The Angelica gigas Experiment Is Working

You know when you have an idea in mind of how you would like a design to perform when it gets mature? And then it really happens the way you envisioned? This spring, I wanted to have a mass planting of Angelica gigas. I have never seen the plant planted en masse and I had the perfect spot beside of a huge Persicaria. The Angelica would provide a step down in height from the 9′ tall Persicaria.

angelica gigas

We cleared the bed back in April to make way for the grouping of plants. The soil is rich and well drained. The exposure provides full sun in the morning and then bright shade in the afternoon. This seems to be the perfect spot for Angelica. I had high hopes for all of the plants to come up and flower at the same time. Back in mid-July, the plants began forming enormous, surreal flower buds. Everyone started asking what is that plant. Margaret Roach, in her blog, A Way To Garden, wrote about this phenomenon. When Angelica plants start to set those huge buds about 4-5′ above the ground, everyone starts to notice. I may be dating myself but we could also call this the E.F. Hutton plant. Remember those commercials in the 80’s? “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Well, when Angelica gigas, sets buds, people notice.

angelica gigas

Just this past week, the entire mass began to flower. Then, not only did the people in the garden notice but the honey bees did as well. The big, 8″ diameter, purple flowers are covered with honey bees. I am amazed that we planted these plants as 1 gallon, second year plants in late April and they are now close to 6′ in height. Again, this is another plant that really thrives in our coastal Maine environment.

Angelica gigas is a short lived perennial or monocarpic biennial. This means that all of our plants will likely die at the end of the season after they set seed. On our to-do list is to scatter the seeds of Angelica this fall. Next spring, we will likely have seedlings of Angelica scattered throughout the plant bed. We will then select the ones we want to cultivate and nurture them throughout the year. Our next group of flowering plants will not be until 2015 so maybe this will keep our guests in suspense and wanting to come back to see the display again.

There are other Angelicas in the world of horticulture and based upon this year’s performance, I think we will add more selections to the gardens here at CMBG.


Photos: Wikipedia, Rodney Eason

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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  1. Cindy at enclos*ure on August 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I used just one angelica in a border once, and it woke up everything else. Are you going to candy any of the stems? I think that’s how it’s used as a culinary herb.

  2. [email protected] on August 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Oh. My. God. I’m totally smitten by this plant, and have to have it. I think White Flower Farm sells it? I remember falling in love with this plant on a tour of a monastery. It was in a medicinal herb garden. I looked it up, and apparently extract from Angelica gigas could reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms. Who knew?

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