Monday, March 27, 2006

Parsley as a Garden Ornamental

Parsley is well known as a garnish, and is very versatile in the kitchen, with very few dishes not benefitting from its flavour and colour. It is high in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and beta-carotene. But it is quite undervalued for its ornamental quality in the garden.

In our mild Vancouver weather, parsley continues green and fresh into the winter, only mildly affected by the frost, and is early to offer new growth in Spring. This makes it worthy of not only a spot in the herb garden, but a consideration for the edge of the garden border also.

There are two familiar varieties. The regular or curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum; photo right) is a wonderful garnish, and holds its shape well when refrigerated (wrapped in a moist paper towel). The flat leafed or Italian parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum; photo left) does not hold up as well for garnishing, but its stronger flavour suits it well to cooking. Both have great ornamental value, and add nice texture and deep green colour to the garden.

The only drawback is that parsley is a biennial, which means that in its second year, instead of offering its lush growth of leaves, it diverts its energy to sending up a tall flower head (umbrel). This may be attractive in its own funky way, but a significant diversion from the low-growing green of the previous year. If you are not interested in this effect, or in gathering seeds, the solution is to refresh the parsley patch each Spring (effectively treating the parsley as an annual). Even so, you will benefit from its greenery through the winter, when many perennials are visibly absent.

1 comment:

jaimie said...

Yesterday I was looking at my parsley thinking the exact same thing!...

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