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Sanguisorba family, known as burnets, are related to the rose.

Although there is no family resemblance, Sanguisorba is a close relative of garden roses. Commonly called burnet, this perennial herb is as lovely in a perennial border as it is useful in an herb garden.

There are several species of Sanguisorba -- all with similar growing requirements. Plant them in the sunniest spot in your garden. They will tolerate light shade but the more sun the better. They prefer average to moist soil but aren't too fussy as long as it not too dry.

The family of Sanguisorba offers types as small as 8 inches and as tall as 5 feet. Regardless of their size, butterflies, bees and other pollinators are drawn to their flowers, which are held on wiry stems high above the foliage.

Many types self-sow, so if seedlings are unwanted, deadhead flowers before they set seed.

Sanguisorba hakusanensis is native to Korea and Japan. Its pendulous, purplish-pink flowers, that look like fuzzy, longhair caterpillars, are made up of threadlike stamens. The flowers appear above small mounds of gray-green, scalloped leaves growing on slender, but rigid, 18- to 24-inch stems in summer.

Native to Alaska, Sanguisorba menziesii shows off ruby red bottlebrush-like flowers on stems reaching 30-inches tall. It begins blooming earlier than other burnets. Removing spent flowers regularly will encourage it to bloom throughout summer and into fall. Vigorous clumps of attractive, blue-gray foliage grow to 18-inches wide.

I would bet Sanguisorba minor is more familiar to most gardeners. Commonly called salad burnet, it is most often grown for its tasty leaves. Because young leaves have the best flavor, plants rarely reach their mature size of a foot tall and twice as wide.

Salad burnet tastes a little like cucumbers and is most often used in salads, soups, herbal vinegar and cold drinks. Plants flower but they are unremarkable and usually removed if plants are being grown for culinary purposes.

I love Little Angel, a recently introduced cultivar of Sanguisorba minor. It features small green leaves with irregular white margins. Unlike previous introductions of variegated varieties, the coloring of its foliage is stable, meaning the charming bicolored leaves won't revert to all green. In midsummer, small, maroon, elongated, globe-shaped flowers rise over the foliage on 12-inch stems.

A Japanese native, Sanguisorba obtusa features fluffy, rose-pink flowers held on arching, wiry, 3-foot stems above a mound of pretty blue-green leaves.

Sanguisorba officinalis, or greater burnet, is another species often grown for culinary uses. Vigorous, 2- to 3-foot wide clumps of deeply scalloped, green foliage offer plenty of leaves for soups and salads. In summer, deep purplish-red, bottlebrush-like flowers top slender 3-foot stems. Greater burnet self-sows with abandon so remove spent flowers to avoid unwanted seedlings.

Greater burnet also offers a variety of cultivars. Chocolate Tip is chosen for its ferny blue-green foliage subtly brushed with chocolate and its egg-shaped maroon flowers. Red Thunder features ruby-red blooms on tall, very strong stems. Tana is an outstanding choice for smaller gardens. Its burgundy flowers bloom on 18-inch stems.

Sanguisorba tenuifolia grows tall -- up to 5 feet in flower -- and 2 to 3 feet wide. Plant it near a shrubby companion to help support its willowy stems of deep purplish-red flowers from midsummer into fall. Alba is a white-flowering version with fluffy, white, relaxed blooms that sparkle in the garden.

Burnets are especially dramatic when planted in a mass. Plant varieties with dark flowers in front of a light background for the most spectacular display. Imagine their blooms with the bright foliage of Aralia Sky King or the tawny seed heads of ornamental grasses behind. Plants with pink or white flowers are great border buddies with asters, Joe Pye weed and hydrangeas.

* Diana Stoll is a horticulturist, garden writer and speaker. She blogs at
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Title Annotation:Home Garden
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Aug 12, 2018
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