Phacelia - May
I have decided to write about this flower this month after a suggestion at the Christmas party back in December. Phacelia can be an annual, biennials or perennials, so there are lots of varieties to choose from.
The flowers on phacelia are a purpely-blue colour. They are renowned for being nicely scented. The leaves and foliage are described as being foliage-like. Phacelia tanacetifolia , commonly known as fiddleneck, can grow to a height of 120cm. Phacelia is said to have a cyme. This is where the central main stem and each side branch end in a flower. The flowers in the main cluster begin blooming from the flower on the main stem downwards or outwards. The diagram at the bottom shows a cyme.
It is a quick growing yet hardy crop. I call it a crop as it is grown on a large scale, but this doesn’t mean you can’t grow it in your own gardens. It is ideal for sowing from March until September. This is because can tolerate the cold. From planting it takes around 6 weeks to flower, and these last for a further 6 weeks. They prefer dry soils over damp soil.
Phacelia is known as a green manure crop. These are crops that we grow to dig back into the soil to provide nutrients for the follow-on crop. Different plants provide different nutrients, but phacelia is a nitrogen fixing plant, so it provides the soil with a nitrogen boost.
For our bees, this is a perfect flower. It is listed as one of the top 20 honey-producing flowers, whilst also being attractive to bumblebees and hoverflies. For you gardeners out there, the hoverfly eats lots of aphids so by attracting them you can sustain higher vegetable yields. You need to get the proportion of attractive flowers to vegetables correct, otherwise pollinators will purely feed on the attractive flowers.
Cow parsley - June
Although I strongly recommend you to keep your eyes on the road as you drive around the countryside, it is always nice to look at what is growing along the hedgerows and verges. Especially at this time of year, the seemed to be covered in white from seas of cow parsley.
Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is an herbaceous biennial. This means that that do not have a persistent woody stem and that it takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the UK it has many names including wild beaked parsley, keck, Queen Anne’s Lace or mother-die. It is native to Europe as well as Western Asia and North Africa.
Its stem can grow to heights between 60 and 170 cm (23- 66 in). From the stem, the plant branches out to umbels of small white flowers. These are small groups all coming from the same stalk. The leaves at their base can be up to 30 cm (12 in) long. Cow Parsley tend to grow in large clumps together and it is rare to find a single plant on its own. Another ‘not so accurate’ way of identifying it is to count the number of bees on the flowers as they just seem to love the stuff.
A lot of the time it can be mistaken for several similar poisonous plants such as poison hemlock and fool’s parsley. Cow Parsley is edible but it does have an unpleasant flavour. Furthermore, it has been used in traditional medicine to treat stomach and kidney problems.