Astilbe X arendsii

Astilbes have the somewhat artificial look of conservatory plants, but in fact they are quite hardy, and worthy of a place beside a pool with plenty of green round about to soften their hard colours. They are hybrids of several oriental species, providing a colour range of many diffe-rent pinks, reds and white, the flowers growing in handsome plumes in summer from mounds of feathery leaves. ‘Facial’, with intense red plumes, is a favourite cultivar and ‘Venus’ is a good pink. The leaves are usually bronze when young, maturing to mid-green, but in some forms are always bronze, and, being much dissected, look well against plants of more solid foliage, such as rodgersias, hostas, and hart’s-tongue ferns, or with spiky-leaved plants, like the water-loving irises. The skilled plantsman would compose a foliage picture with all these plants, and more. In winter, ‘the stems and seedheads turn a warm cigar brown’ – I quote Mrs Fish, who did not cut her astilbes down until spring.

Astilbes need rich garden soil, either acid or alkaline, but it must be always moist, and naturally moist soil is a healthier medium than dry soil drenched with tap water.

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