ALL heal, bloodwort and yarrow are three of the common names given to a hardy garden perennial that is flowering now and will continue to do so until early autumn, writes TOM ATTWOOD. Achillea, to use its botanical name, are in my opinion one of the best value plants to grow. Producing more of them is extremely easy. Up until June you only need a small fragment of the leafy shoot with some root attached and by placing these in pots or in the ground they will soon settle in and begin growing in earnest provided they have enough light and don’t become waterlogged. In some gardening books the term Irishman’s cutting is referring to this particular method of propagation.

Achilleas have a distinctive flower head that looks similar to a smaller version of cow parsley and other plants with the distinctive landing pad arrangement of flowers arranged en mass. It is in fact part of a different family of plants but that’s merely a technicality as I’m looking at this plant for its gardening merit. Achilleas are especially attractive to hoverflies and butterflies and finches like the seed in winter. There is a fantastic range of colours and heights within the achilleas. I’m someone who loves strong colours at this time of year and achilleas can cater for this with cultivars like fanal as well as the subtler end of the spectrum with cultivars like lachsschönheit often referred to as Salmon Beauty.

This is a superb plant for new gardeners and whenever I talk to someone who wants to set out with a selection of versatile easy to grow plants it’s always part of my list. You will only need one plant per variety as within a very short space of time you can produce tens of plants from the one pot. Try pairing achillea alongside ornamental grasses like panicum, stipa and carex as they work so well together. The climax of the achillea flowering window coincides when many of the grasses are arguably looking their best.

Next week: planting between paving stones