Achilleas coming into flower at the back of one of Old School Garden's borders

Achilleas coming into flower at the back of one of Old School Garden’s borders

The bright golden plates of Achillea are coming into bloom in Old School Garden and they look splendid, too. Achillea millefolium is commonly known as Yarrow – a name often applied to other species in the genus which is made up of about 85 flowering plants.

Achillea is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia and a few grow in North America. Achillea can be mat-forming or upright perennials, mostly herbaceous, with sometimes aromatic, pinnately divided or simple and toothed leaves and flattened clusters of small, daisy-like flower-heads.  These heads of small flowers sit like mini helicopter pads at  the top of the stem, the flowers being white, yellow, orange, pink or red. The Achillea is a useful source of food for the larvae of some moths.

The genus was named after the Greek mythological hero Achilles. According to the Iliad, Achilles’ soldiers used yarrow to treat their wounds, hence some of its common names such as allheal and bloodwort. I somehow have the idea that the flower plates are also  reminiscent of Achilles’ ‘burnished shield’ (assuming he had one) and it’s this connection that I’m reminded of whenever I see them.

Some of the species names are:

A. alpina = of the alps or alpine

A. argentea = silvery white, referring to the foliage

A. compacta = compact

A. millefolium = thousand – leaved, the Yarrow or Milfoil

A. mongolica = Mongolian

A. montana = of mountains

A. ptarmica = from the greek ptarmos, meaning sneezing – the dried flowers were once used as snuff, otherwise knownas the ‘Sneezewort’

A. rupestris = growing on rocks

A. santolina = resembles the plant Santolina

A. serbica = of Serbia

A. tomentosa = downy foliage

Achilleas are traditional border flowers valued for their feathery foliage and striking flat, circular heads of flowers throughout the main summer season. They team well with other perennial flowers and are a vital ingredient of a traditional herbaceous border. They are also at home in island beds, cottage gardens and other perennial planting schemes.They look good with Leucanthemum and Kniphofia.

Sources and further information:


How to grow Achillea

Achillea filipendulina

Article by Chris Beardshaw

Quizzicals: answers to the two clues given in Plantax 12…

  • Place in Oxfordshire painted a gaudy colour – ‘Blenheim Orange’
  • Tie up skinny coward – Bindweed

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Bovine stumble
  • Simpler tombola

Special thanks to Les Palmer, whose new book ‘How to Win your Pub Quiz’ was published recently. A great celebration of the British Pub Quiz!

Old School Gardener

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