Lads love to get whiskers; Lad's love can help

I overhead two teenage boys boasting about the many new whiskers that had sprouted on their faces during their summer vacation from school. I stopped short of chuckling out loud, though, because when I was their age I counted my whiskers, too.

Although it was tempting, I also stopped short of suggesting a method that's supposed to hurry their whiskers into sprouting early. According to Mediterranean folklore, teenage boys growing up in villages throughout southern Europe rub onto their faces an ointment of olive oil, rosemary leaves and the ashes of a plant called "lad's love" (Artemisia abrotanum) that is supposed to promote beard growth. Southern European men also make use of lad's love by wearing sprigs of it in their lapels to signal a readiness for romance and matrimony.

Artemisia abrotanum

Also known as southernwood and wormwood, Artemisias are hardy herbs and shrubs that belong to the daisy family. Mostly grown for their ornamental and aromatic leaves, they're native to Asia, Europe and North America.

Lad's love grows 3 feet tall and has finely divided, feather-like, gray-green leaves that have a sage-like fragrance. It also has small, yellow flowers that bloom during this time of year, providing the plants are grown in full sun and in soil that drains freely.

Artemisia's namesake is Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Maybe that's why many southern Europeans still believe there's a connection between Artemisias and romance. After all, what's more romantic than moonlight?

As to teenage boys wishing for whiskers, they should be careful of what they wish for, since shaving and trimming whiskers will soon become a lifelong chore.

On the other hand, I wonder if lad's love might help some of us older guys re-grow our lost hair.

This week in the garden

Our lawn has been "sleeping" (brown and dormant) through much of the summer, due to a localized lack of rainfall. But now that our lawn is greening up, I've noticed newly sprouted weeds are attempting to gain a foothold.

I'll start my fall lawn-maintenance program, then, by removing lawn weeds with herbicides that are safe to apply on lawn grasses when used as directed.

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