LATIN NAME: Astrantia helleborifolia
COMMON NAME: Hattie’s pincushion, masterwort
AVAILABILITY: June to September
COLOUR RANGE: shades of green, white, pink, burgundy
BEST BUYING DAYS AT New Covent Garden Flower Market: Monday & Thursday
The Origins of Astrantia
The Astrantia was mostly likely named after the Latin word for star - ‘astra’ - for its distinctive, pretty, star-shaped flowerheads. It is a member of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which makes Astrantia a distant relation to Orlaya grandiflora, ammi and the humble carrot.
All share the family trait of umbrella-like flowers: individual flower stalks that radiate from a common point. In the case of the Astrantia, larger papery, green-tipped bracts surround fine stems bearing minute flowers. The overall effect inspired the common name for Astrantia of ‘Hattie’s pincushion’, which begs the questions: who was Hattie? And what did she have to do with Astrantia and pincushions? Answers on an old-fashioned postcard, please.
Astrantia as a Cut Flower
Astrantia is an excellent, long-lasting cut flower with attractive palmate leaves, increasingly popular for wedding flowers and wedding bouquets with the fashion for all things vintage.
Not widely grown by larger scale British growers, but popular with flower farmers in the know, Astrantia complements other British summer flowers beautifully and its blooms give an arrangement a touch of star quality.
Sadly, Astrantia does not have the sweetest of smells, so use it sparingly in an arrangement and pair it with the more popular fragrances of garden roses, lilies or sweet peas.
By all accounts, you can use Astrantia for dried flower arrangements, should you feel so inclined. Simply hang the flowering stems upside down in a dark, dry warm place.
Buying British Astrantia
Depending on the season, Astrantia is available from June to August. Astrantia are sold as fully open flowers, so when you’re buying, you’re looking for fresh green foliage and strong stems as indicators of freshness.
Astrantia are remarkably resilient and long-lasting as a cut flower, and the advice for ensuring they last well follows the standard themes:
- Ensure that your vase is scrupulously clean so that there are no bacteria lurking around
- Remove any leaves that would be below the water line to stop any rot
- Trim the flower stems to the preferred length
- Arrange the stems in your clean vase filled with fresh water mixed with the flower food provided
- Keep your flowers out of direct sunlight, away from radiators, drafts and even from your fruit bowl (ethylene shortens vase life)
- Trim the stems and top up the vase every day
Where to Buy
The peak season for British Astrantia is June to August, weather permitting. Sightings of British-grown Astrantia in wholesale markets are not yet common, so grab them while you can.
During this period, the main deliveries come fresh into the Flower Market from the growers for Monday and Thursday morning trading.
If you have any top tips on designing with British Astrantia, we would love to hear from you. Simply write your comments in the box below.
Read a Profile for British Flowers Week of Amanda Austin Flowers here
See the designs Amanda Austin created using British Astrantia here