Urban Gardener: High and mighty

From the quiet subtlety of anthriscus to the ballsy arrogance of angelica, apiaceae/umbelliferae are a valuable genus of plants, whether it's a delicate touch you're looking for or pure drama. Their ability to exploit light and space sets them apart from other plants, each umbel a myriad of tiny single flowers pooling their resources for the collective good.

Just a few weeks ago the Cow parsley tribe signalled the start of summer. Myrrhis odorata, chaerophyllum and the aforementioned anthriscus provided the understorey while the more forceful angelica towered over everything in triumphant exuberance. Soon the outlawed Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), monster of the umbellifer world, will trump everything in its wake and can often be seen poking its head above hoardings on wasteland with a simple message: "I'm back."

It's impossible not to be in awe of the larger umbellifers that capture your imagination from the minute the clenched bud (like an imploded balloon) begins to unfold its miracle of packaging. Angelica and hogweed may be thugs but can charge the garden with energy quite unlike anything else. An alternative to these is Peucedanaum verticillare, not quite as big (around 1.8m) but the reddish stems and yellow-green umbels are more attractive and it doesn't give you the blisters that the hogweed would if you touched the sap. Annoyingly I've never had much luck with it as slugs always cut short its progress at home but one day I'll find a client with the right conditions (moist rich soil) for it to get a good head start and space to plant a colony of them for more impact.

Of the smaller umbellifers, Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' (60cm) has become a designer's staple since perennials became popular. They are, perhaps, the most delicate of all. While the foliage should remain for summer occasionally they'll die back leaving gaps for other plants to fill, by which time the nomadic seed will have found new territory to cast its spell next season. Some seedlings revert back to plain green so weeding these out will perpetuate the brooding 'Ravenswing'. Like gypsophila in a floral display, the flowers have a curious effect on unifying space, accentuating movement. The haze-like diffusion of pink-tinged white has an almost hypnotic effect, especially at night when florets, despite their size still pack enough luminosity to keep a garden alive at twilight.

At Chelsea we used Baltic parsley, Cenolophium denudatum (1m), for its fern-like foliage in the shade of amelanchiers. It normally flowers from mid to late summer but without too much forcing ours were at that magical stage where the umbels were green-going-white adding a useful tone to the understated greenness at the back of the garden while carrying that potent air of expectation that can only be captured by an unopened bloom. This is perhaps the most useful umbellifer in the urban garden for, while they were quick to droop at Chelsea in their pots without water, the plant withstands dry shade very well once established and attracts insects to boot. Selenium wallichianum is another plant that, once established, can look stunning in a border growing to a versatile mid-height of 1.2m. The arching foliage, finer and growing in mounds, are justification enough for using this plant but the added bonus of white umbels in July and August is striking in a border where a backdrop of darker green (yew hedge or miscanthus) lets it take more of the limelight.

Meanwhile at the plot, after four weeks of absence, I'm delighted to see the vegetable side of the Umbellifer family emerging from an alarming blanket of bindweed and couch. Dots of fennel will soon be attracting hoverflies galore, lovage has risen from the dead and a handful of last year's late parsnips want to flower and set seed. A letter from the council may well be imminent.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants