The thinking behind the common name of 'Hattie's Pincushion' soon becomes apparent when studying the flowers of the Astrantia at close quarters. The centre of the Astrantia major flowers literally look like a mass of pins stuck into a central cushion.
Surrounding the pincushion is a ring of pointed, papery bracts - that are normally mistaken for being the petals - in shades of pink and red or slightly bi-coloured. The flowers have an 'artificial' look about them, but are real enough and held aloft for all to see. The first five letters of the botanical name - 'Astra' gives rise to the origin of the name - from Greek - Astra means 'Star'. A good description for the flowers of this hardy herbaceous perennial.
Astrantia flowers from mid-June through to the early autumn - regardless of sun or rain - and is at home if planted in sun or dappled shade. It is also tolerant of most soil types and conditions, but with a liking for a good fertile soil. The clump forming foliage is attractive - being made up of palmate leaves - and dense enough to be considered as ground cover.
Astrantia is a fully hardy herbaceous perennial that will be relatively trouble-free and last for many years. Together with this, it will re-seed itself if allowed, and form a good colourful ground cover area.
The flowers are showy - yet dainty - and they dry well for floral arrangers. The cutting of flowers ensures a continuing flowering period, and also helps to stop the plant from seeding itself.
Astrantia major can be grown almost anywhere in the garden or woodland. It is tolerant of light shade, but also very much at home when basking in full sunlight.
It is an ideal herbaceous border plant, but can eventually take up a bit more space than you expect, owing to its ability (desire) to re-seed itself. It is also very at home if planted as a single plant area in its own bed.
Astrantia major prefers a moist soil, but will also grow well in drier areas. It should not be regarded as the number one choice for dry areas. However, once established and spreading, the foliage acts as a shade mulch, and other than a good drench when very dry, it will require little in the way of attention.
Astrantia are a good pond side plant, though not with their roots in water.
Propagation of Astrantia is easy from seed. Seed bought from normal sources normally germinate without problem, but better to collect your own seed if you already have plants, and sow as soon as harvested. They should be sown in a peat based compost, and in a cool place. NOT in a heated propagator. Astrantia can also be increased by dividing the plants in spring - preferably before growth starts.
If grown in a dry position, an annual mulch will help to provide organic matter - which Atrantias like - and also help with soil water retention. This should be dome in late autumn or early spring.
Astrantia will tolerate heavy soils.
To prolong flowering, cut off the faded blooms as and when, or allow cutting for floral purposes. This will also prevent the plants for re-seeding if desired.
The flower spikes of Astrantia major will reach a height of around 60cm, held well above the foliage clump. The basic foliage canopy of the plant will have a spread of 45cm.
As with most herbaceous perennials, the young spring growth makes a tasty snack for slugs and snails. In drier areas this is not too much of a problem, but more so in damp conditions.
Aphids may be a problem - though unlikely - and these will normally show up on the flowering tips. They are not particularly prone to aphid infestation.
Powdery Mildew is sometimes a small problem in hot dry conditions, though not generally a problem in damper areas.
Astrantia major and its varieties are more tolerant of dry conditions than
Astrantia major is the common variety, and the one shown in the image above. There are several variations which are different rather than extra-special!
Astrantia major Hadspen Blood is one of the darkest varieties, being - as its name suggests - a good dark red - also having dark red flower stems.
Astrantia major Sunningdale Variegated, has creamy white variegated leaves. The variegation being irregular but on the outer parts of the leaves, with a light green centre. The flowers are light pink.
Astrantia major Claret - is not quite as dark as its name suggests, though is certainly red rather than pink - Picture above.