Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

This baby's breath is wild

I'm having a little fun here. Makes me laugh when I read the unofficial names of plants ... like Gallium odoratum or sweet woodruff. Supposedly it's also known as wild baby's breath or master of the woods. Tell me. Is the baby wild? or the baby's breath wild? and are we talking plant or human? Nothing like precision and clarity in garden writing.

This baby's breath is wild

I'm having a little fun here. Makes me laugh when I read the unofficial names of plants ... like Gallium odoratum or sweet woodruff. Supposedly it's also known as wild baby's breath or master of the woods. Tell me. Is the baby wild? or the baby's breath wild? and are we talking plant or human? Nothing like precision and clarity in garden writing.

I write about sweet woodruff because it's up - and, like everything else in the garden this year - very early. And because it's a fantastic ground cover and I'm in the market for some new ones in another part of my garden. This morning I noticed the woodruff out back. After several years of slow to moderate growth, it's taken off, forming a large carpet in a shady corner.

Posters on Dave's Garden, the multi-headed gardening website, have mostly positive reviews of this oldtime perennial herb, which supposedly has a strong scent (I can't tell), is good for drying (one gardener dries stalks of it on her dashboard for a "car freshener," others use it to deter moths, but it's also appropriate for potpourri), and isn't considered deer candy.

There are a couple of gardeners on the site who complain of its invasive tendencies. "Don't plant anything within 100 feet of this stuff!" Well, that (so far) isn't the case in my garden, but sweet woodruff, after a few years, is obviously a vigorous grower. And it grows in all kinds of light - why not take advantage of its liking for shade? Also, its starry white flowers are a delight, the foliage is beautiful and it stays bright green.

So I vote yes.  This may be just the stuff to plant around some new hostas and ferns that will probably be joining the party in my garden very soon. Still deciding what to do.

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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