29 April 2011

a bit of a mouthful

Grown from a few seeds picked up from the path at the Chelsea Physic Garden a couple of years back, there are three plants of the unusual Madeiran endemic Black Parsley, Melanoselinum decipiens, growing at the Phoenix.  Apart from it's tongue twisting latin name it has a reputation for being a grand architectural rarity so I was pleased to get hold of it.  The big glossy green cut leaves held in a rosette atop a thick stem ringed with pale leaf scars have filled a space and been impervious to the dry site.  In better soils than here it can grow enormous and reach 3m at flowering, these are only half that height.  It is monocarpic, meaning it spends a number of years building up enough strength before putting all it's energies into flowering and seeding before dying.  After enjoying the anticipation for three years I find I am disappointed as the first one to flower shows me it's true colours - it's just not like the pretty photo-fakery on the web!

I liked it early in the year when the new bronzed foliage unfurled.  
I liked it as the candelabra of stems grew as it readied itself to flower.
I liked the promise of pink in the piped-icing buds.
 I liked the ruff of foliage beneath each umbel of flowers.
But I do not like the flowers now they've opened, up close they are off-white and from a distance they just look dirty.  I am under-whelmed.
The bugs don't agree with me - each head seeths with feasting micro-bees and pollen beetles.  I am hoping the dark seed heads that give it it's common name are more to my taste as I have no doubt it plans to seed about as generously as the other umbels, cow parsley and alexanders, do.  The jury is still out.

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