Gardens Ablaze

Yarrow
Achillea Millefolium

If a man is alone in the garden and speaks, and there is no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?

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Yarrow is one of those plants that people either love or hate.  Another of the many members of the Aster family, Yarrow is easy to grow, is quite cold hardy, has nice feathery foliage and big, flat flower heads that bloom for a longer period than most perennials in yellows, whites, pinks and reds. In my humble opinion, Yarrow can be a nice addition to most gardening scenarios, with a few notable exceptions. 

As with other easy to grow, sturdy plants that sprout easily from seed and also spread underground, Yarrow can become quite invasive if it likes its situation, especially in sunny meadows or disturbed areas.  Therefore, if you live near a natural meadow or are in a farm-type situation,  you probably shouldn't plant Yarrow anywhere nearby, because if it takes hold, there will be no stopping it. However, in most home gardens where the gardener is on duty, this type of invasiveness shouldn't occur, unless the garden is abandoned for a long period of time. I have grown  Yarrow (Achilles Millefolium pictured above and below) in my garden for years. The plants have come back year after year reliably and though the plants themselves are a bit bigger than they were originally, I have noticed very little spread.  I like the ferny foliage and airy look of the flowers in late spring/early summer.  Some gardeners complain that the white flowers look "dirty," and indeed they do when they start to decline, but these can be deadheaded to keep the scene crisp and fresh-looking. The picture below is an example of how Yarrow looks planted densely with ferns and other flowering plants and herbs nearby. 

Yarrow is also a fairly valuable medicinal herb that has been used for centuries, and as such makes a nice flowering addition to the herb garden, where it appears to benefit other herbs as far as enhancing production of their essential oils.  It attracts beneficial insects including ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, and parasitic wasps, helping to keep unwanted pests such as aphids in check in the garden. 

Yarrow is an undemanding plant that grows easily from seed, but as with many perennials, it will probably not bloom the first year unless started indoors in late fall or early winter. It is quite cold tolerant and is hardy to zone 3.  It does not like extremely humid climates, and most varieties don't do well past zone 8.  It is not picky about soil and can withstand long periods of drought once established.  It is picky about full or nearly full sun and about well-drained soil, though the soil does not have to be particularly rich. In fact, too rich a soil, too much watering, or too much shade will cause the plant to be less sturdy overall. 

As far as maintenance, I prefer to keep the flowers deadheaded for looks and for bloom that lasts a bit longer.  After the spring/early summer blooms are done, cut the plants down almost to the ground and they will grow back for another show in the fall.  

Yarrow makes a nice addition to cut flower vases and dried flower arrangements.  For harvesting, cut flower stalks when about half the flowers in the cluster have opened and before any have started to fade. Strip all the leaves before adding to the arrangement (note that the leaves have a nice smell).  If you want to keep the Yarrow for dried flower arrangements, just let them sit in the same vase without water until they are completely dry.  Alternatively,  you can obviously hang the stripped stems upside down in a cool, well-ventilated place until dry.  Either way works equally well.

Yarrow has a sweet but slightly bitter taste and is generally safe for ingestion.  Please see the Medicinal and Recipe sections at the top of the page for further information.

Yarrow seeds are tiny, and tiny seedlings sprouted for me in about 4 days with picture below at about 2 weeks.

 

 

 

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