It’s official: there’s a new garden border trend in town – and, naturally, it revolves entirely around the unexpected ‘it’ flower of the year.
Gardening might be the furthest thing from your mind in the winter, but these chilly months really are the best time to sit down and dream up some gorgeous new garden border ideas and planting schemes.
Enter the fray, then, the new ‘it’ flower of the year: cow parsley.
‘As we head towards 2024, the unpredictable effects of climate change have taken centre stage and resilience is the watchword for the year ahead,’ says Clare Matterson, director general of the RHS.
Is it any wonder, then, that wildflower garden ideas are going to be a major garden trend for the year ahead? And that, specifically, cow parsley is being touted as the big must-have for our garden borders?
How cow parsley became the ‘it’ flower of 2024
Hot on the heels of the chaos gardening movement – which sees the likes of dandelions and bee-friendly herbs used to great effect in laidback and romantic outdoor spaces – is a newfound appreciation for the delicate white flowers of the humble and oh-so-pretty cow parsley.
‘The use of wildflower seeds is moving away from a designated wildflower patch/meadow and into the borders,’ explain experts at the RHS, praising cow parsley for its mild colour palette and desirable status as a garden border plant.
Award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore, meanwhile, notes that ‘if last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, was anything to go by, weeds – what we now call “resilient plants” – are now in.’
Zoe Claymore is a multi award-winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity for her private and commercial clients.
‘Plants like cow parsley require less care than more selectively bred species,’ continues Zoe, ‘giving us more time in our gardens to enjoy them and they are often great for wildlife.’
‘I think cow parsley in particular is having a moment as its ethereal quality looks good en mass, is it low maintenance and can easily naturalise into our new more meadow style lawns.’
Now, this new garden trend doesn’t mean we have to embrace the informality of rewilding; far from it, actually – particularly if you opt for an ornamental variety like the anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ (available from Crocus) seen above.
Offering an elegant twist on the classic cow parsley, this self-seeding wildflower will gift you pretty clusters of tiny, creamy-white blooms in late spring and early summer, highlighted by the lacy, deeply cut dark purple foliage.
And, as well as creating a ‘soft and charming atmosphere’ in your backyard, Christopher O’Donoghue of Gardens Revived says this biennial comes with some unexpected benefits.
A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018 to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.
‘Cow parsley is one of those clever plants that attracts lots of beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, contributing to pollination and overall garden biodiversity,’ says Christopher.
‘Plus, being a native wildflower, making this RHS-approved plant part of your garden border schemes will help to support local ecosystems.’
Christopher adds that cow parsley is also ‘well-adapted to the UK climate, making it an easy way to add some natural and wild beauty to your garden with little to no effort’.
Of course, there are a few things to bear in mind before you start meadowscaping in earnest.
‘Cow parsley can spread rapidly, outcompeting other plants,’ warns Christopher, noting that each plant produces hundreds of seed, so can quickly spread .
‘As such, regular management is essential to prevent it from taking over your garden,’ he says, adding that it’s also a good idea to deadhead the spent flowers before plants set seed to keep it within bounds.
It’s also worth considering that this plant can grow pretty tall, so factor its height into all of your planting schemes, too. Or you could, as Zoe suggests, opt for something like ammni majus ‘if you want the look without the quick spread’.
Still, all that being said, the RHS says that embracing wildflowers like cow parsley makes ‘people feel that they are in a wild place and providing benefits to well-being, wildlife and ease of maintenance’.
Consider us sold, quite frankly…