Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
I want to say a kind word for the astilbe, a too-little planted perennial with ferny foliage and deliciously fragrant plumes of white, pink, or red. Its delicate appearance defies a cast-iron constitution. In the face of a gale-force wind or a hard, driving rain, the plant merely yawns. Deer, rabbits, and woodchucks leave it alone. Indeed, the astilbe is a perfect plant.
Culture: These tourists from the far-East are among the easiest plants to grow. Prepare the soil deeply, and amend it with copious quantities of leaf mold. A three inch layer of mulch is essential for moisture-retention (astilbes loathe dryness). The plants will bloom a little in deep shade, but for bigger and better flowers, permit them a little sun. Most varieties are hardy in zones 4-8.
I am keen on astilbes of all kinds. Bordering a path in the open shade of my Woodland Garden is a colony of ‘Bressingham Beauty,’ which opens its rosey-pink spires from late-June through mid-July. Across the path is a group of creamy-white, maturing-to-pink ‘Milk and Honey’ that blooms from late-July through August. Both varieties grow to a height of 3 1/2 feet.
Why fuss and fret over your rain-ravaged roses or diseased delphiniums? Plant lots of astilbes, and enjoy several seasons of easy beauty. Besides ‘Bressingham Beauty’ and ‘Milk and Honey,’ you can easily find deep pink ‘Rheinland,’ red ‘Fanal,’ white ‘Snowdrift’ and purplish-red ‘Purple Candles.’
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