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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London