I discovered today that the Astrantia major subsp involucrata 'Shaggy' - a much-loved plant in my garden - is also known by the far more pleasant name 'Margery Fish'. This sent me scuttling to my bookshelves in a hunt for one of my favourite old books, Cottage Garden Flowers, by Ms Fish herself. She loved Hattie's pincushion, as astrantias are also known, and had this to say about what presumably ended up as what we know as 'Shaggy':
A very interesting and unusual variation of Astrantia major is found in cottage gardens in parts of Gloucestershire. The bracts are pale green, about three times as long as in the normal type, and very shaggy. I have never been able to find any name for this truly decorative flower, nor does it seem to be included in any dictionary. I have been given a plant and I hope it will increase and seed itself as generously as the ordinary Astratia major does.
It's lovely when the pieces of a plant's story begin to fit together like a jigsaw. If Margery Fish is a new name on you, do look her up - she was a great plantswoman who had a fascinating life and championed many cottage garden flowers that were seen as unfashionable before she came along. And her book 'We Made a Garden' is a study in what happens when both halves of a couple have different views on the garden! Check out her biography on the website of her gardens at East Lambrook in Somerset, which are still open to the public: there's a review of the gardens on the Galloping Gardener's blog. She was also responsible for naming a number of other plants - see this page on the East Lambrook site for a full list.
But back to my astrantia. I love the purity of the green and white, but I do also covet the darker varieties, such as 'Venice' and 'Hadspen Blood' which always look so good in Chelsea show gardens. Mine are planted in quite the wrong place: full sun and soil that dries out easily, but this rainy weather has seen them right this year. Perhaps I should move them to a shadier spot in the winter, though - or perhaps divide and move the divisions. Any tried this and got some advice?