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Amaranthus: Flower, Food, Medicine

Over many years I have often seen the amaranthus in a flower bed.

I also have read about it.

The amaranthus has been a garden favorite for centuries.

In fact, horticulturist and garden historian Lawrence D. Griffith wrote about it in his book Flowers and Herbs of Early America.

He mentions an ad in the Boston Evening Post of March 31, 1760. John Townley advertised for sale the seed of ‘Love lies bleeding’ or amaranthus.

Today Renee’s Seeds offers this same heirloom variety in her catalog.

The amaranthus is from Central and South America, and was imported into England in 1596.

Nineteenth Century Gardens

James Vick, nineteenth-century seed company owner from Rochester, New York, lists it in his catalog of 1880 with the ‘Annuals.’ That location for the plant reflects its origin of a warmer climate than upstate New York.

He refers to them as ‘half-hardy annuals.’

As far as location in the garden goes, Vick wrote, “Useful in many situations, as the background of a flower border, or for making an ornamental hedge or a bed on the lawn.”

The key word is ‘ornamental’ because it is quite showy, and stands out among other flowers.

The photo above with a bright red amaranthus shows the garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH.

Vick too offers the variety called ‘Love lies bleeding’ (Amaranthus caudatus).

Here is the Amaranthus called ‘Sunrise’, an illustration from Vick’s Monthly Magazine in 1878. [below]

Amaranthus ‘Sunrise’ 1878

Griffith concludes with these words: “Without a doubt, love-lies-bleeding was a part of our colonial past.”

Food and Medicine

Bob’s Red Mill is one of my favorite vendors. The company sells Amaranth Organic Grain. So amaranth is a food, but also is used in medicines.

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