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.