Some plants in our gardens tend to get taken for granted. They are not obvious star turns but it would be unkind to think of them only as the back row of the chorus.
Every now and then a chorus member is singled out for stardom and that can happen in the garden as well. For me, that is the case with astrantia, commonly known as Hattie’s pincushion or, rather less romantically, great masterwort.
The plant originally hails from central, southern and eastern Europe but over the last few years the plant breeders have been doing their bit to produce a range of cultivated varieties in colours that fit in every garden.
By nature, astrantias love rather damp soil but they are obliging enough to cope with almost any garden soil, including mine, which is on the chalky side.
They make self-supporting rounded clumps around 18in across and 2ft high and if you are looking for a classic filler, you simply could not do better.
But there I am, damning it with faint praise. Last year
I decided to plant up a long, narrow border with a host of astrantias and this year it is coming into its own.
Time was when most varieties you could lay your hands on had greenish white flowers but now the range has been extended and there are several good pinks and a host of rich crimson shades such as ‘Claret’ and ‘Hadspen Blood’, wonderful names that are fully deserved when you see the colour of the starry flowers.
The flowers are carried throughout the summer and into autumn in flushes.
They are good for picking and the plants themselves look well in beds and borders with hardy geraniums. Sun or shade?
It really does not matter provided they do not become too dry at the roots. If you have light soil they will be happiest in the shade where bright sunshine will not send them searching for moisture.
Try any variety you can get but ‘Shaggy’ is a good, large-flowered, greenish-white variety, while ‘Penny’s Pink’ has pink central flowers surrounded by that classic ruff of…