Photos by Clare
Also known as Baltic parsley, Cenolophium is a wonderful plant for sun or semi-shade. A more substantial cousin to the delicate Ammi majus, it is a perennial that grows on tough, upright stems to about a metre tall, with long-lasting flower heads that keep their structure for months on end. I grow it in my front garden in a bed that gets less sun than the others, and wonder whether it would thrive in a really hot, sunny spot as it is a cool climate plant. I grew mine from seed - again with no bother, although I have read that it can be tricky to germinate, needing a spell of cold to kick start it.
In my garden, two plants formed a sizeable clump, flowering from mid June. The flowers emerge with apple-green buds gradually opening to creamy white, and there are always flowers at various stages of maturity, so you get a lovely green-and-white tapestry effect. The flowers age to a more olivey green by the end of the summer, and onwards into autumn and winter, when the strong, dark brown seed heads create beautiful structure as other things die back.
I grew mine with pale yellow Digitalis lutea, Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii and Alchemilla mollis, with splashes of colour from low growing geraniums and Icelandic poppies. It was all a bit too green, however, and I'm planning to add some more colour into that border next year. Astrantias, perhaps, or Geum 'Totally Tangerine'. And I want to split the clump to see if I can introduce it into some of the other beds, which I will do this autumn.
To grow from seed, sow in early spring under cover. Give the seeds a period of a week or 10 days in the fridge, and then sow them on the top of moist compost and barely cover with finely sieved compost. Germinate at a temperature of 21C. This may seem contradictory to their need for a period of cold - but often it is the cold that starts the process, and heat that finishes it off. If you don't have success with the seeds, you can buy plants from crocus.co.uk. Good luck!