It’s Guy Fawkes Day, so planting a flower that resembles miniature fireworks is quite befitting. Check out astrantias below. The flowers look delicate, but the plant is hardy, able to fend off even our harshest winters.
Astrantia major is a clump-forming perennial that flowers in summer. The blooms resemble tiny starbursts: pincushions of flowers surrounded by ruffs of greenish white bracts that are flushed pink. They make excellent cut flowers, with the stems reaching 60cm high and the flowers lasting two weeks in the vase. Astrantias prefer moist rich soil in part shade but they’ll tolerate full sun (except for the hottest areas) if given ample moisture. Make sure you do give them plenty of water during summer. Look for them at your local garden centre.
Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is an old-fashioned favourite with a scent fit for the gods. Many of you may remember it from your childhood because it was very popular back in the days. They’re still popular for the summer garden; bulbs planted now will flower in late summer. You can buy bulbs from www.nzbulbs.co.nz and possibly some garden centres.
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) is a garish annual that produces long, vivid-red tails on 90-130cm high plants. They’re striking plants (some may say tacky), but they’re incredibly useful. The tassels can be used fresh or dried in flower arrangements, and the seeds and leaves are edible (although most people plant them for ornamental purposes). Sow now for a midsummer show, then whip up a gorgeous centrepiece like this. There’s also a pale green version for those averse to vivid red. But if you don’t like either colour, you can always spray paint the tassels to a colour that suits. Seeds are available from Kings Seeds and Egmont Seeds.