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Steele: Yarrows are versatile, long-blooming and water-wise
During many years of gardening, I have grown numerous varieties of yarrow (achillea) species.
While all are very hardy, easy to grow, and water-wise, I like some more than others.
Forty years ago, in my first flower gardens in Oyama, I enjoyed cerise queen (red) and summer pastels (various colours).
If I cut off the dead flowers, they re-bloomed.
They were great for filling in my large new gardens, spreading by roots, to form large clumps, as well as by seeds.
I soon discovered, if they got too much water, they grew very tall and floppy, and spread aggressively. Now I might plant these for erosion control or a wildflower meadow but not in my garden.
Our native white yarrow blooms in June and again in August, even with the seed heads from June still on the plant.
In addition to being great for a wildflower meadow, it can be used as a turf substitute, requiring water only in the first year.
Forming a dense evergreen (sage green) mat, it only needs mowing about three times a year.
It seeds randomly in my garden so I am moving babies to start a yarrow lawn.
A tough dependable variety, gold plate (fern-leaf yarrow) has deep gold blooms all summer and is a good dried flower.
Left standing, it provides great winter interest and some seedlings.
At one metre to 1 1/2 metres, it is an excellent companion to Russian sage in a minimal maintenance spot in my gardens.
Growing at the edge of my dry garden path, woolly yarrow forms a flat evergreen carpet with deep yellow, six inch high, early summer blooms.
As well as being in my garden, my three favourite yarrow varieties are all in the butterfly garden at the “unH2O” xeriscape demonstration garden at 4075 Gordon Drive, in front of the aquatic centre.
These well-behaved yarrows don’t self-seeding or spread.
They have just begun blooming.
Last year, with the removal of dead flowers in late summer, they re-bloomed until mid-November frost.
What a show.
Paprika, red with a yellow centre, grows half a metre to three-quarters of a metre tall.
Dark blue salvia east Friesland is a good companion.
Terra Cotta is three-quarters-of-a-metre to one-metre tall.
The terra cotta orange flowers, which age to salmon pink then biscuit, look great with bronze tufted hair grass.
My all time favourite is moonshine, with soft yellow blooms and silver fern-like foliage.
It grows up to three-quarters of a metre high and looks stunning with purple or blue flowers such as salvia caradonna or nepeta walker’s low.
Stop by the unH2O garden to see these great performers.
Plants are labelled and a brochure, containing a list of all 72 varieties of plants in the garden is available beside the main garden sign.
Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan at: