Not all Achilleas are golden, but one of the more famous ones is, “Coronation Gold“. I have grown several types and I think they are all useful and attractive in the garden. The one thing that Achilleas seem to need is sun, which you get in prairie conditions. Let me introduce you to several of the Achillea family, also known as Yarrow, and maybe you will invite some to live in your garden.
The best known of the family is Achillea filipendulina. Like most, this one has a flower form called a corymb, “in which the flowers form a flat-topped or convex cluster, the outermost flowers being the first to open.” To me, they simply look like little plates with tightly packed golden yellow flowers. this plant grows fairly tall, so best situated mid to back of your garden bed. I planted the Coronation Gold for two reasons, one was the interesting effect of the flat floating plates of bloom in the perennial garden, and two for dried flower arrangements. These are premier flowers for drying, they hold their color exceptionally well and dry to nice stiff flowers on their own stems. It has good, green foliage, but nothing to write home to mother about- the flowers are the main attraction.
Achillea filipendulina: Grows 36-48 in, in full sun, regular moisture, Mid Summer bloom
The A.filipendulina is divided for more plants, grows on ordinary garden soils, and normally like regular moisture, although it will tolerate drought. Reputed to be deer resistant, it was a denizen of the old time herb gardens, and was native to Eastern Europe. This Achillea was used as a dye plant, and along with other achilleas, also used for stanching wounds. In fact, the name was bestowed in honor of Achilles, who reputedly used yarrow to treat the wounds of his fellow soldiers.
Branching is encouraged if you cut the flowers, so freely cut them for drying, flower arranging, and to remove the spent flowers. Another plant that behaves this way is the Threadleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata, which makes a lovely companion with its answer of bright yellow bloom in a daisy form. Grow them together and cut lots for bouquets!
Many famous gardeners especially liked the paler named version, “Moonshine”, due to its smaller stature and lemon colored blooms. This color blends more easily within perennial plant combinations.
From my own experience Achillea filipendulina is easy to grow, but with crowding and partly shaded conditions you are likely to lose it. Its relative A. millefolium, or Milfoil, is better suited to crowding in among other plants. In fact, it may become too comfortable and at home in the garden, although I have never found it invasive in my somewhat dry conditions. It does reseed itself.
Achillea millefolium: Grows 1-3 feet, in full sun, moderate moisture, zones 4-8, many color varieties
Achillea millefolium has a very finely divided leaf, and the newer varieties provide an array of earthy “Arts and Craft” type colors. Good for drying, but doesn’t hold it’s colors as well as the filipendulina. I would always include this in a stand of prairie type flowers, it mixes well with daisies, and Black-eyed Susans. The leaves are grayish green in color and the flowers tend to be pale, the whole plant is aromatic, with a distinctive, not unpleasant smell.
black eyed Susans
I grew the ‘Summer Pastels Series‘ from seed and was happy with the result, although the colors were mainly the light yellow for me, with a few pinks. They have survived neglect in my garden. Next, I think I would most like to try the ‘Galaxy‘ hybrids, with their delicious looking colors. Achillea featured in these posts:
There is a garden worthy achillea that breaks the mold in look and growing conditions, ‘the Pearl’, Achillea ptarmica. The leaves are described as “lance-linear, sessile, acuminate and serrate”. Like a large version of Baby’s Breath (Gypsofilia), this will tolerate part sun. It is an exceptional cut flower, though I like Gypsofilia better for dried flowers. This one turns a bit brownish for me when dried, although reputed by others to have good white retention. I keep losing the plant when it gets too dried out, so I don’t think it is as good for xeriscaping as the other Achilleas, but that may just be due to something I did as a gardener! Do try it out, since it has a very lovely way of blending other plant colors and is easy to grow. Some perennials just need to be renewed occasionally, so maybe this is one? I grew the double flowered form. It can get a bit sprawly looking, but in the cottage or informal garden that is not a shortcoming, at all.
Achillea ptarmica grows 1.5 to 2 feet, full or part sun, not good for wet sites, late summer bloom
Called Sneezewort, it was added to oldtime “snuff”. Grow this one in the cut flower garden.