Tuesday 28 May 2013

Cow Parsley: uber trendy plant, or just a weed?

My mother managed to get to Chelsea last week, and her big comment was ‘there are lots of gardens with loads of weeds in them including cow parsley?!’ this was good as it made her feel better about the weeding (i.e. we should stop immediately). I hadn't noticed it, but then when catching up over the Chelsea coverage there was indeed a lot of cow parsley everywhere...even planted next to Mr Titchmarsh’s presenter’s booth

Now I am a fan of the move towards the informal and naturalistic approach to gardening but wonder if cow parsley is too much? Perhaps it is my upbringing but cow parsley was always seen as a bit of a devil weed and one which set off mum’s hay fever and to be avoided at all costs. Don’t get me wrong I have a bit of a secret liking of the black stemmed form, but the regular one?

The move to the naturalistic has been really interesting to watch, and one which seems to have accelerated over the last 18 months with all the superb planting around all the Olympic sites. This seems to have cemented the move towards pollinator/wildlife friendly planning as oppose to planting which is solely British natives and has been advocated for a long time. I have always found this ‘all or nothing’ approach a bit too much as I do love British wildflowers, but they do tend to peak at about now and then look decline. The new work around finding nectar rich plants which work for local wildlife through the year and also extend the period of interest for wildflower meadows is fabulous with good use of American prairie plants and also things like Cosmos which pick up when others begin to flag. I love this style of planting as it looks fabulous and is good for wildlife....it is not ‘wrong’ as it isn't just British natives!

Which brings us back to Cow Parsley.....nice in the countryside, but in gardens? Is this part of a wider trend for a garden to be just a piece of managed wilderness? Should I get over it and go out and plant lots immediately? A plant for the front of the border or compost heap?


  1. It's not just Chelsea but Great Dixter has been using extensively on their long borders for a few years now, perhaps they even jump started/pioneered the trend.

    Not for us personally, we'll pass (we prefer variegated knotweed....)

  2. I seemed to miss this although it poured with rain constantly when I was at Chelsea and my glasses had misted over. Probably works best in larger gardens/spaces. I guess it would be nice if you had a larger London garden and you can have a wild area at the bottom.