I have planted lots of cut flowers this year and a good number of flowers for drying. One of the most distinct is Ammobium alatum, an everlasting flower from eastern Australia. Alatum means winged and a common name is ‘winged everlasting’ though I am not keen on these common names made up by translating the botanical name. Ammobium is quite easy to grow. I think it could be sown direct where it is to grow, after the last frost has passed, but I grew it as a half hardy annual, sowing the seeds in late March and transplanting the seedlings into cell trays to grow on and planting these out in late May about 30cm apart.
As plants go I think this is a fairly ugly one. The leaves are pretty nondescript and mid green. The flowering stems are very odd though and are winged right along their length. The stems reach up to 1m long though there is a shorter variety called ‘Bikini’ which is only half the height. The stems, on the ordinary form that I am growing, are sinuous and not really capable of supporting themselves. Where they flop, sideshoots will grow upwards and a tangle of stems results. The small flowers open from pointy, white buds and open with a yellow centre and are only about 1cm across. They are at their best, in my opinion, when only half open. Pick a bunch and I get the distinct feeling that there is more stem than flowers! Certainly the wings on the stems can easily be 1cm across. When the flowers are fully open the centre is bright yellow but this rapidly changes to mustard yellow and then brown.
In theory, plants should produce masses of flowers and you should deadhead the faded blooms but life is too short for that. I have cut and hung up loads of stems and will go over them and remove any blooms that were fully open when picked and that have gone brown. The stems are rather weak and delicate when dried but are usable if you are careful.
As a fresh flower it is quite useful but you need a lot of stems to make much impact. It is most useful as a filler or to give some contrast to other flowers. In the garden either support it with twigs or plant it, in sun, somewhere that its rather scruffy habit will not annoy you.
Geoff’s rating 6/10
Garden rating 5/10