Saturday, May 17, 2014

Astilbe "Amerika"

Written by Mr Malcolm Pharoah
Marwood astilbe beds - Amerika is in the centre, at the front. Marwood astilbe beds - Amerika is in the centre, at the front.

Probably the main requirement when holding a National Collection is to make sure the plant you are growing is the true plant. Having had the Astilbe collection for over 20 years the accuracy of the naming of the plants has often been in question.

One such plant is Astilbe “Amerika” or as it is named in Britain  Astilbe “America”. Not a cultivar that is common, in fact very few nurseries sell it in this country although it is much more available in Holland where it originates. No one is quite sure who raised it. In the International register of Astilbes two nurseries are given, both now no longer exist and as it was 1908 when it was first introduced probably no one is still alive who knows what the original plant looked like.

Our plant at Marwood Hill is a lovely pinkish purple colour flowering in early July for a month and growing to 24 to 30 inches high(60-70cm). In the other national collection of Astilbes at the Lakeland Horticultural Societies garden at Holehird in Cumbria theirs is the same and I have seen it at Utrecht University grounds in Holland looking similar to ours.

However I have a contact in Moscow in Russia and indeed there are several Astilbe enthusiasts in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia who also contribute to the wealth of information which we share with each other, but the plants they grow of Astilbe "America" are all a different shade of pinkish purple.

So are they different cultivars or as I think, do the the soil conditions play a part in determining the colour of the flowers?

I have recently set up, with the help of Steve Morton, a web site about the collection of Astilbes to help the general public with the identification and growing of these plants. It can be accessed at www.astilbecollection.co.uk.

The National Collection of Astilbes at Marwood Hill in North Devon is at its best from late June to mid-August.

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