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Queen Anne’s Lace – Fit for Any Royalty

Queen Anne’s lace

Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota was one of the first flowers I could name. I did not know it was also  called wild carrot, but that name is understandable if you pull up some of the root and inhale that carrot-y fragrance. Who was Queen Anne? Probably, she was  Queen Anne (1665-1714) who ruled Great Britain for 12 years. The tiny red flower in the center of the umbel is considered to be a drop of blood when Queen Anne pricked her finger while making the lace.  That color of that single red flower is caused by anthrocyanin which attracts insects.

Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial plant. which is just a rosette of basal leaves the first year while it develops that carrot-y tap root, and it blooms the second year. The flower is an umbel, which is a  “flat-topped or rounded flower cluster in which the individual flower stalks arise from about the same point, as in the geranium, milkweed, onion, and chive.”  The outer florets bloom first, bloom moving in towards the center which means that a flower can be in bloom as long as 50 days.

Queen Anne’s Lace birdsnest

I didn’t actually like Queen Anne’s Lace much as a child, because somehow I usually only noticed it when it was looking like a birds nest, another name it has carried. Now, even though it is not native to North America I love to see it adorning the roadsides, not a fragile bit of lace, but a sturdy flower that attracts insects and gives me great pleasure.

A Bow to Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) appears on our roadsides and in the fields beginning in mid-July. I always think of it as a high summer plant. I never liked it much as a child, probably because I often saw it, or noticed it, when it was going by and curling into a cup-like shape that has given rise to another  of its names, bird’s nest flower.

Like many flowers it does have several names. Others are bishop’s lace and wild carrot. It is easy to understand the name wild carrot because the root has a carrot-y smell, and it is edible although the roots quickly become woody and not very appealing.

At first glance Queen Anne’s lace appears to be a white flower, but upon closer inspection, there is a flower in the center that can be red or purple in some varieties. The Queen Anne’s Lace in my neighborhood is pure white.  One legend has it that this colored flower is a drop of  Queen Anne’s blood from when she pricked her finger with an embroidery needle. This colored flowers attracts pollinators.

Queen Anne’s Lace is not a native or rare wildflower, but I have chosen it for Wildflower Wednesday, because, in my maturity, I find it a beautiful flower which I admire on the roadsides, and bring into the house for a bouquet.

On another note entirely, don’t forget about the Free Community Harvest Supper on Sunday, August 22 from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Good eats. Good music. And a good deed. Donations made at the Supper will go to fund Greenfield Farmers Market Vouchers for those in need.  If you cannot attend, consider making a donation to Center for Self Reliance Food Pantry, 23 Osgood Street, Greenfield, MA 01301.

Alphabet for Pollinators – D is for Dandelions


Dandelions – Cheer and nectar in early spring. Pollen too.

Dandelions are the first D pollinator plant I think of.  They bloom in the very early spring and my Heath lawn had lots of dandelions every spring. I  thought they very pretty and I also thought they were important for bees who needed nectar and pollen when the hives became active.

It seems there are differences of opinion,  although they are not totally worthless. The Guardian International thinks dandelions are very useful to pollinators in the early spring. The Daily Journal of Kankakee, Illinois takes a different view, although they do not say  the dandelions are completely worthless to pollinators.

The Pesticide Action Network UK says bees definitely need dandelions. Maybe Kankakee is just more particular about their lawns.

Double bird’s foot trefoil, Lotus plenus, is another lawn substitute. it has two inch dense dark green foliage with ruffled yellow flowers in  the summer.

There are other low growing plants that sometimes substitute for grass in a lawn. Many of us might be familiar with Dianthus gratianopolitanus under the title cheddar pinks. They are only about one or two inches tall and have sweet clove scented pink flowers in mid-spring. It does tolerate mild foot traffic.

Double bird’s foot trefoil, Lotus plenus, is another lawn substitute. it has two inch dense dark green foliage with ruffled yellow flowers in  the summer. It is often used as a ground cover, but it can be used on a lawn, or on a bank.

Queen Anne's Lace

Daucus carota Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota, Queen Anne’s Lace, is one of my favorite flowers. This grows along the roadsides. I don’t know why I never see it in a garden.  Maybe I just haven’t seen enough gardens. I will have to work on that.

