Ipsden altar frontal: Cow Parsley/ Queen Anne’s Lace

Over the last few days brief periods of brighter weather and sunny spells almost lulled us into thinking spring is round the corner. On two days running, the young one rushed out of nursery, cast aside his duffle coat and danced most of the way home. But it was not to last and as I write, yet another sudden cascade of April like showers makes me look up and do a brief circuit round the house to close open windows, for fear of a repeat of the invasive hail stones of last week. Our handkerchief sized bit of bald lawn in the back garden is wet once more and makes me think I haven’t seen it truly dry since last September or October. Why sunny spells – goodness knows – surely only the English would think of resorting to magic for better weather?

Ipsden altar frontal: cow parsley/Queen Anne’s Lace (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

At the moment, I am ‘under the weather’ (and where did that come from?) having caught conjunctivitis from the small one. It’s got to the eyeball as pin cushion/ cricket ball in the face stage which makes all sewing, knitting and blogging a bit of a trial. But you can’t sit there doing nothing can you and blogging seemed the easiest option, so here we go with another little summer flower for the altar frontal which was embroidered in sunnier times and in a more rural place.

Ipsden altar frontal: cow parsley/Queen Anne’s Lace (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Cow parsley froths its foamy way along most English lanes and rural roads in May-June, just after the flowers of the blackthorn and just before the May blossom really gets going – all white but so different and each worthy of a place on the Farrow and Ball paint chart perhaps ousting all those gloomy named whites – Lamp White, Old White, New White, Strong White, etc… A weed and a member of the carrot family, ordinary mortals tend to love it while botanists bemoan its success. Richard Mabey (Flora Britannica) commends it as  “arguably the most important spring landscape flower in Britain” but then diminishes the compliment by describing regions “ornamented by mile upon mile of this indomitable dusty smocking” (thank you for the smocking image, Richard – lovely!). The name ‘cow parsley’ just sets it out as a lesser plant than parsley. Queen Anne’s Lace – alluding to its filigree appearance looking very like the costly hand made collars and cuffs of Queen Anne and her courtiers – was a conscious attempts to give the plant a more attractive name and a more interesting back story, though why a weed of no commercial value should need one I’m not sure. Sometimes though, like T.S.Eliot’s ‘Cats’, having another name is quite useful. Mabey tells the story of visitors from Alaska wanting to buy some pendants with tiny pressed cow parsley flowers in a National Trust Shop in Warwickshire. Unsure that the name cow parsley would impress their Alaskan womenfolk, they seized joyfully upon the Queen Anne’s Lace alternative and immediately thought the flowers looked even prettier! A rose by any other name!

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6 Comments

  1. Posted March 6, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Get well soon! conjuntivitis is such a trial..

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 11, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Rachel. Eye still blurry after nearly a week of treatment but at least not painful now.

  2. Anne
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I hope you are feeling better. At the end of August all the untended spots around our place blossom forth in Queen Anne’s Lace (more elegant than cow parsley) and goldenrod. It’s very lovely although both do seed themselves where they are definitely not wanted.

    To cheer you up about your english weather, our forecast for the end of this week has temperatures of minus 22 with flurries.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 11, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Well I think untended spots look great with all that white froth and golden spikes. I never realised cow parsley grew in California too.
      I also never thought of temperatures going so low in the sunshine state. Today is suddenly positively June like, warm and sunny – so warm I’ve even ventured to line dry a duvet cover. We must enjoy good weather while we can.

  3. Jane from Dorset
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    How miserable for you, I do hope you feel better soon and thank you for taking the time to post.

    PS Have you baked any biscuits in your new home?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      No biscuit baking since I’ve been in London, Jane. If there was time I could make some and take them to the church we go to, but I associate making them so strongly with parishioners in Ipsden that I haven’t yet had the heart to.

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