2nd May 2014

An easy to identify member of the confusing carrot family, all parts of Sweet Cicely smell of aniseed when crushed. I never saw the plant growing wild until I moved to Yorkshire but it is easily grown in a part-shady part of the garden, and it is so useful as a herb, and in cooking, that cottagers frequently grew it by their back door. The leaves, chopped and cooked with rhubarb, gooseberries or other sharp fruit reduces the need for sugar by a half (I take the leaves out after cooking!). At RHS Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, they grow rhubarb and Sweet Cicely together for easy harvesting. The seeds can be used in fruit dishes or ground and used as a spice. If you cut the leaves back after their first growth, you get a second crop. Unfortunately, not all in the garden is as harmonious! The dreaded Lily Beetle, the first UK colony of which was found in Surrey in 1939, has been busy spreading all over the UK, and is now busy munching our lily leaves! It is a dramatic insect and last year completely defoliated the lilies. If you don’t

An adult Lily Beetle

An adult Lily Beetle

Mating Lily Beetles.

Mating Lily Beetles.

use pesticides, which we don’t, the only chance is to grow lilies in pots, change the soil every year (which we forgot to do) as they overwinter in soil, and then pick as many off as you can before they mate- easier said than done as, if disturbed, their strategy is to drop off the plant and lie as if dead, upside down, when their black undersides make them very difficult to find. And even then, research has shown that they can find Lily plants (or another favourite, Fritillaries) by smell alone, suggesting that others will find their way in! Conditions: Dry, chilly, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 11- Min 5c

Sweet Cicely in flower in the garden.

Sweet Cicely, with its feathery leaves and delicate white umbels, in flower in the garden.

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