Sweet gale is an aromatic shrub with a round habit, usually forming tickets or groups. The soft, green leaves are particularly attractive, especially in the spring. It is dioecious with male and female catkins on separate plants; the fruits are small, waxy and aromatic nutlets. It is very suitable for naturalizing and shoreline restoration projects, or on the edges of a large pond; it adapts to a variety of soil conditions due to its nitrogen fixation properties.
Other uses: Sweet gale has been widely used in Europe since a long time: catkins and cones boiled in water yielded a wax for making scented candles; the leaves were used to perfume linen or prepared in a strong decoction to kill insects; the bark for tanning calfskins and as a wool dye. Before the hop introduction, it was used to flavour the beer, and even today is still used in the northern countries in schnapps and local beers.
Germination: a bit difficult because of the waxy seeds but it has been proved that the main requirement for germination is actually extensive light exposure (explained as a mechanism of preventing germination under conditions unfavourable for seedling establishment). For best results: remove the waxy coating by washing the seeds and follow with moist-cold stratification 1 month. Thinly sow on top of the mix; it requires a period with 16 hours light/day for germination; therefore, sow under lights or in late spring outdoors.