Just think of all the gardens in

Just think of all the gardens in the United States that have our little plants growing in them. Thousands go into gardens and homes each year and hopefully make them a happier, greener place to be. We are reminded of this often when our customers call to order year after year or send us photos of how their gardens turned out.

However, there is nothing like actually walking into a garden and finding graceful, mature plants that we know started out in our nursery. I remember years ago visiting the Huntington Botanic Garden in Pasadena. Walking through their herb garden was an eye- opener for me. Every well-laid-out garden bed had our nursery tags jutting from the spot where each herb had been planted.  It was just plain neat. Several years after that, I visited Filoli and saw what had become of the hundreds of herbs we had sent them for a knot garden and for a culinary garden.  It is truly humbling to think of all the joy these simple little plants bring to the thousands of visitors these two public gardens have each year. 

Last week I visited a smaller, more intimate garden. Yet as I wandered through this garden I recognized many of the plants that have found their way from our nursery to this private space.  One of the things that always amazes me is how different the plants grow and perform in each situation they are planted in. No two yards have the same sun, the same soil, the same space or the same gardener.  Like children, the plants grow up under the guidance of the one who tends them and are molded by their surroundings.

One of the "children" I came across in this urban garden was a Gold Yarrow. The first Gold Yarrow we grew and sold almost two decades ago was a great big flowered variety called Coronation Gold.  We had to dig it up each year and divide it so we could have plants for sale. As the need for plants became greater than what we could provide with our divisions, we turned to seed. Unfortunately, we discovered that seed sold as Coronation Gold usually turned out to be something other than Coronation Gold, which is a cross between Achillea fillipendulina and Achillea clypeolata.  Now many plants labeled Coronation Gold are actually Cloth of Gold Yarrow or some other variant. I remember spending a lot of time trying to come up with a seed source that would provide true Coronation Gold Yarrow. In the end, we had to opt for carrying Cloth of Gold Yarrow. I never bothered to plant Cloth of Gold in my own garden, because I already had way too much Coronation Gold (at least I did, until the plants were accidentally tilled last year) and even though I love to use the dried heads of Gold Yarrow for autumn arrangements, there is a limit to how many golden umbels one needs.

Cloth of Gold Yarrow in full bloom! At least I thought so until my foray into my neighbor's yard last week. His Cloth of Gold Yarrow is in full bloom and has naturalized itself so that it takes up any empty space it can find. It dodges around Butterfly Bushes and Vitex that he has trimmed way up to allow for the four- foot- tall yarrow.

It pokes its head through his fencing as though trying to escape to the other side. Indeed, there are little seedlings in the gravelly dirt just beyond the fence from the seeds that fell last fall. At the base of one clump of Gold Yarrow a little White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) grows happily in the shadow of its giant cousin.

Size is not the only difference between the Gold Yarrow and the many colors of Achillea millefoliums; their growing habits and uses are very different also. Gold Yarrows bloom in late spring for about four or five weeks and then are finished for the year while the A. millefoliums bloom from late spring until frost. And, the A. millefoliums don't make the best cut flowers because they tend to fade as they age. However, the little White Yarrow is a nice addition to any moonlit walk and the colorful wandering ways of the other A. millefoliums make for perfect spot fillers. Both Achilleas are widely adaptable and can be grown in most parts of the US. 

Seeing Cloth of Gold in someone else's garden makes me realize I have to put some in my garden. I know now what has been missing in my corner garden that is bordered by Lemon Verbena and crowded with self-sown Black Eyed Susans. I think I will even add a bit of Hopley's Purple Oregano for a contrast, like the Gold Yarrow, Hopley's Purple makes a great dried flower and I think the two will be smashing together in the garden and in the vase. Make new friends and plant the Gold.