Black Negligee Actaea and Angelica Gigas

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

I first became acquainted with Angelica gigas in the pages of A Year at North Hill, some fourteen years ago. I’ve wanted to grow it ever since then, but acquiring it proved problematic. The information I found in those pre-internet days said that it did not like to be moved; start it from seed where you want it to grow. And the seed must be fresh for successful germination, meaning, if you get it from a vendor or seed exchange in January, it’s already too late. At least it was for me. I got my hands on seed several times, but never succeeded in germinating any.

Seeds are forming on the first angelica bloom.

Seeds are forming on the first angelica bloom.

I despaired of ever growing this plant in my garden, though being hardy to USDA Zone 4 and favoring moist soil, it seemed ideally suited to my conditions.

But last year my luck changed. Margaret Roach invited me to visit her garden, and I came prepared for plant swapping, a sack of colchicum corms plopped on the back seat of my vehicle. Among the treasures she parted with were three Angelica gigas seedlings. We both agreed the smallest, youngest ones had the best chance of establishing themselves, and I planted them as soon as I got home. Two survived the winter, and one of those two has grown into the statuesque beauty I have long wished for. (The other still looks like a seedling. I can hope it becomes a blooming plant next year, can’t I?)

The pink tinged bottlebrushes of the bugbane complement the angelica's maroon domes

The pink tinged bottlebrushes of the bugbane complement the angelica's maroon domes

I planted those seedlings around a first-year Actaea simplex ‘Black Negligee,’ an inspired decision, I must say. As you can see in the top photo, the purple-leaved foliage of the actaea (commonly known as bugbane, and formerly known as Cimicifuga simplex) echoes the dramatic maroon of the angelica’s flowers. The bugbane’s bottlebrush flowers contrast in shape with the angelica’s umbels, while the delicate pink flush of the former complements the deep plum of the latter. And they are both big plants, though the angelica is a bigger plant.

It works on many levels, just like my other inspired deep purple combo, the Lauren’s Grape poppy paired with ‘Dark Towers’ penstemon.

I’m on a roll, wouldn’t you say?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

JoeLand September 11, 2009, 11:14 pm

Wow, that looks wonderful. I bet you get compliments on this all the time. I think I may have to see if there’s any way I can get a hold of an Angelica for my own yard now.

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove September 9, 2009, 11:07 pm

Again, another combination that I covet, I am becoming a terrible person always lusting after someone elses brilliant ideas. I already have the (what will always be to me ) cimicifuga, now I just need to track down some generous person with the angelica.
.-= Deborah at Kilbourne Grove´s last blog ..Labour Day! (and I did) =-.

Cindy, MCOK September 9, 2009, 11:36 am

That is a fabulous combination! Congratulations on growing the Angelica! A friend from Maryland sent me seeds years ago … I wonder if I still have them?
.-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Through the Garden Gate: Monday, September 7th =-.

Lynn September 9, 2009, 10:57 am

Covet! I love that Actaea so much but it’s even better with the Angelica. Inspiring!

Kathy Purdy September 9, 2009, 11:05 am

I know you’ve seen Black Negligee at Cornell, Lynn. Someone around there must sell it.

Annie in Austin September 9, 2009, 10:34 am

Yowza – that is a gorgeous combination, Kathy – and the setting works, too. Those intense colors look great against the pale background of your frame house. I hope Margaret’s angelicas settle in to stay!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
.-= Annie in Austin´s last blog ..Looking for Julie and Julia =-.

Kathy Purdy September 9, 2009, 11:03 am

Margaret has had hers for years. I think they are quite settled in, Annie.

Dee/reddirtramblings September 9, 2009, 9:49 am

It looks great. I didn’t know about the seed germination issues with Angelica. Now, will yours spread seedlings in the bed, or will you keep gathering seed? Congratulations. Aren’t the best plants passalongs!~~Dee
.-= Dee/reddirtramblings´s last blog ..Tulips, Daffodils and Word Games =-.

Kathy Purdy September 9, 2009, 11:01 am

I think I will do some of both: sow some seed where I want plants, and let it self-sow, too.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter September 9, 2009, 9:08 am

Congratulations! It was worth the wait. I just saw in person a magnificent Angelica gigas growing with a pink Anemone. I think it makes anything growing with it look better, but your pairing is especially inspired. I love ‘Black Negligee’ anyway. Angelica is such a beautiful plant. Sigh…
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..It’s…* The Incredible Shrinking MeMe! =-.

Salix September 8, 2009, 11:11 pm

Kathy, I have nominated you for a MeMe Award. If you are up to it, the details and rules are at my blog.
.-= Salix´s last blog ..Pond Life =-.

MA September 8, 2009, 10:47 pm

WOW! the head of the angelica looks amazing. And the combo with the bugbane is lovely.
.-= MA´s last blog ..Dear Friends and Gardeners, Week 28: It’s a wrap! =-.

Salix September 8, 2009, 10:43 pm

Yes, you are – and I love it.
I have also been searching for seeds for Angelica Gigas without any luck. Guess best bet is to find at a nursery next spring?
.-= Salix´s last blog ..Pond Life =-.