New Look Website May 2018

Following a few hitches, I have recently updated the website. I have changed the appearance; the front page shows a photograph of one of the borders at Newby Hall, and the other is the plant of the month.

As previously promised I have added two new links under the page / tab ‘resources’. The first is to the National Garden Scheme of open gardens, under the yellow book scheme within a 50mile radius of Leeds (click here for link). They are listed by month and date. There are direct links to the garden entries on the NGS website.  The second is a link to plant nurseries (click here for link), and again there are direct links to the relevant websites. Any comments and / or suggestions about this list are welcome. The ‘Link’ resource has been updated to include a link to plant fairs (click here for link)

The link to previous newsletters has been moved from the top menu to the events report page /tab (click here for link). I have added a new page / tab ‘Plant of the Month’ to the top menu (click here for link). This month I focus on Astrantias (click here for link). This is very much a personal choice and I have increased my knowledge of the plants that I have included, but I should welcome member’s contributions and / or suggestions, either by email (see contacts page for details, (click here for link) or by leaving a comment on the relevant page.

In various articles and blogs you will see links to the relevant page or post on this website, and to other websites (see paragraph above). I hope members find this useful.

The committee has decided that we will not be publishing newsletters in the future. We hope that members will contribute by posting comments or contributing articles and / or images which I will then post on the website.

This month one of our committee members, Maggie Sugden has emailed me a photo of Abutilon (Vitifolium) x Suntense, which I have highlighted on the front page under the members’ corner (click here for link).

Abutilon (Vitifolium) x Suntense
(Image courtesy of Maggie Sugden)

Our new committee member, Pat Hunter wrote a report of Sally Gregson’s talk on Epimediums. This is available on the front page (click here for link) or under the ‘Events Report’ page / tab (click here for link).

I have written a blog on my experience of helping to put together the display for the recent Harrogate Spring Flower Show. Click here for link.

I should welcome contributions from members about plants that are looking good in their gardens. Please email a photo and short description (contact details page / tab, click here for link).

The committee hope that the website becomes a useful resource for all members. We have also agreed to send out an email to members to alert them to new content on the website.

Jane Orton

Web Manager West Yorkshire Hardy Plant Society Group

Plant of the Month May 2018: Astrantias

Astrantias are one of the star plants of our summer borders, flowering from late spring until late autumn, with a short break in mid-summer. Astrantias have been grown in British gardens since Tudor times. They are natives of central and eastern Europe, growing on heavy damp soil on woodland margins and in meadowland. In the garden they like a well-drained soil that remains moist, and will grow in sun, partial shade and shade. The red-flowering Astrantias are less vigorous and improve with regular division and in well-nourished leaf soil. Astrantias attract bees and other beneficial insects. As an added bonus, they are resistant to attacks from slugs and snails.

Astrantias are members of the Apiaceae family and are umbellifers with a difference. The enclosing involucre of bracts is enlarged to form a ruff, which frames the central umbel of large flowers. They self-seed easily and deadheading after the first flush encourages a second flowering. The exception to this is A. maxima.

There are two main species. The principle species is A. major and has been much selected and hybridised. A. major has white flowers often tinged with pink, and the underside of the flowerhead is a bright green. The leaves are mid-green. A. major subsp involucrata ‘Shaggy’ (AGM) was grown by Margery Fish in her garden at East Lambrook Manor. It has long white bracts with green tips which are shaggy. The original stock of A. major rosea was also propagated by Margery Fish, and has pale pink flowers.

A. major ‘Sunningdale Variegated’ (AGM) is grown for its early spring foliage which is light-green with cream/yellow variegation. The leaves turn mid-green when the stems of white flowers appear. It does best in a sunny position. The variegation of A. ‘Star of Magic’ persists throughout the season. The flowers are pink-red and sterile.

A. major has given rise to a number of dark flowered species, whose colours range from blood red to deep purple and near black. These include A. major ‘Rubra’ which is one of the easiest red- flowered variety to grow, and has pure, deep-maroon flowers and dark green leaves. A. major ‘Ruby Wedding’ is slower to multiply, but when fully established produces dark ruby-red flowers on red stems with reddish, deep-green leaves. A. major ‘Gill Richardson Group’ bears umbels of tiny crimson-red flowers surrounded by prominent red-tipped bracts above dark-green leaves in summer.

The second species is A. maxima (AGM) and is easily distinguishable as it has a three lobed leaf. The flower bracts are also fused, unlike other forms, creating a flower that looks like a small bowl in a lovely soft shell-pink colour. It flowers later than A. major. It increases by runners, not by forming clumps. It will tolerate a drier soil, but ideally prefers a moisture-retentive soil in dappled shade where it will make really large plants quickly.

This species has not produced the same impressive quantity of offspring as has A. major, but there is a deep pink variety called A. maxima ‘Mark Fenwick’. The dark red A. maxima ‘Hadspen Blood’ and deep pink A. ‘Roma’ AGM are thought to be hybrids between the two species. Another hybrid is A. ‘Buckland’ which has flowers with pink centres, and white and green bracts. It is sterile, but repeat flowers.

Plants to combine with astrantias:

  • Achillea
  • Anemone ‘Wild Swan’
  • Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’
  • Aquilegia
  • Campanula
  • Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’
  • Dryopteris
  • Echinacea
  • Geraniums
  • Geums
  • Gillenia trifoliata
  • Persicaria amplexicaulis
  • Polemonium
  • Potentilla
  • Lysimachia atropurpurea
  • Melica altissima
  • Salvias
  • Sambucus nigra
  • Sanguisorba
  • Thalictrums

The National Collection of Astrantias is held by Dr Andrew Ward of Norwell Nurseries.

Page imageAstrantia major subsp. involucrata ‘Shaggy’ AGM (Image courtesy of HPS image library)