Goats’ Beards and Frilly Flowers

Aside from ‘Sally Holmes’ (already written about here), there are at this moment two flowering plants in the back garden that are likely to grab your attention.

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The first is Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus). At this time of year, Goat’s Beard is quite showy with feathery clusters of white flowers.

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Goat’s Beard, a herbaceous perennial, is a big plant. My neighbor has one that is about four feet tall and wide. Mine is not that big, but it is only two years old. Shady areas with rich, moist soil suit it best.

It’s native to parts of the US and Canada, but also to other locations in the Northern Hemisphere. Goat’s Beard is also a host plant for the Dusky Azure butterfly.

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What you see above is one plant, but with part of it leaning way over to the side.

A. dioicus’s¬†other common name is Bride’s Feathers. It seems odd to me that the same plant should evoke both goats and brides, but the mind does strange things.

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We also have some Dwarf Goat’s Beard in the back garden. It is an entirely different species, Aruncus aethusifolius, a native of Korea. Not much more than a foot high and with ferny foliage, it can be massed as a low groundcover for shade.

billy goats gruff

Having both a big Goat’s Beard and a Dwarf Goat’s Beard reminds me of a story I used to read to my kids, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. To complete the reference I might need some garden statuary depicting a middle-sized goat and a troll. Perhaps a bridge for the troll to hide under.

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The second plant is a big old shrub that we inherited from the last owners of the house. It’s a Deutzia, and I think it’s Deutzia crenata ‘Plena’ – but I wouldn’t swear to it. Here it is hulking behind the ‘Sally Holmes’ rose.

These days it seems the only Deutzia one sees anymore is the cute little ‘Nikko’ variety. Our Deutzia is unfashionably large, I’d say a good ten feet tall.

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‘Plena’ has frilly double flowers. I usually don’t like double flowers, but I find these appealing.

Over the years this Deutzia has had large branches dropped on it from on high and suffered significant winter dieback. And yet it continues to rebound every spring.

I have tried to keep it pruned into a vase-like shape, but with little success. Despite my best efforts, the branches take on an open, sprawling habit when weighed down with flowers and raindrops.

Do you know of any full-size Deutzias out there? Do you have any plants that remind you of children’s stories?

56 Comments on “Goats’ Beards and Frilly Flowers

  1. That Deutzia is beautiful. I’m a big believer in keeping some things from a previos gardener/owner. I love the dwarf goatsbeard and now grow it instead of the larger one.

  2. The three Billy goats Gruff! I had forgotten about that story!
    question: is that green and white variegated bugle weed or some such thing? If so, how do you control it?

    • We call it Bishop’s Weed. Aegopodium podagraria. It’s inherited from the prior owner. I make sure to always pull off any flowers so it doesn’t seed, keep it in more difficult spots, and surround it with other plants that know how to stand their ground.

      • I’ll make sure to cut the flowers. The darned thing also sends out underground roots, but I admit it is pretty to look at, for contrast.

  3. The Deutzia is lovely. I also have Aruncus dioicus, but must admit I don!t like those fluffy flowers at all. It is such a valuable plant for the wildlife though.

  4. I have goatsbeard in my garden and I love it but it is not as white as yours, I didn’t know there was a snowwhite version, I’ll try to find some of the whites as I love white flowers in the garden. But it is a strong plant, an easy plant.

  5. “It seems odd to me that the same plant should evoke both goats and brides, but the mind does strange things.” Delicately said!

  6. I’m not very familiar with Deutzia, so I had no idea they could get so large. It reminds me of the old-fashioned Spirea that we used to have when I was a child, and that you don’t see much of anymore either. Love the goats’ beard; I have just one here, but so far it hasn’t put on much of a show. One of my favorite books as a child was “Peter Rabbit.” As I look at my vegetable garden these days, I find I have a lot more sympathy for Mr. MacGregor than I once did:)

  7. As someone who has an unreasoning fondness for garden ornaments, I love your idea of trolls, goats, and a bridge for the garden. Would they have to be custom-made, do you think? As for storybook flowers, even though I don’t have them in my garden, poppies come to mind from “The Wizard of Oz.”

