Sweet Woodruff (Galium odorata)
Sweet Woodruff is a fine low-growing groundcover for shady areas. A perennial plant, it dies back in late summer or fall, but returns again each spring. It is a native of Europe where it was much used in Medieval medicine, and for potpourris. In Germany, fresh woodruff ("Waldmeister") sprigs are steeped in Rhine wine to give distinctive flavor to a seasonal specialty, Maywine. In addition to its dainty spring flowers, sweet woodruff offers soft foliage through most of the summer. It spreads freely and has few diseases or pests.
Size: Sweet woodruff typically grows 6 to 8 inches tall. It spreads as far as it is permitted by means of vigorous creeping rootstocks.
Foliage: Sweet woodruff foliage grows along the stems in pinwheels or whorls of 6 to 8 leaves attached directly to them. Each leaf is narrow, pointed, 1 1/2 inch long and up to 1/2 inch wide. The leaves and stems emit a fresh scent of new-mown hay when crushed. When dried, they have a vanilla-like scent that persists for years. As the growing season progresses the stems become lanky and the foliage turns messy brown and dies back in late summer.
Flowers & Fruit: Sweet woodruff flowers are white, 4-petaled and star-shaped, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. They bloom in May or June at the ends of each stem in loose branching clusters. They have a light, sweet scent.