If anyone were to ask me what my favourite plant in the garden I would have to say Astrantia. I bought my first one from a local farmers market from a stall that specialises in unusual perennials. Just my cup of tea.
I was taken by the delicate papery star shaped flowers, which are, in fact, bracts that protect the tiny flowers in the centre. These dainty central flowers give rise to the common name of Hattie’s Pincushion. They are also sometimes known as Masterwort and their natural habitat is damp meadow edges or woodland so they like to be planted in moist soil and are happy under the shade of trees. Mine are in a mixed border crowded in with Hostas, Lily of the Valley and Euphorbia.
They create a dense dome of leaves early in the spring and flowers rise from the greenery around May and carry on flowering through the Summer. They then dry on the plant and stand tall quivering their seeds to the ground whilst still looking stunning right into Autumn. The first Astrantia I bought was a white one, tinged with green, I don’t know it’s name as the plant tag has long since been lost. Then I found a very pretty dusky pink one and I have now added a deeper red version too. As well as looking good in the garden the flowers are lovely mixed with others in a vase and they also dry well if you like that sort of thing.
Astrantias are very easy to look after and don’t seem to get eaten by slugs. Just chop down the stems and leaves late in the Autumn and they will repay you by growing bigger each Spring. If you see one at the nursery or garden centre this weekend they will be just coming into bud.
-- Claire Sutton