    • Poppies and the Wizard of Oz – of course! I’ll bet we could find trolls and bridges somewhere. Not sure about goats.

  8. I had Aruncus aesthusifolius in my previous garden, in a mixed border with hydrangeas, hosta, etc. It’s one of those low-key but very interesting plants, and the foliage on mine turned a lovely yellow in the autumn. I’ve only had one deutzia (so far) and it was another dwarf: Deutzia ‘Nikko’ which was supposed to max out at only 18″ high but but in reality was already 2 ft tall when I sold that house so who knows how big it’s got to now, LOL

  9. My Deutzia is pretty big too, but not quite as big as yours.
    We spent many a happy time in Africa teaching Billy Goats Gruff to the children there, they had great fun imitating all the different voices, thanks for the memory!

  10. That Deutzia is wonderful. So is the Goat’s Beard. I have the dwarf one which I grow in a pot (and put back in the ground in the fall). It is very accommodating.

  11. Hello Jason, now that I’ve seen that final picture, I recognise many of these on my daily walk to and from the train station, they are all large specimens, at least a few metres tall, high enough to hang over walls and fences as they’re usually planted on the boundaries.

  12. I’m envious of your success with goatsbeard (still holding out hope that mine will bloom one day). I’ve given it everything it is said to need, but the old goat just pouts in his corner of the woodland. I’m often reminded of the “Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch” by singles that pop up unbidden. Nope, no petunias and no onions, just visions of my gram singing that song in her clear contralto.

    • As for Goatsbeard, sometimes that’s just how the old goats are. I never heard of the “Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch”, sounds like a fun song.

  13. I love deutzia, though I dont grow one now. I also loved goat’s beard, until it turned that wretched brown and it was prone to getting a peculiar bug just about the time the blossoms turned brown making the whole process of deadheading no fun at all.

  14. Your Deutzia is awesome. I’ll take the untamed full-size varieties of most plants over the dwarf versions most any day.

    I’d like to try goat’s beard, but I don’t think I have any areas in my garden that are most or shady enough…

    • I’d generally agree with you about the dwarf cultivars, except I do find some of the dwarf shrub varieties to be useful in the garden.

  15. I love the frilly flowers on your deutzia. I have a similar pink one. Deutzias are like hebes to me. I can’ t get excited about them and I forget they are there until they bloom. Then I think that’ s pretty and move on. But I might make an exception for yours lighting up a dark corner with Sally in front. I might linger here.
    A bridge would be fun. Not sure about the troll.

  16. Your pictures make me glad I planted Aruncus this year (just a bit worried that the shade is too dry). Go for the associated statuary. Sounds fun! The first thing I thought when looking at the picture of the deutzia was how gloriously lush your garden is looking … there’s a wonderful large double deutzia in the village here. It’s so nice to see a large shrub being given enough room.

  17. I have both types of Goat’s Beard plus Giant Fleece Flower (persicaria polymorpha) I wonder what that says about gardeners that love these crazy plants ? haha
    I have never seen a deutzia that BIG ! amazing ! … I love the rose .. gorgeous.
    Nice to see a post with plants I am so familiar with : )
    Joy

    • The Deutzia must be decades old. It was looking rather venerable when we moved into this house almost fourteen years ago. Something to be said for long-lived plants.

  18. I do like your goat’s beard, and that Billy goats picture, that would make a great wrought iron garden wall ornament. I loved that story, my dad used to tell us it as kids. My deutzia is exactly the same as yours, no matter how much I prune it it takes over.xxx

  19. I have a grouping of three massive duetzia ‘Pink a Boo’, which is an idiotic name for a gorgeous, old fashioned shrub. I love goat’s beard and wish I had space for it. But if I were a bride and I’d been confused for a goat, I’d be pretty peeved. Maybe a spa day is in order?

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