x-Astrantia 'Roma' PBR
Astrantia major 'Roma' is far and away the best astrantia in this beautiful shade of deep, vivid pink. Its delicate, distinctive flowers bloom solidly from early summer until late autumn, much longer than many other varieties, and it is a strong, vigorous grower with its sharply symmetrical blooms held aloft wiry stems and mounds of tough, glossy foliage.
The true flowers are actually tiny, branching out on fine stems from the centre of the outer ruff of bracts, which are often mistaken for flower petals. Commonly described as pin cushions it is clear where this analogy comes from! They make stunning cut flowers, when they can be closely admired, and also make beautiful dried flowers – cut the flowers before the seeds set and hang them upside down in a cool place.
'Roma' prefers a spot in dappled shade, although it will cope in the open provided it is given plenty of food and water, and is happiest in a rich, damp soil, so dig in a generous amount of garden compost or well rotted manure before planting to help it settle quickly. Mulching it with compost will also help to hold in moisture and keep down competing weeds. Water it well in the early years and in dry weather- do not let it dry out. Plants can be divided in spring, but astrantia do not like having their roots disturbed so add plenty of organic matter to the planting hole. Otherwise this is a dependable, robust plant that is much tougher than its papery blooms imply.
Astrantia are popular herbaceous perennials and a long time Chelsea Flower Show favourite, but they have been cherished by gardeners for much longer – they have been cultivated in this country since the sixteenth century. A cottage garden classic they look lovely swaying gently amongst geraniums, euphorbias and hostas but also go well with other pollinators such as knautias and lysimachias - astrantia blooms are absolutely adored by the butterflies and bees. They work well in contemporary garden styles too, hence their annual appearance at Chelsea and are very fashionable dotted among grasses. They are long lived plants and also self seed prolifically if they are happy, so you may even come up with a new type if you are growing other astrantia close by, as they cross easily.