
Cultivation
Soil Prefers slightly acid soil, but grows well in any good garden soil that is well-drained.
Moisture Needs consistent moisture but will not tolerate water-logged site.
Light Sun to light shade; may benefit from some shade where summers are hot and dry.
Natural habitat Meadows and pastures, open woodland
Vigor Long-lived homebody, not invasive
Diseases May mildew in very humid climates
Pests Slugs
Organic approaches to disease and pest control

For mildew:
Milk: Spray with a mixture of 5 teaspoons milk to one cup of water. Repeat weekly, and after rain.

Or:

Baking soda solution: Sir into 2 c. water: 1 t.  baking soda, one drop dish soap, one drop canola oil. Apply in late afternoon when garden is cooler, spray leaves well; repeat after rain.
Or:
Cornmeal tea: Mix 1 c. of cornmeal in 1 gal water; let sit overnight. Strain and spray on leaves of plants; repeat after rain. Use  as a preventative before mildew appears, or when mildew begins. Repeat after rain.

For slugs:
Keep mulch away from base of plants, and compost piles well away from garden.

Set shallow bowls of beer (research has determined that Bud and Michelob work equally well) so that rims are 1” above soil level; slugs will climb in (they love beer).

Ring plants with abrasives -- eggshells, sand, wood ash, hair. Replace after rain or as needed

Harvest
Season to bloom/bear Blooms in mid-summer
Seed collection

Deadhead in summer for repeat bloom; allow to set seed if you will be collecting seed. When flower heads are nearly dry, cut with 8" of stem. Strip leaves off stems; then bag long-stemmed flower heads in paper bags for 2-3 dry days. Shake to loosen seed in bag. Carefully remove seed, let dry in a saucer on the window sill for a few days, then store in paper envelope, labeled with name of plant and the date the seed was gathered. Keep envelope in dry place.

Comments

In my upper Midwest garden where summers are hot and very humid, neither mildew nor slugs have been a concern, perhaps because the betony is growing in a raised bed with excellent drainage. It is a lovely plant, and highly recommended.

 

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