Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Eye of the Beholder

It is almost too late in the season to sing the praises of one of my favourite wild flowers, the humble cow parsley. For nearly all of May most country lanes and hedgerows are edged with the frothy white blooms of Anthriscus sylvestris. The scent is unmistakable. Some of the paths I wander daily are only just wide enough for Millie and I must wade through the narrow opening between the mass of silken stems as if were swimming in a green sea.


Cow parsley has many names, among them adder’s meat, bad man’s oatmeal, Spanish lace, kex, Mummie die, Grandpa’s pepper; my favourite is the one Beloved called it when the two of us first tramped the country lanes of South East England many years ago,  Queen Anne’s lace. There is a lovely story about Queen Anne, who suffered from asthma, and her ladies coming out into the meadows and fields around Kensington to get fresher air. As they walked along in spring sunshine, they carried their lace pillows and made lace. The flowering cow parsley resembled the court ladies’ lace patterns, and so the country folk began to call it Queen Anne’s lace. It is a pretty tale, albeit too pretty to be truth.


The garden is bursting its seams, self seeders (volunteers) and deliberately chosen herbaceous plants vie for space with each other. For the moment there is ‘Lebensraum’ for all; the shrubs are still young and haven’t yet reached their final seasonal height and width; for the moment all-comers are welcome, particularly if they are as pretty as the wild geranium, which has insinuated itself amongst purple aubrieta. Wouldn’t this arrangement make a splendid wallpaper? Or rug?


How do plants know what sets them off best, which neighbours to choose to dazzle the eye of the beholder? Or is it that in nature nothing ever clashes as it does in artifice? I have seen pink, deep red and purple colours close together in a flower bed and admired the audacity of the wearers but I’d never dream of matching these colours in fashion, say, or room furnishings. Perhaps I am just not brave enough and too easily guided by the taste of the moment.



Old Gardener came today and we worked all morning. Neither of us lasted the full four hours. I noticed several times that Gardener sneaked a crafty sit-down on a wall and once on a bench. When he saw me looking his way he started to pull up weeds growing underneath. Poor man, I know only too well that the spirit may be willing but that the flesh is getting increasingly weak. Neither of us is as young as we once were.





41 comments:

  1. I used to see cow parsley frequently as a little boy. The hills adjacent to my childhood home seemed to be covered in it. It was a great hiding place for meadowlarks as well! I used to always hear them singing form those hills :)

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  2. smiles...it is quite lovely...the purple flowers especially....we have quite a bit of the cow parsley just down the way from us...sounds like a nice path you walk....

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  3. It's so evident that this is a joyous time of year for you Friko.
    A rug I think, would be splendid for the purple aubrieta.

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  4. Weed removal while sitting. I like that. Many consider Queen Anne'sLace a pest, but it is native to Virginia and birds like it. Interesting to me that many of our native plants have adopted England, or been adopted by the English.

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  5. Queen Anne's Lace is the only name I have ever known it by. My English mama's heritage?
    Love the rich and vibrant magic you have given us today.
    And sympathise (to the max) with you and Old Gardener. My work in the garden involves short stints of activity and much resting at the moment.

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  6. I'm always mystified by how the stems bearing the cow parsley flowers all manage to grow to just the right length for all the flowers to cluster together (a feature known as a corymbus, I think).

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  7. I never knew all the names for Queen Anne's Lace which we have along our roadsides and at the edge of our woods. I have a huge batch that just started in my roses and I guess I will leave it as I love the huge flowers.

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  8. Not having a garden of my own now, I am especially fond of the wildflowers that grow in the fields around me and I like to hear all about them. I don't think the one you describe today grows in such profusion around here, but I always wanted it in my garden in California in my previous life. Of course, it never hist grew there.

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  9. Purple and Lime are so divine! I didn't know the word Corymbus Sackerson....thanks.

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  10. No. We are no longer young. Hence my deep hunger to be filled with beauties such as you and Millie show us today as you swim the green seas


    ALOHA from Honolulu
    ComfortSpiral
    =^..^= <3

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  11. Oh, your garden simply dazzles! I love the purples and pinks and greens all together, a symphony of color! And I love Queen Anne's Lace, which we call it here. I often will dry the flowers for my art projects. I especially see it on my walks at the lake and I am always entranced by the delicate flowers. I never knew the story of it before -- thanks for sharing it!

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  12. My flesh gets more then weak when it comes to garden work ! Your photos are beautiful !

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  13. Cow parsley is Queen Anne's lace?
    I did not know that, so thank you.
    Your garden is looking lovely. Nature does tend to mix colours and textures more freely than people dare to.

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  14. Another name for cow parsley is 'Bride's Lace', I learned as a child - maybe that name comes from Hampshire, where I grew up. BH will echo your thoughts about gardening as one gets older - although since he took himself off the statins he's had a lot more energy, and has almost completed planting out the rockery over the last few weeks when the weather has been good (and we haven't either been away or had visitors). Love your photos!

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  15. People here call Queen Anne's Lace a weed, but I call it magnificent.

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  16. I know it as Queen Anne's Lace, too. The purple, pink, red, and green all meld together in a gorgeous spread of color. I think I'd have to do all my weeding sitting down these days. Good thing I have no garden. ;)

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  17. Your garden is wonderful. And yes, that picture of the wild geranium is so pretty! I enjoy all the beautiful pictures everyone is posting of their gardens, but yours is especially lush and lovely. :-)

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  18. Friko, it's grand to learn the story of how Queen Anne's Lace gained its name. I think it's a lovely plant.

