Yarrow or Achillea millefolium is a reliable but kinda plain-Jane flower that’s easy to take for granted. That is, until you notice it used skillfully – as I did in the garden of U.S. landscape designer Barbara Katz on the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling. Wow, I thought, looking at the vignette above, Great colour echo between the Echinacea and coleus.
And, oh. There’s yarrow!
Has that happened to you? Like when I was pregnant, suddenly noticing aaaaaaa-ll those other pregnant women. Since visiting Katz’s garden, as I archive old garden pics or walk around looking at plants, it’s suddenly, Oh. There’s yarrow!
This is a tough little plant. Long blooming and drought resistant, it probably deserves to be noticed more often. We might dismiss the white, weedy, wild yarrow (there’s disagreement whether or not it’s native to North America; some say yes. Wandering Botanist Kathleen Keeler has an interesting article here). The cultivated kind now comes in more and more colours. Yes, it can sprawl and get greedy for space. But, gee, it makes a nice filler. And pollinators love it.
I turned up many “taken for granted” yarrow pictures in my archive including ones from VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver (bottom left) and from Westwind Farm on the 2014 Portland Fling (bottom right). All attention went to the glorious reds in both gardens. But the pink and white yarrows clearly add to each picture.
Unless massed, yarrow isn’t a scene-stealer, unlike its many cousins in the great big daisy family (Asteraceae). But in the garden theatre, it can make a great supporting player – or an extra to flesh out the crowd. (Click any picture for the slideshow, and sharper images.)
Revisiting this shot of Wouterina DeRaad’s garden (lower left) I said, you guessed it: Oh. Oh! There’s yarrow! The yarrow-blinders have fallen from my eyes! This year, I even noticed my local Business Improvement Association had swapped the traditional annual baskets on street tree planters for hardy perennials like you-know-what.
In our local parkette, the yarrow below is pinkest when it first opens, maturing to white. It gets a bit of afternoon shade, so stretches by late July as it reaches for more light. But it was compact when this was taken a few weeks ago. Millefolium, meaning “thousand leaves,” comes from the look of the greyish, fern-like foliage.
Not all yarrows are shy and retiring. One of the showier forms is tall, sturdy, yellow Achillea x ‘Moonshine’. Deadheading can encourage more blooms in all yarrows. But this one also makes a good show if left to dry at the end of the season. The photo below was taken in September at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.
[As I hit “publish” I realized we have the shortest post title ever! But I’ve decided to leave as-is, because this modest plant probably doesn’t want to be embellished.]
What do you think about yarrow? If you use it (or hate it) tell us how (or why). We love to hear about our readers’ experiences.