When astilbes were introduced into Europe from the Orient in the mid-19th century, their beautiful flowering plumes reminded palace gardeners of popular spring-blooming spirea shrubs. Still to this day, in both Europe and America, they are often called garden or florists' spirea. In Holland, astilbes have long been the mainstay of summer perennial gardens. They're so easy to grow and require so little attention, you'll even find them blooming brightly along roads and canals. Planted en masse, they're a special delight. While you'll find them blooming in sunny spots, they are most often chosen for their unique ability to grow with vigour and bloom profusely in shade or semi-shade. While their flowering stems bloom with colourful charm for several weeks in late spring and early summer, their beauty doesn't end when the colour fades. The dried plumes turn an elegant amber-tan and continue to provide garden charm all through the summer and into the fall. Meanwhile, the mounds of high-gloss, dark green foliage provides an extremely attractive ground cover.