With its restorative qualities, attractive flowers and fern-like foliage, Achillea adds pollinator-friendly whimsy to your plot.
Achillea, common name Yarrow is one of those plants that looks just as good at the peak of its flowering season as it does on its way out - lucky thing!
Yarrow's presence in our gardens is relatively new, but Yarrow has been around for more than 60,000 years (we know this because it was detected in Neanderthal graves). This dinosaur of the herb world is one of life's great opportunists.
Where we might see a barren, dusty, nutrient-depleted patch of ground, the Yarrow sees five-star accommodation. It thrives where lesser plants shrivel. But that's not the only #plantgoals thing about Achillea. Yarrow's transition from roadside weed to bigwig of the garden border is admirable. And Yarrow has proved its worth — both as an attractive and reliable garden perennial and as a magnet for the pollinators we gardeners so desperately need to help.
When grouped, those clusters of creamy white florets swaying atop slender stems remind us of a group of elegant ladies posing under their parasols. The flowering stems typically reach 60-70cm and are in vogue as a pollinator-friendly lawn alternative. Grass does seem a little uninspired when you can have a billowing meadow of Yarrow. All that feathery fern-like foliage works well in an informal border if you don't want to give up your lawn. Although overly tidy gardeners might not enjoy its wayward habit.
How to grow Yarrow
You can see this multi-tasking marvel across Britain, where it crops up in grassland habitats and coastal dunes and will even make itself at home on wasteland, so long as the ground isn't waterlogged.
Yarrow's minuscule seeds can produce many plants, making it a low-cost way to fill a bare patch.
Like most wild herbs, Yarrow prefers well-drained, sandy soil in a sunny position. While it will grow in semi-shade, it will flower more abundantly in full sun. Nail those conditions, and you'll see flowers from June.
What to plant with Yarrow?
For bright and beautiful borders, pair Yarrow with contrasting blooms of medium to high flowering heights.
Choose Cosmos for daisy-like blooms and huge colour variability! Lavandula and look great paired with cream-coloured Achillea and will add a beautiful scent to your borders.
Is Yarrow invasive?
The question of whether Yarrow is invasive really depends on whether you class it as a weed or welcome its presence. Yarrow spreads by underground rhizomes, which is great for those wanting to create their own wildflower meadow. On the other hand, it has tended to irk those in favour of immaculate lawns.
We would avoid removing it chemically as Yarrow is well-loved by bees and other essential pollinators.
While each variety looks quite similar, not all are hardy. Achillea Millefolium is one of the more durable.
Did you know?
Yarrow has many names, including Plumajillo, Spanish for ‘little feather’.
Yarrow has seen its fair share of battles. The name Achillea refers to the Greek warrior Achilles. The tale goes that his mother held him by his foot and dipped him in a potion that made him immortal. The potion meant he was victorious for a while. When he was finally killed (by an arrow through his Archilles heel), Yarrow was said to have sprouted from his wound. And its reputation for treating wounds and reducing bleeding has been passed down through the years.
Although it was also used to stop wounds from bleeding, it was believed to cause nosebleeds if put up the nose. This was an old way to test if a lover was faithful. The saying goes: 'Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow; if my love love me, my nose will bleed now.'
Modern uses see Yarrow used in everything from anxiety to piles. It's also used as a natural remedy in horse care.
The variety 'Walter Funcke' is named after a landscape architect persecuted by the Nazi regime.
Where to buy
Make your garden a wildlife haven with Yarrow and other pollinator-friendly plants here:
Do you prefer flowers or foliage? Let us know what you're growing by using the hashtag #ShowUsYourBlooms
This article is part of Candide's Festival of Flowers, an online floral take over, aiming to unite the nation in a joyful celebration of gardens, plants, pollinators and people! Read more from the series below.