Daucus carota Queen Anne’s Lace

Umbellifers – from poison to beauty

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

The family of umbellifers can take us from Socrates poison to Miss Willmott’s Ghost.

Did you ever imagine that Queen Anne’s Lace, sweet cicely, golden alexanders, angelica, sea holly and poison hemlock, were all members of the same botanical family? All of these belong to the large class Apiaceae which is very large, with 300 genera and between 2500-3000 species. I will not give a lengthy lecture on taxonomy, a system used by botanists, but I will give you the hierarchy. First comes the domain, followed by kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.  For example, humans are in the animalia kingdom and the genus Homo as in Homo sapiens or Homo neanderthalensis.

The class of umbellifers is familiar to any of us who have seen Queen Anne’s Lace growing by the roadside, or used dill when making pickles.

The word umbellifer refers to the shape of the flower. Botanists will say that plants with a flower similar to Queen Anne’s Lace is an inflorescence, which I think is a lovely sounding word. Once you start to think of plants with similar flowers you might first enter a world of edible plants. The herb garden holds many umbellifers including parsley, caraway, cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, celery, and chervil.

Some herbs like Angelica archangelica can grow to seven feet tall. It makes quite a statement in the herb or flower garden. It bears a resemblance to giant hogweed, but it is benign and will not cause rashes or worse. It has been used medicinally in the past. It is a biennial, or may seed itself for several years.

I grew the herb lovage in an out of the way spot in my Heath garden because it easily grew to six feet tall. I didn’t use it much, but I occasionally used the leaves when I didn’t have celery

Which brings us to the vegetable garden with celery, celeriac, fennel, parsnips, and carrots, of course.

If you have any of these umbellifers in your herb or vegetable garden you know that the flowers attract many pollinators and butterflies. Once I learned that the striking yellow and green caterpillars I saw crawling on and eating my dill would eventually turn into lovely swallowtail butterflies, I planted extra parsley and dill. Still, I remain willing to sacrifice these plants because it means I have the flowers of the sky in my garden.

Sea Holly

Sea Holly

And that just about brings us to the flowers in the garden. Sea holly (Eryngium) is an umbellifer. The silvery but bright blue umbel looks quite different from the airy and flat Queen Anne’s Lace blossom. The sea holly umbel more resembles the center of a cone flower with tiny flowers in the center surrounded by thistle-like bracts.

I bought a sea holly for my Heath garden several years ago and I’ve forgotten the particular species. There are a couple of species of sea holly that are hardy in our region.

Eryngium Big Blue will grow to nearly three feet with a two foot spread. Eryngium yuccifolium has yucca-like foliage with small, pale greenish-white umbels and no bracts. Both of these are very hardy and do well in ordinary soil that drains well. It is an ideal plant for the dry garden.

There is another sea holly nicknamed Miss Willmott’s Ghost. This plant is quite famous in England where the wealthy Miss Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) lived and gardened. She was a passionate gardener and it has been said that she had 200 gardeners working in her Warley Place gardens.

One of her favorite plants was Erynium giganteum and it was well known that she often scattered the seeds of this plant in the gardens that she visited. I have heard different stories about her habit of spreading the seed of this favorite plant. Some say she did it because she loved it so much she wanted to share it with all her friends. Others say she did it to irritate people. Either way, the big pale holly became known as Miss Willmott’s Ghost. She became more and more eccentric as she lived, and ultimately died a pauper.

Some of the umbellifers are so similar in appearance that they can be mistaken for a poisonous member of the family. A couple of years ago there was a great concern about giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) which grows to ten feet with a flower that resembles Queen Anne’s Lace. This is a phototoxic plant. When the sap gets on your skin and then is exposed to sunlight the damage it causes looks like a bad burn and is very painful.

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) was used on purpose in 399 B.C. by the Greek philosopher Socrates who had been convicted of corrupting Athenian youth. Plato was with Socrates when he took the deadly drink and watched him stroll around the room until he felt his strength waning. He lay down and was soon dead.

Those who read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley may remember that the epic story of a farming family also includes murder by poison hemlock.

Water hemock (Cicuta) is considered the most deadly poisonous plant in the United States. The deaths that occur are because the roots are mistaken for edible vegetables.  It takes hardly more than a bite before it attacks the nervous system causing vomiting and seizures.

