“People who remain convinced that fashion does not enter the garden can think again. Almost every year one or two plants go “out” and others come “in”. You’ll have to be really on the ball to keep up…”
Alan Titchmarsh: Avant-Gardening, A Guide to One-Upmanship in the Garden (1984)
The Fashionable Umbellifers
I do not often give fashion advice but today I will give a tip. Umbellifers, dear reader, umbelliferous plants are hot overseas and we usually follow fashion. Preferably in white but that is not a great problem because it is the most common colour. If the flower looks familiar, it is because the apiaceae family that spawns most of the plants with these flat headed flower clusters called umbels, includes carrots, parsley and coriander. Also fennel, though that has soft yellow flowers.
The umbellifers include a number of wildflowers or roadside weeds, depending on which camp you fall in to. A fair few appear to be referred to as Queen Anne’s Lace, or common cow parsley, but we have failed to disentangle the many different species. There is a very large one referred to as giant hogweed that we saw growing wild in England. It is renowned for its caustic sap and the advice is to avoid ever touching it, let alone growing it from choice.
Why are the umbellifers so popular? They make a huge contribution to the nectar and pollen supply. Most have finer foliage and the flowers can rise above and appear to be dancing lightly in the air. Compare them to the chunky, compact bedding plants available today, and you can see how ethereal these simple blooms appear. Jaunting around a number of local gardens recently, I saw the annual Orlaya grandiflora being used. This is sometimes called French cow parsley or white lace flower. It is a smaller growing option available on the local market (Kings Seeds have it listed). Apparently switched-on gardeners have already picked up on the simple charm of umbellifers.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.