Flowering stems rise from leafy clumps in summer, bearing dense, tight clusters of blossoms surrounded by papery bracts. Flower heads look something like pincushions; they make attractive, long-lasting cut flowers and can also be dried for winter arrangements. Useful plants for woodland or cottage gardens. Native to alpine woods and meadows of Europe. Spread by underground runners. Die back in winter, even in mild climates. Best where summer nights dip below 70F. Need good drainage. Deer resistant.
A. carniolica. LESSER MASTERWORT. To 112 ft. tall and wide, with finely divided leaves. Bracts are shorter than in other species. 'Rubra' has dark red flowers with silvery accents.
A. major. GREATER MASTERWORT. Grows to 3 ft. high, 12 ft. wide, with inch-wide clusters of white-and-green or white-and-pink blossoms. Good selections with colorful blooms include 'Abbey Road', with reddish purple flowers on black stems; deep red 'Hadspen Blood'; 'Lars', with deep pink blooms opening from maroon buds; 'Rainbow', featuring a range of colors, from white through light pink to rose; 'Roma', with silvery pink blooms; and 'Ruby Wedding', with rosy red flowers on ruby stems. 'Sunningdale Variegated' offers color in the 2- to 2-ft.-tall pink flowers and in the splotched green foliage. Selection A. m. involucrata 'Shaggy' ('Margery Fish') is a white-flowered form with elongated, green-tipped bracts.
A. maxima. Similar to A. major but grows just 2 ft. high and bears pink flowers.