We have a ‘design bite’ for you to chew on

Tom Stuart Smith is using Cenolophium denudatum in what looks like it will be a coolly elegant Laurent Perrier garden at Chelsea Flower Show this year.

‘A fresh, glossy leaved umbellifer that says Spring’ the magazine enthuses breathlessly.

In layman’s terms he’s going for the white, floaty, cow parsley look!

And it is the time of year when cow parsley is the airy, lacy look that we love on the roadside verges and want to take back and install at No. 24 Acacia Avenue.

But its never that easy is it? Imitating Dame Nature, I mean!

Cow parsley seeds around and once you’ve got it going, its a little the case that you wish you hadn’t.

Great, if you have an orchard that you don’t see up front once it has finished doing its airyated stuff. Then, I think few plants are capable of looking more fagged out.

There are various other umbellifer type options you could go for, but it is a family that contains plants which are invasive, or seasonally monstrous plants like angelica, or Hogweed which somehow never seem to fit that easily, and plants which are biennial or monocarpic or annual like orlaya and ammi which require fussing.

And I cannot be that fussed!

In Cenolophium denudatum the Master Plantsman has done us a favour (since he is sure to be copied ) in that it is perennial. But big. I know a smaller one. And it will be good mannered enough for No. 24 and yet convey that cow parsley atmosphere that we want:

Myrhhis  odorata aka ‘Sweet Cicely’.

When I blog about plants, I usually look them up. I mean, I have grown Myrhhis for 20 years, but I am always interested to see what other people’s take is on a specific plant.

Christopher Lloyd is sniffy and waspishly so. So what is new? Graham Stuart Thomas thinks its namesake must have been very attractive, in fact ‘a fair woodland nymph’! Refined and fragrant. Take your pick! I always find GST more balanced.

He did make me run out and check its fragrance. I hadn’t recalled that. It smells like an umbellifer not a lily though!

He does say that its creamy white flowers stand out against dark backgrounds. This is what I like. You can use it for flowering material in borders where you want something to look more natural and relaxed, but not untidy.

What I also like that its heads of black seeds stand upright in the autumn.

Both authors mention that it seeds around. I have not found that. So maybe that is a ‘soil and situation’ situation.

I discover from Maude Grieve’s Herbal that it has a mere 13 other common names apart from the one I have given. She also reports that it is also a multipurpose herb. In fact so completely multipurpose that you doubt any of it.

Coughs, flatulence, dog and viper bites, stinking ulcers, gout, debilitated stomachs, pleurisy and lack of sexual appetite a problem for you? Then have some Sweet Cicely. Need some furniture polish? The seeds are good for that too. Oh, come on. Just stick it in your borders!

Robert

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