Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Y

For this week's ABC post, I had to go back to my summer garden to find something that began with Y and found an old standby . . .

. . . Yarrow, or properly known as Achillea millefolium.

Yarrow is a very easy to grow plant that is drought and heat-tolerant, deer-resistant, and not susceptible to pests. While it may not fit into a formal garden, it blends well in a cottage garden or naturalized areas. Two popular hybrids are the yellow Achillea 'Moonshine' and 'Coronation Gold', but the millefolium hybrids are available in a wider range of colors, including 'Appleblossom,' the pink variety that I have.

Yarrow spreads quickly, although I would definitely not classify it as a thug. I started with two plants that I moved from our old house and planted them next to one of the large landscape boulders that border our driveway.

You can see in this larger view that they have grown to encircle half the boulder. Each spring I dig up extra seedlings and plant them in other areas that could use a spot of color or pass them along to friends. This year I planted some "Homestead Purple" Verbena in front of the boulder, which contrasted nicely with the feathery green foliage and the pink blossoms.

Although Achillea is not a showy plant, it does have some lofty origins. According to Anthony Kahtz' Perennials for Midwestern Gardens, "The genus was named for Achilles...who reportedly used the species millefolium to help heal the wounds of his soldiers. And so a common name of the species used primarily in England is soldier's woundweed."

Some other basic facts from Kahtz:

Hardiness: Zones 3a to 9a

Height:1-2 ft.

Spread: 18 in. to 2 ft.

Season of bloom: Early to late summer.

As the flowers age, their blooms fade, eventually turning brown. They are a popular plant to use in both fresh and dried arrangements. One of these years I'm going to attempt drying some flowerheads, but so far my method of dealing with them is to shear them off once they turn brown. Kahtz mentions that they are tough plants that "can be mowed over and bounce right back." I can attest to that, having a rather mower-happy Husband who likes to get as close as possible to everything so he doesn't have to trim. But I'm guilty, too--as I said, I just shear off the plants once they begin to die back, and before long, green foliage and new blossoms reappear.

Achillea is not my "signature plant" nor my favorite by any means, but it should deserve some kind of an award from me. On my first-ever Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post last March, it was featured as it was the only green emerging in my garden. And it was featured again on my last "real" Bloom Day post in November--"real" in the sense that November was the last time anything was really growing in my garden. Even today, after a month of winter and while a "wintry mix" is falling, there is still some green foliage showing. Definitely one tough plant!

For more ABC posts, please visit Mrs. Nesbitt or the ABC Anthology.


  1. The piece you gave me really took off and grew well. I am looking forward to next spring to see if I can divide it and plant in a couple more places. It is a very low maintainece plant-as in I didn't water after giving it a drink when I planted it. My kind of plant!

  2. Errmmm... I did actually like this plant. Especially the flowers. I mostly am attracted to plants in the road corners that have tiny blooms and yours definitely piqued my interest.

  3. The pink bloom really brings out the pink color in the boulder Rose.

    I have had trouble growing the yellow variety. It never lasts long in my garden. Hmmmmm???

  4. Hi Rose, good choice for the Y, only one to go and I bet I know what that will be! Yarrow foliage is so delicate and yet so tough. I love the thought of Brad Pitt dressing the wounds of his soldiers with it! Ahhh!


  5. Your rose pink yarrow is so beautiful! We had a rainy summer where my 'Moonshine' turned black in spite of good drainage. I cut it off at the ground and hope all survived the wet season.


  6. I can't keep Achillea and it's so frustrating. I have bought pink and the common yellow, but it never survives the winter. I can only assume that it doesn't like my clay soil, which must be cold and wet in winter. Sigh.

    Yours is lovely. I like the foliage as well as the flower.

  7. I like this yarrow. A passalong plant a daylily breeder pulled up from garden and handed to me. It has gone hog wild-even in the shade; which is a perfectly good thing as it is such a stalwart!

  8. Good morning Rose! I love yarrows and always had them in the garden until moving here. I actually do still have a couple of pale pink ones brought here from my last house. There's not enough sun for them here though and they never bloom. The plants get smaller every year. I should really try to find a little patch of sun to move them to before they disappear entirely. They deserve a chance to thrive since they've hung on here for five years in a spot where they're clearly not happy, poor things!

