Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Purple-leaved Wild Chervil

anthriscus-sylvestris-ravenswing-overall-6

 

When does a weed become a garden necessity?  Purple foliage helps.  I once grew a purple-leaved cultivar of dandelion, for heaven's sake.

 

Here's purple-leaved Wild Chervil.  The green-leaved species self-seeds so relentlessly that it's banned in several states.  (Google over to your State's noxious weed list to check if this plant is a possibility.)  The purple-leaved one is a favorite in English gardens, and yet it's easy, hardy, lovely, and, yes, legal in Rhode Island.  I had to try it. 

 

The flower stems are so leafless and so thin that the flat heads of pure-white flowers seem to be levitating.  Only thanks to their unusual deep-purple color are the stems visible at all.  Growing this plant near huge-leaved and gold-leaved plants is (I'm pleased to have discovered) how to display all partners in the dance to perfection.

 

The plant is worth some close-ups too.  The dark and ferny foliage rivals the best purple-leaved cimicifuga.  While this individual has sprouted in the cracks between stones in the dining terrace, it would be an even better show if I follow my own advice, and planted it amid smaller bright-leaved stuff.  Ah: I'll transplant a few seedlings into one of my colonies of yellow-leaved moneywort, whose dense mat of round chartreuse leaves would be a vivid contrast.

 

anthriscus-sylvestris-ravenswing-foliage-640

 

And how 'bout these teensy flowers, in tiny clusters held out into space on those spidery stems?  They escape being twee because of their dark stems' sinister "bottom-note" prowess.  Purple-leaved Wild Chervil would be right at home in a sorcerer's garden.

 

anthriscus-sylvestris-ravenswing-flower-640

 

No wonder this plant is so appealing:  Eager, self-reliant, graceful, collaborative—and sinister.  It brings out the gardening wizard in us all.

 

 

Here's how to grow this dark beauty:

 

Latin Name

Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

Common Name

Purple-leaved Wild Chervil

Family

Apiaceae, the Apium family.  (Apium?  One of hundreds of plants similar to carrots, celery, Queen Anne's Lace, dill, fennel, parsnip, lovage, cilantro, caraway, anise, and cow parsley.  Without the Apiaceae, cuisine the world-over would be vastly more boring.)

What kind of plant is it?

Biennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 8

Habit

A classic biennial:  The first season, a low rosette of foliage that dies down to the ground for the Winter.  The second season, comparatively tall and floriferous stalks of small but showy flowers, with profuse self-seeding, after with the mother plant dies. 

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in two years

The first-year rosette is under a foot tall and wide.  In flower the second year, the clump is about two feet tall and slightly less wide.

Texture

Ferny and airy:  The foliage rosette is open and graceful, and the erect but thin flower stalks, almost entirely leafless and topped by Queen Anne's Lace-type flower heads, are completely see-through. 

Grown for

the deep purple ferny foliage, a look-alike to the purple foliage of Cimicifuga 'Brunette'. 

 

the stems of the flower stalks, which are the same deep purple, to which the tiny five-petaled white flowers are a stunning contrast.  The foliage as well as the flowerstems are as good in bouquets as they are growing out in the garden.

 

The airy nature of the plant makes it irresistible as a casual filler amid permanent groups of perennials and small shrubs, and also in bouquets.  It's also charming (even for this cynic) when it self-seeds into the cracks in dry-laid garden paving.  It isn't fearless enough to self-seed into the cracks in asphalt, though.

Flowering season

Mid Spring: Late May in Rhode Island.

Culture

Any regular  soil.  Full sun to part shade, although the foliage is the darkest in full sun.

How to handle it

The species itself is such a vigorous self-seeder that it's banned in several states.  'Ravenswing' comes true from seed almost 100%, thank goodness, but even so, you can remove nearly all the flower stems after they've peaked to help control the resultant seedlings.  (All the more reason to use 'Ravenswing' in plenty of bouquets.  This reduces the self-seeding while providing stylish and au courant interest inside.)  Seedlings transplant very well when small, but this is a tap-rooted plant—think "Carrot with Cool Foliage"—so it won't like to be moved after infancy.

 

Other than pre-emptive cutting of the flowerstems, for bouquets as well as to control self-seeding, this plant is maintenance-free.

Downsides

Controlling the self-seeding.

Variants

The species itself should never be planted—and why should you, now that you can plant 'Ravenswing'?

Availability

On-line as well as at "destination" retailers.

Propagation

Seed.

Native habitat

Europe.

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required