Sunday, May 15, 2011

Angelica at the Bottom of our Scottish Garden

When we had our village 'Garden Snoop' last summer, which was a sort of Open Gardens event, but without the added pressure of having to get everything just perfect, the plant on the left caused a bit of consternation. Lots of our visitors seemed to think that it was Giant Hogweed, which is a beautiful plant, but one which has its dangers, with sap which can cause skin to blister and become photosensitive. This, however, is both safe and edible - it's a cultivated angelica and - in my opinion - one of the most lovely plants in my garden. A friend gave me a plant many years ago and now it self seeds every year. It starts early, grows tremendously tall, with great big flower heads and lasts just about all summer long. Even in the autumn, when the seed heads are drying on their stems, it looks amazing. The whole plant smells wonderful too, even when you're cutting back the dead heads. It does, however, need a lot of space, since it's very tall - one for the back of a border. Mine grows at the bottom of our cottage garden, at the back of my little rose bed, but the roses are all species roses, which I tend to leave to 'get on with it' so it fits in pretty well. I'm by no means a precise gardener - this is verging on a wild garden, but - so long as you don't look too closely, at the ground elder and mare's tail - it is very beautiful, and absolutely full of wildlife: bumble bees, hedgehogs, birds of all kinds. I always intend to candy some of the angelica stems so that I can use them in my Christmas cake - but somehow I never quite get round to it. It has to be done with young, fresh stems and I always seem to be too busy, and before I know it, the plant has become too monumental to use. I believe the seeds can be used to flavour alcoholic drinks. I remember bringing  a bottle of Angelica Schnapps back from a trip to Iceland, many years ago - so perhaps that's something I can plan for this year!

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