Country Life

Unbelievable umbellifers

SEVERAL years ago, the designer Cleve West won the Best in Show award at the Chelsea Flower Show with a garden full of sublime plant combinations and a little-known plant that caused garden mavens to swoon. Tall and elegant with stout pale-yellow stems and domes of zingy acid-yellow flowers, the majestic specimen was as unfamiliar to visitors as its name: Pastinaca sativa. Most people were surprised to discover that the plant, a member of the umbellifer family, was a parsnip, which had been allowed to flower and then dug up from Mr West’s allotment.

The appeal of the flowering vegetable was the strong, clean architecture of its stems combined with the open airiness of its flowers. This alliance of a bold structure with soft,

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