05 September 2012

Angelica - gorgeous plants and flowers for moist half shade


There are 50 species of Angelica that grow in moist woodlands, meadows and in any garden location where Hostas would thrive. All Angelicas have large leaves, mostly diamond shaped. The plants are large, growing a few feet tall and then up to 6-feet tall when they are in bloom so they would go in the back of a bed to provide an architectural look.

Angelica is from the Latin angelus, meaning angel, and refers to its healing properties. Gigas means gigantic.

Anglicas are short-lived perennials that are hardy in zones 4 to 9. They like deep, moist soil and part-shade and can re-seed in ideal conditions. In their native areas they grow alongside streams, in forests and grasslands. Bees love the flowers, deer avoid them, and some gardeners are sensitive to the sap. The cut flowers will last for weeks in a vase. 

The flower in the photos is Angelica gigas, a Korean native with purple-red stems and onion-sized flowering buds that open to dark, reddish-purple flowers.

Angelica Montana or sylvestris is the wild form that also has purple stems and white or pale pink flowers. It came to the US from Europe and Asia. Angelica archangelica or officinalis is the one most commonly grown in herb gardens since it is medicinal and is thought to bring luck, and protection. Archangel has yellow-green flowers.

Liquors such as Chartreuse and Benedictine contain Angelica because its medicinal properties include muscle relaxation. It is also believed to be an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

The Iriquois used angelica as medicine and made a wash to remove ghosts from a house. Eskimos burned the stems to purify both the inside and the outside of a home. In Blackfoot medicine it was thought to increase power and the Pomo hung it in their homes for protection. Several groups have carried it as a gambling charm, for fishing luck, to win horse races and to help win a bride. In other cultures, girls wore angelica root in a decorative bag around their necks to protect them.

Angelica seeds are often made into tea that is believed to have health benefits. In Korea, it is used to treat anemia and in China the dried root is used as a medicine. 

Monocarpic plants such as Angelica are biennials, producing leaves the first year, flowers the second year and then dying after setting seed for the next year.

Start the seeds this fall or winter for plants next spring and flowers the following summer.  My plants were started in January and bloomed in July, a year and a half later. Seed packets usually have a lot of seed because only half of them will come up. They do not need special soil but the seeds do need to be kept moist so trays or pots should be lightly covered, kept away from direct sunlight, and checked regularly. Seedlings take a month or two to emerge.

The usual recommendation is that Angelica seeds need a cold period, followed by a warm month, then chilled again to coax them into sprouting. 

Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com) and Horizon Herbs (www.horizonherb.com)have Angelica archangelica seeds for $3.

Angelica gigas seeds are difficult to find since they have only recently been offered for sale outside Asia. Chiltern Seeds (www.chilternseeds.co.uk) has several Angelicas to choose from including: A. arguta native to North American forests, A atropurpurea a red stemmed Midwest US native, A. officinalis native to England, A. sylvestris, and A. ursine, a Japanese native.

Plant World Seeds (www.plant-world-seeds.com has Angelica gigas and a few other species such as a dwarf variety A. Hispanica plus A. Taiwaniana that they say has football-size scented flowers.

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