Two of a kind: Smart feverfews

Much as I like exotic plants from lands far away, I also love interesting forms of more familiar plants, hence my slight obsession with interesting celandines, periwinkles and snowdrops. One of my favourite plants is feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) one of a group of chrysanthemum-like plants that seems to be in a constant state of flux when it comes to naming – you may see it listed as Chrysanthemum parthenium and Matricaria parthenium.

It is a native plant and as well as having medicinal use as a remedy for migraines, it is very deserving of a place in the garden. It is a perennial, woody at the base, with annual stems that can reach 45cm high. The simple white daisy flowers are very pretty and when the plant has produced its first flush, if you cut it back hard it will produce a second flush of growth and flowers. It is pretty and nice for cutting. The whole plant has a strongly aromatic smell that I find appealing, though I will understand if you don’t.

It is hardy and easy to grow from seed, sown in gentle heat in spring, and the foliage is neat and ferny. Old plants should be cut back in autumn to a neat mound of leaves and they will remain evergreen.

All this is fine and dandy but ‘Aureum’, with golden leaves has ten times the garden value. The leaves alone make it worth growing and the daisy flowers just add to its appeal.

But there is even better! Last year I grew ‘Selma Star’, a ‘double’ with narrow ray florets around the outside of the ‘flowers’ and a neat dome of white, petaloid disc florets.

It is a variation on the more usual ‘White Bonnet’ that has broader ray florets and is a great filler for bunches of flowers.

More dramatic still, perhaps, is ‘Malmesbury’, found by Martin Cragg-Barber of the Natural Selection Nursery.

This has narrow ray florets and the usual yellow disc florets. Like many good garden plants, this came from Plant World Seeds.

Both are easy to grow and all forms will self seed, in a gratifying way. I am not sure which I like best – ‘Aureum’ for sheer garden value but ‘Selma Star’ for picking.

Geoff’s rating


Garden rating

8/10 (self seeding and occasional pruning may be annoying)









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4 Comments on “Two of a kind: Smart feverfews”

  1. solsdottir
    September 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    I’m impressed – I never really gave feverfews much thought till now. ‘Selma Star’ is particulary beautiful, but they’re all striking.
    I can relate to your problems about classification, though. One plant I have a soft spot for is the painted daisy, which has been in and out of several families. (Essentially, it’s a foster child.) I’m starting to feel it will never find a home, although North American gardeners seem to love it anyway.

    • thebikinggardener
      September 10, 2017 at 9:39 am #

      Ah – is that pyrethrums? or what used to be called pyrethrums! It seems to have fallen from favour here although it used to be a traditional garden plant and cut flower.

      • solsdottir
        September 10, 2017 at 10:43 am #

        Yes – and I still call them that!

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