Saturday 24 February 2018

Queen of the meadow doesn't like this heat

Meadowsweet, or queen of the meadow, is in flower these days along damp roadside ditches. This wild flower gets its name from the sweet, slightly honeyed scent of the flowers and the fact that it grows in damp meadows, especially land that is flooded in winter, such as water meadows.

Not much grown in gardens because it is too 'wild', there is no reason why meadowsweet could not be used to fill a damp stretch of ground out of the way. It will set seeds and spread, so it is not for use in ordinary borders. There is a variegated form of this plant that has some admirers.

Meadowsweet grows to about one metre and the related dropwort is much smaller, also native, though much rarer. 'Multiplex' is a small-growing double-flowered form with creamy white flowers. It does not need the ground to be as moist. There is also a pink form called 'Rosea'.

Queen of the prairies is the common name given to Filipendula rubra, the American cousin of the meadowsweet. This is a towering plant to two metres or more and it is too big for most gardens. However, if it can be found a damp area in a large garden, this is a sight to see with towering foamy pink flower heads. 'Venusta' is a popular form of this plant.

There is a Japanese meadowsweet species too, Filipendula purpurea with soft crimson-purple flowers in mid and late summer, a bit later than the others. The colour is lovely and the flowers are neatly held, though not as large. It has very divided leaves, as they all have, but more so in this case. It likes damp soil and light shade for part of the day. The leaves of all kinds are very good at suppressing weeds.

Except for the dropwort, filipendulas like to be well-supplied with moisture and can look very miserable in a hot, dry summer. A position in light shade for part of the day can take the pressure off them for water but it also reduces flowering somewhat and these plants look well in full sunshine when in flower.

If the ground is not naturally a bit soggy, then adding organic matter will help to retain moisture and will get the meadowsweets over a few dry days, but not a prolonged dry spell. When they wilt, the leaves droop and the flowers wither after a few days. If your garden has not got any damp ground, then this lovely flower will not do justice to itself.

Irish Independent

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