The delights of pink cow parsley

One of the delights of early summer is seeing road verges and banks clothed with cow parsley, but I was reminded of the equal beauty of a pink-flowered relative when I visited a garden in the Scottish borders last week.

There are a number of similar, white-flowered umbellifers which grace our summer countryside. They take their name from the structure of the flowerhead which is called an ‘umbel’ and their popularity in gardens over the last 20 years or so has soared.

But you don’t often see pink-flowered forms. And yet the stunning combination of Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’ (the pink form of the delightfully named ‘hairy chervil’) with purple alliums was a real winner at Carmichael Mill Garden, Near Lanark. This delightful garden on the banks of the River Clyde, has a gloriously natural feel, but is artfully planted with some clever plant combinations like this one.

How to grow pink cow parsley

In common with most other umbellifers, this plant does well on moisture retentive, rich soil. Less happy on thin, sandy and acidic soils, it is adaptable to a range of conditions as long as there is some moisture retention in the late spring and early summer. Once high summer arrives and flowering is over, the foliage does start to deteriorate, but clever gardeners will have planted late summer-flowering plants alongside to mask its demise. Hairy chervil is also happy growing in sun or part shade and is fully hardy.

Growing to around 60cm (2ft.) in height, it is the perfect companion for taler alliums as already mentioned, but it also combines well with herbaceous geraniums, honesty, aquilegias, astrantia and a whole host of ferns.

This beautiful cow parsley is a gradual, rather than rampant spreader and is easy to thin out if it becomes an embarrassment. It’s also good for pollinators attracting a range of different bees and hoverflies which visit its nectar-rich flowers in the summer.

Where can I buy pink cow parsley

Not readily available from garden centres, Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’ is listed on Beth Chatto Plant & Gardens website, as well as Larch Cottage Nurseries, Plants to Plant, and Dorset Perennials, though you may have to wait till autumn to get hold of the plants.

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