If your garden were a marching band, astilbe would be the drum major, not the tallest one in the group, but proudly wearing their shakos with the ornamental, feathery plume to announce their existence. Their deep green and glossy fernlike leaves are pretty showy too, and both leaf stems and plumes can be used in cut flower arrangements. The plume colors range from a creamy white to shades of yellow, pale pinks to deep crimsons.
The astilbe plant thrives in our cool summers, and really likes a moist, almost boggy environment. They can be planted in full sun here, but need wooded, partly shade off the mountain, and grow mostly in zones 4-7.
Also called false spirea or false goat’s beard, these delicate looking plants are false in that respect as well, as they are tougher than they look. If they like where you plant them, they will lead their band and march on to other places making it easy to thin them out every 2-3 years to share with friends.
There are about 12 different species of the astilbe plant, and vary in height from two to three feet. There’s also a dwarf variety called Sprite. Long before Sprite became the name of a refreshing soft drink, it was another name of faeries or pixies, so it would make perfect sense to add a little Sprite astilbe to your faerie garden. The plume probably acts like a lighthouse, or a candle in the window for all the gnomes and pixies, so they’ll know where to go – their safe house, if you will. (And if you will, they will). To get you started, and if you didn’t get any at the Mountain Garden Club’s plant sale in May, try our local nurseries. It’s always best to buy plants locally – sometimes the plants seem to know.
Consider planting a variety of plants and flowers in your landscape, and you really may want to think about adding the astilbe if you don’t have some because, well, who doesn’t love a parade?