Sanguisorbas are the height of fashion right now, and deservedly so, for they provide flowing movement and have an elegant willowy presence. They have finely toothed pinnate foliage, above which long-lasting flowers hold themselves high on wiry stems.
These vogue plants fit into the new wave of naturalistic planting well. They associate brilliantly with equally tall, airy grasses, flat headed daisies and the spired and whorled verticals. The modern style involves close-knit planting that does not need staking. Sanguisorbas can be left to fade decadently into winter before being cut down in spring. Suspended on swaying stems, the intricate forms catch the frost brilliantly, and giving six months of garden value.
Sanguisorba menziesii instantly catches the eye in the garden. It bears dense clusters of deep red, fat wiggly caterpillar shaped flowers on upright stems that reach 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) tall. The blue-green rounded leaves are pinnately arranged on gently arching stems, the colouring harmonises beautifully together.
Commonly known as the Alaskan Burnet, the plants prefer moist, well-drained soil, will thrive in an open sunny border in or part-shade and are hardy to minus 15°C (5°F).
Often the first sanguisorba to flower, appearing in May, they are in full flower through early summer. They retain the deep red colour for many weeks and the seed heads keep their shape and colour, increasing the seasonal interest.
Salad Burnet is a hardy perennial plant which can grow in most soil types but does especially well in chalky soils. The plant grows well in semi shade and full sun.
Sowing: Sow in either in spring or autumn.
Sanguisorba seeds are best sown in a cold frame either in spring or autumn. It usually takes about two months for the seeds to germinate at 10 to 14°C (50 to 55°F). When the seedlings have grown sufficiently enough to be handled, pick them out individually and plant them in separate pots to grow on. Transplant the young plants in their permanent positions outdoors as soon as they have grown to a reasonable size. Set out in early spring or early autumn, three to five plants per square metre and water spring plantings regularly if rain is lacking. Alternately, the seeds may also be sown in situ during the early part of spring.
Sanguisorba prefer to grow in a sunny part of the garden, though in hot areas it may be better to grow in a part of the garden that receives a light shade in the afternoon.
Ideally the soil that plants grow in will be moist, pH 6 to 8, and of an ordinary nature. A site where the soil stays evenly moist is ideal as too-dry conditions can lead to leaf browning.
Although they look delicate, Sanguisorba are quite sturdy and once growing they are fairly easy to care for. Very hardy they are able to endure temperatures around minus 25°C (-13°F). The plants succeed in a position in full sun or in partial shade. They prefer a position with moist soil which does not become parched during the summer. Keep plants, especially spring plantings, well watered when summers are hot.
Supply a stake in windy areas and cut back leaves frequently to encourage further growth.
Keep watering spring plantings regularly if rain is lacking. Established burnets also benefit from watering during dry spells. In early spring apply a generous layer of mulch, remember to do this early in the year as some species may be in bloom by late spring.
Most varieties of Sanguisorba continue flowering into early autumn, at least, and their foliage often takes on bright colours as temperatures cool. Snipping off the spent flower stalks at the base of the plant prevents self-sowing and may extend the bloom season. Or, consider leaving them in place, because the seed heads have the same interesting form as when in bloom, and those on dark-flowered species retain the deep red colour for many weeks.
Once frost turns the plants brown, you can cut them down any time. Scatter a general-purpose organic fertiliser or a shovelful of compost around each clump in late fall to late winter.
Burnets may take a few years to settle in, but after that, they start creeping outward, but only at a moderate rate. They usually need division only every 4 to 6 years, but you can divide them more often if you wish to slow their spread or propagate by division.
Move or divide existing clumps in early spring and space them about 260cm (24in) apart. You can also move or divide existing clumps in autumn too, if you don’t mind cutting short the autumn display. Water new plantings regularly for the first month or so if rain is lacking
Perennial Borders, Naturalistic planting schemes, Flower arrangements, Low Maintenance, Medicinal and Edible Herb.
Sanguisorba menziesii is native to parts of Alaska and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington.
Sanguisorba is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Rosaceae, although by simply looking at the flowers you wouldn't guess, it is related to the strawberry and the rose.
Alaskan burnet is usually in full flower through early summer. Japanese Burnet and Great Burnet generally start in midsummer; Oriental Burnet and Canadian Burnet usually begin in late summer.
The genus name sanguisorba comes from the Latin sanguis meaning 'blood', and sorbere, 'to soak up', from the reputed power of these plants to stop bleeding.
The species is named after Archibald Menzies (1754-1842), Scottish botanist and surgeon. Born at Styx, an old branch house of the Menzies of Culdares near Perthshire in Scotland. Menzies studied both botany and medicine in Edinburgh, and was delighted to be appointed surgeon to an expedition around Cape Horn to the North Pacific with the ship Prince of Wales, a voyage which took nearly three years. He sent back plants and brought home a ship's company in good health. Menzies' name is commemorated in the scientific names of several of the plants he discovered.
Common names include Alaskan Burnet, from its origin and Menzies’ Burnet.
The word Burnet is from Middle English, from Medieval Latin burneta, from Old French brunete, meaning dark brown, also a diminutive of brun of Germanic origin also meaning brown. The names derive from the dark hue of the plant's flowers.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 25 Seeds Family Rosaceae Genus Sanguisorba Species menziesii Common Name Alaskan Burnet Other Common Names Menzies’ Burnet Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 15°C (5°F) Flowers Deep red cylindrical clusters Natural Flower Time June to July Height 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in)