A carefree perennial with long-lasting yellow blooms, yellow yarrow makes an no-fuss addition to any garden. Use the shorter varieties in rock gardens and the taller types for colorful borders and in cottage gardens. Crafters prize the blooms for dried flower arrangements, while the foliage of common and hybrid yarrows star in a number of folk remedies.
All garden yarrows originate from the white yarrow, also known as common or wild yarrow. Many hybrids feature yellow blooms, but nurseries also offer pink and red yarrows. Common yarrow have smaller flowers than most yellow hybrids, but otherwise all yarrows share several features, regardless of color: all have flat flowers and tiny, fragrant, fernlike leaves growing in abundance. All yarrows are perennial, with long blooming seasons.
Historians believe the yarrow family's botanical name, Achillea millefolium, originates from its legendary foliage---"millefolium" literally means "thousands of leaves."
Nurseries sell several yellow yarrow varieties. Tall yellow yarrows grow between 3 and 4 feet tall and include the classic 'Coronation Gold' and 'Gold Plate.' Both bear bright yellow blossoms. A paler yellow yarrow, 'Moonshine,' is shorter, reaching about 2 feet in height. Low-growing wooly yarrow makes an excellent ground cover. Its yellow flowers grow as large as taller varieties, but on much shorter stems. The leaves of wooly yarrow tend to be fuzzier and whiter than other yarrows.
Yellow yarrows prefer full sun and plenty of room to spread. Use them in rock gardens or marginal areas in which you wouldn't expect much else to grow. Author Patricia Lanza pairs yarrows with low-growing nasturtiums. "They both do better in average-to-poor soil," she explains. "If you plant them in the rich soil of a typical (perennial) garden, you will get great foliage but few flowers. Instead, I create gardens that are mostly sand and dry materials like leaves and peat moss with no added ingredients."
Yarrows grow easily from seed, but they're known for their ease of dividing once fully grown. In fact, the plants need to be divided every few years for maximum bloom and vigor. If planting seedlings, space them at least 1 foot apart.
Use common and yellow yarrows to protect more vulnerable plants. Their pungent scent repels deer and many insects. Dry them for wreaths and other dried arrangements; yellow yarrows retain their vivid hues even after many years. Press the blooms in flower presses or between books for laminated bookmarks and homemade cards. Over the years, herbalists employed the leaves of common and hybrid yarrows for a range of maladies, including toothaches, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, and to treat wounds and cuts. In one of the legends surrounding Achilles' valor in Troy, the warrior used yarrow's abundant leaves to help his bleeding soldiers.
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