On-again, off-again yarrow

I like yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, the latter half of which means “thousand-leaved.” The foliage is delicate and pretty, almost ferny, in a muted shade of greenish-gray. The flowers are small, but there are generally plenty of them; they may be white, yellow, pink, rose, or shades in between. For many years, I had a big white-flowered yarrow against the fence in my backyard garden. It would leaf out fairly early and begin to bloom in early-to-mid-June.. The flowers are very long-lasting (they dry well), so the  plant is interesting for several months.

My white yarrow would occasionally produce tiny volunteers,  but they never went anywhere. And when, last summer, the mothership itself didn’t show up, I panicked and promptly replaced it with another yarrow plant. This one has pink flowers, which just today opened for the first time this season. The plant is big and bushy and happy-looking … so far.

But the departure of my original white version got me thinking. We call lots of plants “perennials.” Some of them, though, we qualify as “short-lived perennials,” which is what I think my yarrow was. Irises, once you get them going, live on forever. So do peonies. But other “perennials,” like yarrow and hollyhocks and foxglove, delight us for a few years and then disappear. This is always disappointing. But if, like me, you have limited garden space, it’s not unrelievedly so. I got to replace my pale white yarrow with a brighter version. In retrospect, I think I should have gotten a yellow cultivar; I’m not wild about the pink. But chances are in a few years, this one, too, will go belly-up, and I’ll get to replace it. Not a bad system after all!

Photo by KENPEI licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

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