At this time of year, the wild carrot, Daucus carota is at its best. I probably should have chosen it as the featured image on this post, but there is something about the cow parsley, though long since over, that took my fancy. I think it’s probably this plant, followed by other umbellifers that triggered my love of native wildflowers. Over the years I have periodically fed this obsession by buying trays of cheap plugs from British Wild Flower Plants and popping them into the soil in anticipation of growth the following year.
This obsession started many years ago when I bought far too many plugs of Sweet Cicely and literally peppered the garden with them in the hope of creating my version of the billowing cow-parsely meadows you see everywhere in late May. That particular endeavour worked a little too successfully, and I spent the following years removing and relocating the plants in order to concentrate the effect in one area.
Sometimes I am less successful, and find the following year that my plans have yielded little or nothing. This year I find the big successes were the purple cow parsley Anthriscus Sylvestris Ravenswing, and the very beautiful Sweet Woodruff, Galium oderatum. Both sat very nicely alongside the dusky Cranesbill Geranium Phaeum, which, with constant deadheading and a hard chop in spring will continue to flower for months.
Of course there is probably a fine line between the conscious cultivation of native wildflowers and the willful planting of weeds. A couple of years ago I successfully sowed the seeds of the narrow leaf, or Ribwort Plantain which I had gathered from the grasslands around the reservoirs north of our house. This, I think falls quite definitely into the latter category.
The endeavour was, I think, very successful. The beautiful sprouting rosettes of spear-shapes leaves gave way to slender swaying stems topped with compact oval flower heads of fluffy white anthers which lasted for months. They became a symbol of Summer and I loved their informal and irreverent contribution to the borders. Contrary to warnings, they never reappeared again and I miss them. I feel a trip to the reservoirs may be in order.
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