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

Sea-Hog's Fennel

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Like sparklers in August:  When it blooms, fennel's automatically a celebration.  This is sea-hog's fennel, Peucedanum officinale:  the "official," meaning regular, Peucedanum.  Who has a clue about the common name, sea-hog's fennel?  Sea hog?  And what about just plain old hog's fennel?  Googling around, you'll find marsh-hog's fennel, too.  What is it with all of these hogs and their chosen fennels? 

 

They all must love these tall skinny umbellifers—plants in the carrot family, with tiny flowers in (usually) flat heads, the umbels. 

 

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My sea-hog's fennel is, truth to tell, a bit of a flopper, hence the bamboo stakes.  Maybe if I were growing it at a sea-view garden, windier by definition, it would be tougher and also shorter, and so more self-supporting.

 

The low foliage is another pleasure, as ferny as even a true fern can be, and in a low mound through which the tall flower stalks shoot like comets. 

 

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I'm looking forward to getting some more flavors of hog's fennel in the gardens.  They're diverse enough that three or four wouldn't be redundant.  And then I'll have all the more opportunity to mention this, that, and the other hog—and their chosen fennel delight.

 

 

Here's how to grow this graceful perennial:

 

Latin Name

Peucedanum officinale

Common Name

Sea-Hog's Fennel

Family

Apiaceae, the Carrot family.

What kind of plant is it?

Hardy perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9.

Habit

Mounding ferny foliage topped by tall and upright flower stalks.

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

A clump of foliage two feet tall and three to four feet across.  In bloom, four to six feet tall.

Texture

The flowers and their stalks are the epitome of filigree; the mound of finely-cut foliage as ferny as anything that's not actually a fern could ever be.

Grown for

its foliage: Peucedanum's foliage is bountiful but also thread-like.  The sturdy basal stalks quickly divide into three—and then three again and again and again—creating a mound of hundreds of thread-thin leaflets.

 

its flowers: Minute chartreuse flowers are in sparkler-like groups at the end of tiny stalks, which themselves are grouped to make shimmering orbs of bloom four or five inches in diameter.  A dozen or more of the orbs are held aloft by leafless flower stems that can be three to five feet tall.  

Flowering season

Mid-August into September:  The height of Summer, just when you need it.

Culture

Good soil, full sun, average-to-plentiful water.

How to handle it

Sea-hog's fennel can be a self-reliant self-seeder for some, in which case your priority will be to dead-head almost completely to control it.  Unlike a lot of similar flowers—true fennel in particular—sea-hog's fennel is perennial, so you could dead-head completely if you want.  I haven't been fortunate enough (yet) to notice a lot of self-seeding, even though, far as I can tell, my plants are in an ideal site: sun that's generous not oppressive, good soil, watering that's considerate but not excessive.  Lucky me. 

 

Although the flower stalks are tall enough to be visible even at the back of large beds, the ferny foliage is so attractive that it's an additional pleasure to site sea-hog's fennel at the front.  The stems are so tall and slender, and the flowers so airy, that there's never a danger of blocking the view. 

 

The flowers go with anything, pastel or saturated, hot or cool. 

Downsides

Few indeed.  In my experience, the flower stalks need a bit of staking; the "sea" hog part of the name refers to native haunts that are, indeed, within earshot of the waves.  There the plant is shorter and more self-supporting.  Despite the normally rampant self-seeding of everything in the carrot family, Peucedanum seems reticent.  A good thing.  

Variants

P. verticillare is taller still, but with boring celery-like foliage.  It's a true biennial, so self-seeding is its life's goal.  I hope to establish a few next season—and spend many years thereafter pulling out unwanted seedlings.  P. littorale is another of the perennial ferny ones, but this time with white or pale pink flowers, and a preference for rocky spots right in the teeth of the waves.  P. ostruthium 'Daphnis' is perennial celery-leafer with variegated leaves as bright as variegated bishop's weed but, thankfully, none of its invasive energy.

Availability

On-line and at retailers.

Propagation

By seed, as well as by division in Spring.

Native habitat

Peucedanum officinale is native to central and eastern Europe.

 
 
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