So much going on in the garden, there’s no time to write about it. But my friend and fellow Loreblogger, Nan DeGrove, was waxing poetic the other day about how the sweet woodruff is beginning to bloom and I suddenly remembered that a few years ago and for years before that I made May wine, a practice that was begun in the 13th century, no doubt by monks. In Germany, sweet woodruff is called Waldmeister, or “master of the forest,” and is considered a “humble, shy” herb because of the way it hides in shade and creeps along the ground. Yet it is so spectacular, so beautiful, so welcome as new green, it’s hard to imagine that sweet woodruff is in the least bit bashful (maybe just coy).
Maiwein is simply made by infusing the woodruff leaves in a Riesling, leaving it for anywhere from an hour to a week, then mixing the infused Riesling half and half with German sparkling wine called Sekt, champagne or Proseco, tossing a strawberry into the glass and garnishing with the pretty little woodruff flowers. You drink in the fragrance of fresh-cut hay, trimmed with the scent of vanilla. Chilled.
It also makes a lovely, aromatic tea, but who needs tea in the Merry Months of Spring?
When you’re not imbibing for the fun of it ─ or while you are ─ you can make wreaths and sachets with sweet woodruff, as the Elizabethans did, or you can use the herb medicinally as a calmative (mix it dried with water, not wine), a diuretic, diaphoretic and antispasmodic. Good, they say, for heart and liver, combating jaundice and healing wounds. What more could we ask of any plant?
Oh, there’s this, too: sweet woodruff’s stems and leaves, mordanted with alum, make a tan dye, while the roots make a red one.
I’ve been in the garden for two days straight — no time at all compared to others, I know. I’ve been weeding, working on the borders, and adding trellises I found at the recycling place made from old window panes (for hops, maximillion sunflowers, woodbine and roses mostly). I’m neglecting everything I can possibly ignore about the rest of my life.
And watering. In mid-April. For which I feel horrible. Despite being a woodland creature, trying to garden in Colorado, on the high, dry plains, I like to “obey” the weather and the seasons and avoid overusing water if I can. If there are dry patches, so be it, they customarily have not lasted too long (if you don’t count the ten-year drought that ended ten years ago).
Not that I don’t water. I absolutely do. Nevertheless, I try to be modest about it and I’ve noticed that many of the normally water-hungry plants in my garden ─ even hosta and vinca ─ have given in and become more or less xeric. I have no lawn and the grass I do have on the paths gets nothing but the runoff.
Alas. Global warming is upon us. The hottest recent years on record. And getting hotter. There’s been so little water and almost-summer weather since February. It is indeed “pleasant” (as so many like to say to my utter irritation). It is also deeply disturbing. The plants are gasping with thirst and I’m afraid at least one of my roses has expired, while a couple of others seem alarmingly desperate.(Nan also notes that one should never give up on resurrecting roses!)
Off now to get that comforting Reisling.