    The richness of your wild geranium and its vibrant neighbors is pure color luxury. Your photographs really to carry the carpet flying through the ether to the rest of us. Thank you so much.

    Rest, of course has another meaning. Exercise and rest make good companions. Glad that you and Gardener the First are finding time to actually enjoy the beauty you've been creating for years.

    xo

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  19. I would definitely choose the geranium wallpaper. Such a classy, brilliant purple.
    And great story about Queen Anne's lace; interesting nicknames too.

    Have a lovely weekend, dear Friko.

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  20. Dear Friko, I so enjoyed this posting as I used to be an avid gardener when I lived in Minnesota among my rock gardens and perennial gardens and vegetable garden. But since moving to Missouri I've retired from that life. Yet when I when you postings and see your photographs I find them evocative and they take me back to those Minnesota gardens. You are so correct that nature is wild and bold and presents us with a palette of colors that will might hesitate to wear and yet they compel ours eyes to beauty.

    A carpet or wallpaper of that array of plants would be breathtaking.

    And . . . your paragraph on Queen Anne's Lace, which is what it is called here in the States would appeal to the blogger Kate Shrewsday. She used to be a reporter and she so enjoys researching British history and art and characters. Her blog URL is as follows. If you haven't read her, you are in for a treat.
    http://kateshrewsday.com
    Peace.

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  21. That would make a great screensaver.
    As to colours in nature, some of the colour combinations at Great Dixter would have had me shuddering to contemplate in cold blood...but were stunning in reality.

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  22. I love Queen Anns Lace
    it grows wild all along the roads
    but none on these acres.
    Tried to transplant
    but did not work.
    Maybe I will try again..
    When I view your images
    they are beautiful..

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  23. Lovely, Friko. Evocative. Wish I had some weeds. My favourite being Dandelion.

    U

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  24. I've only ever known it as Queen Anne's Lace, back when I lived in Idaho. I would use it frequently in the bouquets I put together to set off our booth at the Farmer's Markets. I also would press it to make bookmarks. It does press and dry remarkably well, without crumbling and falling apart like many other flowers. I love this "weed"!

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  25. Actually, I got the plant transfer backwards...according to Wiki. Apparently it came from Europe and migrated West. Our Goldenrod, Virginia Creeper, and Virginia Spiderwort went the other way.

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  26. "Or is it that in nature nothing ever clashes as it does in artifice?" I often have this question, too. I do love to see the Queen Anne's lace (the name by which I know it, also) when it's in bloom. Still to come up here, but soon I think.

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  27. Friko, I'm so glad to have discovered this delightful name: Queen Anne's lace for a plant that I see a lot, but didn't know what it is. Much preferable to some of the other names! The purple flowers are so vibrant.

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  28. I love the lushness and beauty of the humble wildflower!

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  29. Oh, what gorgeous garden tapestries!

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  30. Here in the Pacific Northwest of the US, we call it Queen Anne's lace.

    I love this time of year, when all the flowers and plants know just what to do.

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  31. It's Queen Ann's Lace up here too, and welcome along the roadsides and in the ditches. It makes a nice addition to a wild-flower bouquet.
    Why not go wild, Friko, and buy some fabric in those colours and make up some seat cushions for your conservatory? Go for it!

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  32. I've always known it as Queen Anne's Lace. And OMG I so love all your blues, I want to roll in them.

    XO
    WWW

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  33. Mouthwatering colours and textures amongst your foliage and flowers! A real treat for the eyes. :-)

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  34. you have such a beautiful garden. after four years here, some of my small efforts are starting to show off. haven't found the right place for all the plants or the right plants for all the space but it is coming together slowly and slowly increasing in size. now, where's my Gardener?

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  35. Beautiful photos, Friko! I spend a lot of time in the spring and early summer just looking at wildflowers.

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  36. I love your photos and Queen Anne’s lace story! Nice colorful garden you have Friko!
    I know this Anthriscus sylvestris, here it's called Kupyr. It has a sweet anise scent, spicy, sweet, reminiscent taste of parsley, thereby used as a spice in soups and salads.

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  37. Nature is clever enough to work with not only color but also texture and height, which is why it can get away with anything!

    Our Spring is still just starting up here; we saw the first Trillium of the year a few days ago and very nearly applauded.

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  38. I have a huge clump of what you call cow parsley (and I shall call it that from now on) which I kind of liked so I let it grow. Now it's practically a bush. There's a shorter flower we call Queen Anne's Lace. I think they are both of the carrot family. Then we have a truly enormous one that grows wild all over the island that a lot of people say is deadly poisonous. So I steer clear of it.

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  39. i love cow parsley and up in these hills it's still in full flower. Blow colour matching! Nature knows best and those flower combinations are gorgeous. As for slowing down, I know all about that and find myself sneaking crafty sit-downs far more frequently nowadays.

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  40. Hi Friko - the lanes and verges are just wonderful at the moment .. and cow parsley is such an amazing mass of lacy blooms - love the Queen Anne story. Good for Gardener at least he's coming and you make him feel wanted and useful ... nature is glorious isn't it - know what goes where ...

    Happy summer days - cheers Hilary

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