My advice is to stick to parsley and parsnips in the kitchen, and sea holly in the garden.

Between the Rows   September 24, 2016

U is for Umbelliferae

Vegetable Literacy by Madison

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

U is for Umbelliferae. Umbelliferae is the family of plants that includes carrots, cilantro/coriander/ dill,  lovage, parsley, parsnips and Queen Anne’s Lace. As well as a few others. I hadn’t thought about the range of this family until I read Vegetable Literacy, a wonderfully informative horticultural book – and cook book filled with delicious recipes.

The name Umbelliferae refers to the type of flower form – umbel.

queen-annes-lace-7-18.jpg (600×366)

I wrote about Queen Anne’s Lace here  and identified it as Daucus carota, or wild carrot. You would understand the wild carrot part if you ever sniffed a Queen Anne’s Lace root. Daucus is a genus within the larger umbelliferae kingdom. The taxonomy rules go from Kindgdom, to Phylum to Class to Series to Family to Genus to Species. There are about 3,700 species in the  Umbelliferae Kingdom.



You can see the similarity between the Queen Anne’s Lace Flower and this dill flower starting to go to seed.

To see who else is trying to post every day on the A to Z Challenge click here.

Parsley, Eryngium and the American Horticultural Society


Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’

One of the benefits of membership in the American Horticultural Society is the arrival of The American Gardener every other month. This month the cover photo was of an Eryngium or sea holly, and the amazing news that this is a relative of parsley. This isn’t exactly one of  the weird and wonderful facts I love to collect, but I certainly found it unexpected. The delightful and informative article by Barbara Perry Lawton catalogs a number of other umbelliferae. like angelica which can grow to 8 feet with lime green domed umbles, sweet cicely, an anise flavored herb  which prefers some shade, unlike most herbs, astrantia, and golden Alexanders

After admiring the sea hollies on the Bridge of Flowers for a couple of years I added the striking ‘Blue Sapphire’ to my garden this year and I love it. I had never thought of it as an umbelliferae, but the center of this flower is an umbel. “The characteristic inflorescence shared by family members is called an umbel. . .  umbels are composed of multiple florets that fadiate from a single spot at the end of a main stem, giving the inflorescence an umbrella like appearance.”  Queen Anne’s lace is another perfect and familiar example of this family.

In the article Lawton, author of Parsleys, Fennels and Queen Anne’s Lace, published by Timber Press, tells the story of the notable British gardener Miss Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) who was known for the magnificent gardens at Warley Place.  Miss Willmott loved the Eryngium giganteum so much that she took to dropping seeds of this plant in other gardens when she visited. Soon people were calling it Miss Willmott’s ghost.  I always enjoyed the idea of Miss Willmott surreptitiously spreading this plant she loved so much. Because of her gardens she won many awards, and had several plants named in her honor. I own a white Miss Willmott lilac. Alas, she spent her whole great fortune on her gardens and became more and more eccentric.  By the time of her death was living in only three rooms of her great home.

Giveaway – Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers

Seeing Flowers by Llewellyn and Chace

Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers with amazing photographs by Robert Llewellyn and charming essays by Teri Dunn Chace, is a beautiful companion to the stunning Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees  which also features Robert Llewellyn’s unique photographic process.  The book, and a gorgeous 16 x 24 gallery quality print to celebrate the release of this book by Timber Press is being given away to some flower lover.  All you have to do is click here and you may win a copy of the book with its 345 photographs, and the large print.

Seeing Flowers gives us a way to see the extraordinary details of ordinary flowers. While  the red poppy is a brilliant show stopper, I love the photographs of the pale Queen Anne’s Lace with the single, tiny red flower in its inflorescence that calls to pollinators flying by.  Even the closed up, ‘bird’s nest’ stage of Queen Anne’s Lace, indicating pollination has been completed,  is newly beautiful to my eyes. I never liked the ‘bird’s nests.’

The book is divided by flower families, from Amaryllis to Daisy to Viola. In addition to Chace’s essays many of the flowers have been given a poetic flourish from poets like Shakespeare who treasured all growing things.

“O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies/In herbs, plants, stone, and their true qualities;/For nought so vile that on the earth doth live/But to the earth some special good doth give.”  (From Romeo and Juliet.)

