As an admitted plant-aholic, it is pretty easy for me to fall for a plant. I have a bad habit of seeing virtue in almost every green darling. Of all of my plant crushes, one in particular stands out: I am particularly crazed about umbels.
Umbels often have low basal foliage from which mostly leafless stems arise to support striking disk-shaped flowers. From the side, the flowers look like an umbrella turned inside-out by the wind. A close look at the tiny flower clusters (umbels) is a joy in itself, as radially-symmetrical fractals reveal hundreds of sparkling blooms. Staring into an umbel, I have the same thought as I did when I gazed upon the rose window in Chatres cathedral: how can there be such exultant power in so much delicacy?
|Tom Stuart-Smith's 2010 Laurent-Perrier Garden, Chelsea. Photo by Allan Pollok-Morris|
Here are few seeds I have ordered for next year’s border. I’d love to know if any of you have gardened with them:
1. Ammi majus, White Bishop’s Weed. An annual, these showy-white flowers look like a cultivated form of Queen Anne’s Lace. 36-48” height. I plant to sow them among medium-height, ornamental grasses.
|Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood,' Plant-pictures.net|
|Eryngium yuccifolium, photo by Prairie Moon Nursery|
|H. maximum, photo by Phyllis Weyland|
4. Sellenium wallichianum, Milk Parsley. Of all the umbels, nursery owner and writer Carol Klein says Sellenium wallichianum might be her favorite. It’s easy to see why. The leaves are as nice a feature as the flowers, as billowing clumps of ferny foliage create a lacey foundation for the plant. The stems are bright red and the flowers, oh those huge, creamy blooms. E.A. Bowles, one of the great British gardeners of the 20th century, called S. wallichianum, “the queen of all umbellifers, with its almost transparent tender green-ness and the marvellously lacy pattern of its large leaves . . . the most beautiful of all fern-leaved plants.”