Hello and goodbye, Ammi majus


Ammi majus in Mark’s ‘allotment’

I like umbellifers and I was casting around for suitable white umbellifers to dance in the auratum lily border.  “Ammi majus,” they said, “plant Ammi majus.” I have scattered some ammi seed in that border but now I am hoping they will not germinate.

Mark planted some in his vegetable garden, aka his ‘allotment’. The first year it was charming. It is sometimes known as the bishop’s flower or false Queen Anne’s Lace and, curiously, its natural habitat is the Nile River Valley. Mark was wondering about using it as a green crop. It is a member of the apiaceae family, as are most umbellifers including carrot, parsley and coriander.

Self-sown ammis already towering at 3m high

Well…. allegedly this ammi is an annual that reaches about 120cm in the UK, maybe up to two metres in NZ. Not in our conditions. Semi-perennial, we would say. Mark’s wildflower patch is swamped by towering ammis up to three metres high already and still growing (it is only spring here). The hollow stems are about 3cm across and brittle with it, so inclined to lean and fall. It is a triffid, intent on smothering everything around it. Mark thinks many of these plants probably germinated last summer to autumn so are maybe 10 months old now. It is clearly not a suitable candidate for allowing to self-seed and naturalise in a wildflower situation. That said, it would work if it was cleared out each autumn and fresh sown in early spring. I just can’t be bothered with giving it that amount of attention where I hoped to use it.

Orlaya grandiflora – more knee height than the waist or chest height I wanted but well-behaved!

I think I would be safer with the pretty Orlaya grandiflora, carrots and coriander amongst the lilies, grown solely for their dancing flower heads and ethereal nature. The orlaya seeds freely, enthusiastically even, but is easy enough to curtail if necessary.

There is no substitute for trialling plants before unleashing them in a naturalistic situation.  I learned this lesson with Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and I am eyeing up Salvia uglinosa with similar caution.

The cutting of the rampant ammi – too rampant

7 thoughts on “Hello and goodbye, Ammi majus

  1. Elizabeth Hamilton

    I love Orlaya too. It has arranged its lacy froth very attractively around the lemony cream Nina rose.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I just want to find a larger but well behaved and light version of orlaya – about waist height instead of knee height! The good thing about the orlaya is that it is so light and feathery that it doesn’t smother anything.

  2. tony murrell

    I enjoyed this posting Abbey, I have noticed more a more Orlaya around.
    Where we are here in Auckland, I’ve noticed that it’s been flowering all through winter in a Greylynn garden I walk past in the mornings.
    Good idea to plant fresh seed every season and a nice looking plant amongst most others

  3. tonytomeo

    I could not even suggest a cover crop for there. Mustard grows wild here, but is technically exotic that was imported while California was still part of Spain. I know how such things can escape and become problems.

  4. Tim Dutton

    No such problems here near Upper Hutt using the much smaller and daintier Ammi visnaga, I’m pleased to say. However, we DO have rather too many Daucus carota popping up all over the place, so there’s another weed we’ve managed to introduce to our own garden by trying out some seed from a leading NZ seed catalgue…

  5. Jenny Williams

    Last year a lovely plant grew with very pretty dainty flowers that I thought might be ammi majus; well I eventually identified it (I think) as hemlock! (Speckled red base of stems). So thinking of Sophocles’ demise I decided not to plant the seeds I had kept……

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