Documents: Regional Gardens (Canada) - West Coast:

Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

February 18, 2007

Whether you call it yarrow or achillea, this is one flower that will grow in any soil and produce some cut flowers that seem to last forever. And if you want something in the flower garden that blooms but needs little or no care, try achillea.

Yarrow grows wild in many parts of California, living well on gravelly banks, hillsides and along with other chaparral plants in many places. Cultivated additions to the family over the last few years have added better plants, additional colors, more long lasting flowers, and even new hybrids that are exceptional.

One hybrid that’s relatively new is called Summer Berries, and it has the best spectrum of colors, including yellow, apricot, cherry, white, pink, cream and some with picotee edges. An older variety, Cloth of Gold, is around five feet tall and has the best flat, almost plate-like flower heads. Another, Cassis, is shorter, around two feet and has cherry red flowers, and Summer Pastels, the progeny of a hybrid has a good range of colors including salmon, scarlet, orange, white, lilac, cream and gold, and is also around two feet tall.

The unusual flowers of yarrow are composed of dozens of tiny florets making a flat head that is held high above the gray-green ferny or toothed foliage. Yarrow is unique with this type of flower, and almost all yarrows can be dried and used for all-year bouquets as well as cut and used fresh.

And yarrow isn’t particular where you plant it and what kind of care it gets. It will respond to a little fertilizer once or twice a year, needs little water after it’s well established and seems never to be bothered by disease or insects. As a perennial, yarrow will start to bloom in early spring, continue to bloom throughout the summer and fall, and then the plants tend to get dry and tattered looking and can be cut back to about two to thee inches to start growing again as spring weather comes along. Plants can also be divided when they get fairly large, and the divided roots can be planted out in another spot in the garden.

Yarrow can be started from seed, and most seed catalogs list one or two varieties. Seed should be started in mid to late spring outdoors, but can be started under controlled conditions, or indoors earlier and then set out when about three inches tall. Since yarrow is a perennial it may be knocked down by heavy frost or freezing where that kind of weather occurs, but will usually live over the winter to start growing as spring warmth arrives.

Good nurseries and garden centers often have started plants in the spring, sometimes in four inch pots, or in gallon size containers, and plants can be set out anytime in the spring through summer.

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