This specially good book could be yours with just a click and an email address. It would  also make a specially good gift for the gardener as we approach the happy gift-giving season.


Achillea, Yarrow, Roadside Weed

Roadside yarrow

Achillea millefolium is a member of the compositae or daisylike family, but the tiny five rays give the appearance of a five petaled flower. The foliage is delicately ferny.

Roadside yarrow

While I may not have liked Queen Anne’s Lace as a child, I always liked yarrow. When I became a gardener I realized that there are many yarrows, that achillea comes in a whole palette of colors. I have grown Achillea ‘Cornonation Gold’ with its deep color and large flower heads, and Achillea “Moonshine” a much gentler shade.

A golden achillea

This golden achillea is not ‘Cornonation Gold’, but I like the dense color and the silvery foliage.

Achillea “Paprika” and “The Pearl”

I wanted “Paprika” for my garden after I saw it in by a friend’s doorway, but mine is not the brilliant orange-red shade I expected and desired. Maybe I’ll have to try again. There is never any question about Achillea “The Pearl’ a good spreader, easy to divide and give away to friends.

Deep pink Achillea

I can never resist deep pink flowers and this nameless Achillea fills the bill.

Achillea ‘Terra Cotta’

I like the shades of yellow/orange in Achillea ‘Terra Cotta’.  I know that I bought ‘Terra Cotta’ from Bluestone Perennials which has a good selection, but some have come from friends. All these hybrids of the roadside weed retain their hardiness and their tolerance of hot dry weather.

U is for Unless on the A to Z Challenge


Queen Anne’s Lace – an umbelliferous flower

U is for Unless. I was trying to find a good botanical U word, but I could locate very few. Umbel is “an inflorescence with pedicles or branches arising at the same point and of nearly equal length.” Think Queen Anne’s Lace. Ulmus is the whole family of elms, and Urtica is the stinging nettle. Stinging nettle made me think of the problems we can face when gardening. And that made me think of an alphabet book by the delightful artist David Hockney and others. The only letter of that alphabet that I can recall is the U. David Hockney’s collaboration (I don’t remember who) said U is for Unless. He said Unless is the creaking hinge of a story. And a creepy, scary hinge it is. The garden should do well this year — Unless we have a drought, the well dries up and I cannot water the garden, losing all my labor, and because all my neighbors will have dry wells too, I’ll have to drive to buy gallons of grocery story water to drink, and have to go downhill to our beaver pond to get water for flushing the toilets, and have to visit one of my children who lives where there is town water to take a shower, and have to drive 15 miles to the nearest laundromat and any tears I shed will only make the soil bad, and then the whole landscape will die, and I won’t even be able to sell and and we will become poverty stricken and what happens after that  will be just terrible —- Unless it rains and all is saved.

To see what else begins with U click here.

Bloom Day August 2010

The cutting garden

I don’t think a cutting garden is really supposed to look like this. A cutting garden is supposed to give each plant room to breathe.  But here are scarlet bee balm, Hot Crayon Color zinnias from Renee’s Garden, bachelor’s buttons, gomphrena, and Hot Biscuits amaranth from Seed Savers looking like they are at a crowded cocktail party.  Golden rod and tansy and mint in the surrounding  field – all blooming.


I thought Gomphrena would be great for bouquets so I bought two six packs from LaSalle’s Florist who has wonderful bedding plants in the summer. I did not realize this is also known as globe amaranth.  I stuck a couple of the plants next to the bush beans, and put one or two in planters. They have done beautifully and I plan to grow them again.

'Mothlight' hydrangea

I now have  four hydrangeas. I planted ‘Mothlight’ several years ago, and with very little help from me she is thriving, as you can see.  I only wish the weeping birch didn’t weep right on top of her.

'Limelight' hydrangea

‘Limelight’ joined a very small oakleaf hydrangea last summer. I’m happy to say that all three hydrangeas that will make up my erstwhile hydrangea hedge are doing very well and blooming, but Pinky Winky and the oakleaf are very small still.

Cosmos, 'Blue Paradise' phlox and Stargazer lilies

In the same bed with Mothlight and the weeping birch is my new ‘blue and white section.’  I took out a rampant spirea shrub and since I had no real plan for what to do next I thought I would just make sure everything was blue or white. With maybe a touch of yellow.  This is not give an excellent photo. The  new ‘Blue Paradise’ phlox is going by, but I think it will be more substantial in August next year.  You can also see a new sulphur yellow achillea and the Stargazers. I had forgotten about that  touch of pink.