  9. I really like that color. I have Moonbeam and TerraCotta. If I see the pink I'll be sure to get one.

  10. It sonds oike a really useful plant. (Gosh, what great typing - it makes me sound like a country yokel!)

    The pink one next to the boulder is lovely. More rocks, that what we need in our garden. Part of it is quite shady and I haven't got to work on it yet so I'll have to talk nicely - very nicely - to Husband to get him to drag some boulders around for me!

  11. This is a very interesting plant! I wished I had such an easy plant in my garden!Thanks for sharing. Thanks for visiting my blog too. I am also often too tired to play with my grandchildren, but fortunately they are old enough to keep themselves busy. The three Australian grandchildren, whom I don't see often, are 12, 10, and 6.
    My Dutch grandson is 16 he loves computering and uses this computer as soon as he is here.

  12. Great information about this hardy plant. It is the perfect choice for Y.
    To answer your thoughts about Yolo County, Its the Northern part of the states central valley. A lot of agriculture with many types of fruit coming from that area. I live in Placer County which is identified with mining and the Gold Rush.

  13. I think yarrow is a great plant, not my favorite but good to have. The problem is I haven't had much luck with it. I'm sure it has something to do with my wet soils. Maybe I should try some amendments!

  14. Rose ! Yarrow is a perfect post today : ) .. I love the smell of it, when I do a little thinning out and squeeze the stalks a little too much. I am looking for a new variety of shorter sturdier plant .. I have had a few like Summer Pastels, Terra Cotta, Coronation Gold .. they are all very pretty .. I think it has almost become an under-rated plant in a way. So Hello Yarrow by way of Rose and her post ! : )

  15. Hi Rose.....I love Yarrow....unfortunately it does not do too well sort of copes. I will persevere with it because I like it so much.....

    I remember you showing it last year.....a good plant........

  16. Rose,
    I must get me some of this pink variety. I like it much better than the yellow. Thanks for a lovely post which brought it to my attention!

  17. I didn't realize that yarrow could be anything but white or yellow. I love the pink and your photos of it. The winter heading of your blog is beautiful with its snow-laden branches.

  18. I like that. Six months ago I searched everywhere for some yarrow with no luck, and there you are with a garden full of it! Lovely post, and thanks for visiting.

  19. Beckie, Glad yours took root; I'm sure I'll have more to give away this spring if you need any more.

    Chandramouli, They're great plants interspersed with other showier plants. They look like a native plant that would fit in with a prairie planting.

    Lisa, I've never tried the yellow varieties; Kahtz' book said they're short-lived. My pink ones, though, have been around for at least 7 years, though, and every spring shoot up a few new seedlings.

    Frances, I had to think a little bit to get the Brad Pitt reference--"Troy," right? If I'd only known then what I now know about yarrow, maybe I could have been a technical advisor on that film:)
    I bet you know what my Z will be, too!

    Cameron, I haven't had any problem with this variety at all, but I don't think they like wet feet. I do hope yours come back next spring.

    Mean Mom, I don't think they like to be damp, which is probably why yours hasn't lasted. I do like the foliage, too.

    Tina, Yes, it's a great filler. Mine is in full sun, but I'm not surprised it will grow in shade, too.

    Linda, I do hope you can find a sunny spot for them. If they've lasted for five years, they deserve their day in the sun:)

  20. Rose,

    You can't ask for more from a flower then to be easy and bloom a long time! This one surely is all that and more! The white form has been recommended as a lawn alternative and I think I'm going to add it to the 'grass' that's already here. It's described as soft and feathery. Would your Mr mind it growing in the grass;-) gail

  21. Marnie, I don't even remember where I bought my original plants, but until I started looking at my reference book, I didn't know they came in so many colors. I'm just partial to pink.

    Liz, I inherited the boulders; otherwise, I would still be waiting for Hubby to move some in:)

    Reader Wil, My two oldest grandchildren are 13 and 9, and they don't require as much energy from me. But the younger three are 5, 4, and 1 1/2 and full of energy!

    Photowannabe, Thanks for the info! I've only been to L.A. once, and I know California is much more varied than that. I have a cousin living near Danville, and I would love to visit her.

    Susie, According to my reference book, although it will grow in warmer regions, it likes the Midwest the best.

