Today is the longest day of the year filled with more light than any other.
Umbellifers are a family of plants with long stems and flowers forming clusters called umbels and they catch the late evening light like upturned chandeliers. They do not just look beautiful – umbellifers attract into the garden beneficial insects like ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings, which in turn are your best defence against aphids.
Some are taller than others. Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), which can be seen along our verges in May has all but disappeared now but there are plenty of other good garden plants.
Ammi majus is at its best right now. It is a biennial that is best sown in September, so it’s a good idea to order your seeds now. Keep it over the winter with a bit of protection and then plant it out in spring, when it will grow to about 1-1.3m (3-4ft) topped with clean white florets.
Orlaya grandiflora, the white lace flower, is an annual with rather larger flower heads that can be sown either in spring for flowering in late summer or in September for an earlier display the following year. It will flower continuously for about ten weeks so is excellent value in any border.
Angelica grows huge on damp, rich soil. It self-seeds vigorously so needs thinning if it is not to become too invasive, but in its right place it is an absolute joy.
No plant is more popular with butterflies, hoverflies, bees and wasps than the lovely, plum-coloured umbellifer Angelica gigas. It starts out slowly, easing itself into summer with modest foliage, but in late July it throws up a 2m (6ft)-tall crimson stem topped with a beautiful bud that opens to reveal umbellifer flowers of the deepest burgundy. It can be bought to plant out now – it is monocarpic, which means that it dies back once it has set seed, but the seeds will produce a rash of seedlings that can be lifted and moved to wherever you wish to place them, so the plant can live on through its offspring for years.
Valeriana is a spectacular plant. The white umbels are touched with pink and are carried on tall, upright stems that last for months.
The common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a good example of all the virtues of umbellifers: open, lacy, towering but not shading anything beneath it. The leaves are the perfect accompaniment to baked or barbecued fish and the seeds are delicious too, both rubbed into a joint of pork and to munch on by the handful. Good for the tummy too.
Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) grows in quite deep shade. As with fennel, you can buy it to plant out now, and all of it can be eaten, from root to flower to seed. It tastes of aniseed and is good cooked with tart fruits such as rhubarb or gooseberries because it reduces the acidity.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/gardening/article-2663560/Guardians-garden-Umbellifers-not-beautiful-theyre-irresistible-birds-bees-insects-garden-healthy.html#ixzz35GeYJk5K