Connecticut yankee delphiniums and cosmos

I didn’t expect the new ‘Connecticut Yankees’ to do much this year, but they are making a noble effort. I can always count on Renee’s cosmos to cover a lot of ground. This section is to the left of the previous photo and now we will go still further left.

Annual Veronica

The corner of this bed is filled with two varieties of cotoneaster.  I should have had faith that one type would be more than sufficient, if only I would have patience. Now they are both totally grown together and will never be separated. There was a bare spot in the corner that I filled with this pretty annual veronica from LaSalle’s.  It is very similar to the ‘Blue Eyes” veronica, an old variety, that came to me at a plant swap years ago as ‘blue eyed grass’ so I planted it in the lawn where it has spread, but rarely blooms because of the mowing. I promised myself I would dig up a little bit and put it in a more perennial spot, but I haven’t done it yet.

Achillea 'The Pearl' and Julie's dianthus

Achillea ‘The Pearl’ is such a depandable and useful plant, in the garden and in arrangements.  You can see one little pink dianthus that I had gotten at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale. Julie said it would bloom and bloom. And it has. It is a lovely little thing.  Other cheddar pinks are also still putting out a few bloom.


I don’t know what this little Champlain (Canadian Explorer) rose is doing blooming at this time of year, especially since it is about to be eaten up by the Apart rugosa that has sent new shoots out. Right here.

Linda Campbell rugosa

I was also stunned to see this one blossom of Linda Campbell, a rose in the Sunken Garden, that I thought had died years ago – along with almost everything else in the Sunken Garden.  I will dig this up in the fall, and I think I will put it on the Rose Bank.

Rugosa alba

At the top edge of the Sunken Garden is a partial hedge of Rugosa alba.  This plant hopped down from above,

Rugosa alba

and this one looks like it is trying to make the leap.  It sure shows how tenacious rugosas and their roots are!

Pink Grootendorst rugosa

She doesn’t have a lot of blooms at this time of the year, but I really like Pink Grootendorst. She is on the new Rose Bank and has grown immensely since I planted her last year – just as I had hoped.  Double Red Knockouts are also blooming on the Rose Bank.

Sweet Peas

Saltwater Taffy Swirl sweet peas from Renee got off to a slow start, but they are beautiful right now. Fragrant, too.

Morning Glories

I love having morning glories right outside the window where we can see them in the morning. Going strong.

Achillea 'Terra Cotta'

This ‘Terra Cotta’ achillea has been going strong too.  I have pink achilleas in the Lawn Beds and a deep pink in the Herb Bed. Of course, there is wild white yarrow growing by the roadsides.  Along with Queen Anne’s lace.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck, planted at the end of the Herb Bed last spring, has settled in nicely and has been in bloom all summer. The Fairy is another rose that blooms all summer dependably. I have two, one in each Lawn Bed.

Castor Bean

The Castor Bean was supposed to fill the whole circle in the middle of the lawn, but it has been slow going. Even though it has not reached a height of six or more feet as I had hoped, the color and size of the leaves still make a pretty dramatic impact.

Phlox and Cosmos

I think every perennial garden should have phlox.  This is a nameless pink phlox I got at the Bridge of Flowers last year and it is magnificent. This year I bought Blue Paradise at the Bridge of Flowers sale, and my own Miss Lingaard, a white phlox, which blooms in June, is still putting out some flowers.  I’ve already started thinking about what phlox I can add next year – and where I will find a place to put it.  This spot in the garden is very pink, which is unusual for an August garden. In addition to the pink phlox, there are two varieties of pink cosmos, pink echinacea, a few cheddar pinks, a pink achillea and the pink The Fairy rose.

'Fairy Tale Pink' daylily

Of course the daylilies are still blooming, nastursiums and Black Beauty lilies, and pots filled with petunias, Million Bells, geraniums, annual salvia, blooming mint, oregano, and circle garlic. All of a sudden I realize August is a really good month in my garden.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for inspiring me, and so many others to keep this record for ourselves, and let us all see how seasons progress across the country.