    Joy, I've never noticed the fragrance, but all the articles about it said it was an aromatic plant. I need to check that out this spring!

    Cheryl, I think I've showed it several times before because when nothing else was blooming, it would. I have to give it credit for being so long-lasting and resilient.

    Jan, I'm a big fan of pink and purple in the garden, so I always look for those varieties first.

    Granny, I like the pink the best of all. My header was taken on November 30, our first snowfall, which was beautiful. Since then, we haven't had much snow--just gray, cold days!

    Dragonstar, If you ever travel through central Illinois, I'd be glad to give you a few starts!

  22. Gail, I saw the smaller white variety in my book. My Mr. P would mow right over it:)

  23. Great Y-post.I think I have seen that flower here in Norway too.

  24. They are wonderful hardy perennials for the garden Rose! I have several of the Summer Pastels and the colors range from pink to yellow. I also have a deep reddish pink & peach colored one that I forgot the names of long ago. Great pick for ABC Wednesday, it was nice to see a bit of summer! :)

  25. I love yarrow! Some people pronounce it "YAH-row" but I go with "Yeah-row." (I also lean toward CLEM-uh-tis instead of clem-AH-tis, as it goes.) I think winter is a perfect time to resort to summer photos and activities. I've been meaning to write about a green roof I helped plant last May since... last May. Well, February is lookin' good!

  26. It's always good to visit a blog and find a new version of a familiar plant. I've only seen yellow, orange, red and wild yarrow before.

    And a lovely reminder of the summer to come in the gloom of winter - a great Y Rose!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the parsnip post the other day :)

  27. And so pretty, it makes me wish for summer again :)

  28. Anne-Berit, It's always interesting to me to see familiar flowers growing in different parts of the world. Thanks for visiting!

    Racquel, they are definitely hardy plants! I am ready for anything summery right now:)

    Monica, I'm with you on the pronunciation of yarrow, but I use the other pronunciation for Clematis. Although I've noticed Martha Stewart prefers your way:)

    VP, Apparently there are more varieties of this plant than I realized before doing this post. Parsnips are on my grocery list!

    Suburbia, We're all ready for a change, aren't we? Hopefully, changes for the better:)

  29. How strange to see images of summer. Everything looks so green and delicate. It’s hard to imagine yarrow growing now. Our whole town is covered in snow. We had that nasty wintry mix yesterday too.

    I enjoyed the tour of the Desert Botanical Garden below. It’s fun, but I have to say I prefer nature in the raw and sculpture on its own. You do make me want to go back to visit Arizona, especially when it’s really cold here. Keep warm!

  30. Beautiful post, Rose, especially love the yarrow encircling the boulder. Great eye (Thema? Louise?)

  31. I too can attest to the hardiness of the yarrow and the mower with a mower happy husband....I have the yellow and I like it very much...but I want to get a purple or pink...I just haven't done it yet and it is the ONLY thing left in my garden right now! lovely post...

  32. Yarrow is one of those old stand-bys that we take for granted, but our gardens are so much richer and fuller because of them.

  33. Sarah, I assure you there is nothing green in my garden now except for those few fronds of the yarrow buried under leaves. I'm not particularly fond of modern sculpture, but the glass pieces were beautiful and seemed designed to echo the plants in the Gardens.

    Joey, I decided I'm the Geena Davis role, but now I can't remember her name:)

    Neva, Thanks; it's definitely a tough plant, and I like that it is a re-bloomer.

    MG, Yes, it's not a plant that stands out, but it does look good as a companion or background plant. Right now I'm just happy to see anything green:)

  34. I love yarrow, Rose, but it sure doesn't love my garden. It's the winter wet thing, of course; my clay soil does it in, especially if we have one of those long cold wet springs, which finishes off any bit of crown that might have gotten through the winter. I have two choices, either grow it as an annual--and some of them grow so much in a year that works fine--or don't grow it at all. Sniff. So I suffer a bit from yarrow envy, as I happen to love Terra Cotta, Paprika, and others.
    The only ones that will come through multiple years for me are A. filipendulina 'Gold Plate' and another species with more coarse, light pink flowers, the name of which currently is escaping me.

  35. Rose, you are right on with your description of yarrow. It's not a showy plant in my garden either, but it is very photogenic, as your beautiful photos attest to.


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