By Your Call Publishing | ,

Gardening: Plant Hunters Article - August/September 22

Burnets For The Border by Martin Blow

Burnets, or Sanguisorbas to use their proper name, come in a wide range of heights and spreads and are easy plants to grow, flowering on and off through the summer. They come in shades of red, pink and white and many have large, impressive flowers.

Perhaps the showiest is the variety Lilac Squirrel who’s long, dangling, feather-boa flowers in glowing lilac pink adorn the 3-4ft / 90-120cm tall plants from July to September. Like most Sanguisorbas the leaves are very attractive from the moment they unfurl like a fern frond in March until they die back in winter.

The more upright flowers of the variety Pink Brushes are a softer pink, and the pure white flowers of the Japanese Burnet (Sanguisorba obtusa alba) grow on plants that are just 2ft / 60cm tall.

Other burnets have smaller, less showy flowers but more of them at a time and often held tall on waving stems that rarely need staking. One of the loveliest is also one of the tallest – the deep red Arnhem is 5ft / 150cm tall and in peak flower in early summer. Pink Elephant is tall, and a soft shade of pink, Burr Blanc and Canadensis are white and all of these look wonderful waving in the breeze at the back of the border.

For the front of the border, Rock and Roll is a good choice as he stays to around 2ft / 60cm tall and there’s even a variegated one with red flowers and green and cream leaves called Shiro Fukarin.

Ideally, Sanguisorbas prefer a deep, rich, soil that holds some moisture in the summer. They also cope with my poor, dry sand pretty well. They like some sun, but light, part or dappled shade is fine.

Sanguisorbas are tough and hardy and form bigger clumps each year. You can divide them in spring but be warned an old clump has a very tough rootstock and is difficult to break up. They benefit from a light feed in spring and an occasional feed until August. We’ve not noticed any particular pests or diseases affecting them in the garden so all in all they are quite easy to grow. Allow 2-2 ½ ft / 60-75cm between the taller varieties and a bit less for the short ones.

Sanguisorbas are becoming very popular with nurseries and garden designers so you should find a good number of varieties available to choose from at a Plant Hunters’ Fair.


Janet & I organise Plant Hunters’ Fairs, specialist plant fairs at wonderful locations. Please see for a full list of all 30 of our 2022 plant fairs. Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth, B78 2AE on Sunday 21st August, entry to Gardens & Plant Fair only £3 (special reduced entry price), ticket required, please see website. Bodenham Arboretum, Nr Kidderminster, DY11 5TB on Saturday 3rd September, free entry to Plant Fair. Weston Park, Shifnal, TF11 8LE on Sunday 11th September, special offer for Garden & Plant Fair entry, advance online ticket purchase only £4 (£8 on the day, pay on gate). Please check website for ticketing information and all the latest updates before travelling.