A is for allium, anenome, aster, astilbe and aubretia

Today’s the first day of my month-long ‘post-a-day’ challenge, in which participants must write a daily post for every letter of the alphabet. We’ve a number of flowers in the garden that begin with ‘a’ though some are more prolific than others. Working out the logistics for this challenge (I’ve entered it for artyfarty.ie too, so please feel free to take a gander over there for a-z entries on arts and craft in Ireland), I realized we’ve planted pretty much the alphabet, with the exception of Q, X, Y and Z.

Sorry it's out of focus, but the dark purple blob in the top right hand corner is the allium.

Sorry it’s out of focus, but the dark purple blob in the top right hand corner is the allium.

See? Do those leaves not look like weeds to you?

See? Do those leaves not look like weeds to you? I’m more careful when weeding now, so hope for more this year.


This is extremely easy to grow and self-seeds to produce ever-bigger clumps of the tall umbels every year. The ‘purple sensation’ looks great with fiery orange wallflowers or with red double early tulips. It’s an ornamental version of an onion flower, looks wonderfully structural in cut flower arrangements and even its skeletal seed head looks interesting once the flowers have died back.


Keep friends close, anemones closer. 🙂 Supposedly easy to grow, these haven’t really thrived here. Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that, thinking its foliage looked like weeds, I wrenched it out in a frenzy more than once. I was given a box of mixed seeds so it’s a lucky dip in terms of color every spring.


Feathery astilbes

Feathery astilbes

Asters in autumn

Asters in autumn





Many of us Irish gardeners opted for the pretty autumn-flowering daisy-like aster because of its name: Little Carlow (which is a county in the midlands here). In fact, I’ve just learned from the Irish Independent it’s a mix of two American asters: the New York one with vivid flowers and the other with heart-shaped leaves with big sprays of little white flowers. It brightens September to October borders with happy clumps that look well as an understory for something dramatic, like tall spiky flowers or foliage. It just doesn’t clump happily here…I tried it in the front beds and it could have come to the same fate as the anenomes (have I mentioned I’m paying more attention to foliage these days?).



I’ve seen some lurid versions of these that look as if they’ve Tangoed (to borrow from an ad campaign), or henna-ed by a punk, but they’re often pastel, feathery spires that do well either in sunny or half-shady beds. These too are lovely as cut flowers, as even when they turn brown, the silhouette looks good with roses, say, instead of gyp (baby’s breath).

There’s another wild flower in Ireland that’s not related, but looks something like astilbes. It can be found throughout forest walks and damp shady environments: meadowsweet. Tall, with breathy, delicate flowers, and sweetly scented, meadowsweet is also the basis for a herbal remedy for aches and pains.


Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 09.29.54aubretia

These are a remnant from Mammy’s time in the garden, they’re the ones that sprout up every five minutes when you’re not looking. Stamp them out, I say.

(Hers are pink, rather than the mauve shown here, and there are more characteristic reminders of her everywhere.)

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