Liatris is one of many showy American natives that British gardeners have taken to their hearts. Fluffy, rose-pink flowers open from button-like buds that circle a slender tower of narrow, lance-shaped leaves.
Where groups of liatris corms are planted naturalistically, the flower plumes are dramatic, reaching up and out like grounded fireworks.
Liatris is often suggested as a way to add vertical lines to a flower border, but you can expect to see some wavy, almost horizontal lines too. The person who planted the corms would have needed a vivid imagination to foresee these trajectories.
I’m not sure of the botanical names of the plants shown here – most likely Liatris spicata or Liatris pycnostachya, named cultivars, or a mix.
As always, the folk names are more evocative: blazing star, button snakeroot, gayfeather, cat-tail liatris and hairy button.
The towering flower spikes are unusual in that they bust into bloom from the top down, unlike most other spiky plants such as foxgloves or delphiniums.
Sunshine sets the flowers glowing so they seem to be lit up from inside. Liatris offers a controlled waywardness, a way to inject a little fun into a sunny border or a prairie style planting.
My pictures were taken in the RHS Bridgewater’s beautiful walled garden, summer 2021, and shared for Becky’s Past Squares (Lines, In the Pink, Flowers, Spiky – take your pick!)