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.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?)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?