Native to the Mediterranean, parsley (Petrosilenum crispum) is a rich source of vitamin C and iron, and is said to cure bad breath and cleanse the skin. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it lives for two years, growing leaves in the first year, then flowering in the second, before setting seed. For this reason parsley is treated as an annual and it’s best to sow seed each year.
Easy to grow, even in part shade, parsley can be grown in containers or borders, and freshly picked leaves will depth and flavour to your cooking. Of the two types of parsley sold in supermarkets – curly parsley and flat leaf parsley – flat leaf parsley leaves have a stronger flavour and are more often used to add flavour. Curly parsley has a milder taste.
According to an old English folk tale, parsley grows best in a household where the wife wears the trousers. Whether you choose to grow parsley for mythical or feminist reasons, or for its culinary and medicinal properties, it’s a great addition to your herb collection.
How to grow parsley
Grow curled and flat leaf parsley in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. Growing parsley in pots is also very easy. Harvest the leaves as and when you need to. Sow seed every few weeks for a successional harvest.
More on growing parsley:
Thyme, parsley and chive herb pot
Eight shade-loving herbs to grow
Seven projects for a winter greenhouse
Find out how to grow parsley in our Grow Guide.
How to sow parsley seeds
Sow parsley seeds directly into well-prepared soil, in rows 1cm deep and 30cm apart. Lightly cover the seeds and water in well. Parsley is slow to germinate and it can take up to six weeks for seedlings to appear. When seedlings are large enough, thin them to 15cm apart.
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Silver birch (Betula pendula) is a deciduous tree with a slender shape and graceful appearance, which has given rise to its lovely name of the ‘lady of the woods’. Silver birch trees look attractive year-round with white bark, spring catkins and yellow autumn leaf colour. The catkins and seeds are popular with wildlife such as bees and birds, while several species of moth lay eggs on birch leaves.
Hardy fuchsias are commonly grown in UK gardens, and it’s no surprise – many flower from June to November and need very little care. Native to Central and South America, most hardy fuchsias survive UK winters (RHS hardiness rating H4), although some may still require protection from the harshest weather (RHS hardiness rating H3 or H2). In milder parts of the UK, hardy fuchsias can grow into a shrub up to 3m in height but in colder regions they may be damaged by frost and require cutting back to the base, from where they regrow in spring.
A great tree for multi-season interest, Lagerstroemia fauriei adds a decorative flourish from summer to winter. The Japanese crepe myrtle, as it is also known, is a deciduous tree with gorgeous fall color. This crepe myrtle also develops beautiful summer blossoms and attractive peeling red and brown bark.
Who would be without a hellebore or two in the dark months of February and early March, when we long for the onset of spring? Their generous, characterful flowers bring colour and hope to the garden when we need it most, and they really don’t need much to keep them happy.
You can take an Englishwoman out of England, but you can’t change a deeply ingrained English garden aesthetic. Pom Shillingford has lived in America for 26 years, but she still yearns for the garden she knew as a child — her grandmother’s beloved Arts & Crafts garden in Hampshire, which she remembers always being filled with seasonal flowers. She and her husband David and their three young children moved from Manhattan to the small town of Salisbury in Connecticut in 2013. ‘I had always loved Manhattan, but suddenly I didn’t love it any more and needed to go back to green fields and the outdoors,’ says Pom.
Perhaps the most beautiful of flowering trees, magnolias are adorned with luxurious, flamboyant flowers in spring and summer. These generous blooms are goblet- or saucer-shaped and a handful or more in size.
Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum) is also known as everlasting flower, immortelle and paper daisy. Strawflower plants have an upright habit and branching flower stems topped with many-petalled blooms to 8cm across. Hardy annuals, strawflowers bloom abundantly from summer into autumn, in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white. The naturally dry texture of the blooms makes them an excellent choice as cut flowers to use fresh, or in dried arrangements that will last for years. Strawflower grows quickly and easily from seed and lasts for one growing season only.
There’s nothing quite like coming home to your own slice of paradise, such as a pocket of greenery in the backyard. But transforming a drab garden into an oasis is not everyone’s area of expertise and can be costly if it’s attempted without a little know-how.
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