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GARDENING

For Bit of History, Turn to Your Lace in the Hole

March 01, 1997|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Queen Anne's lace adds an aura of romance and nostalgia to a garden. Often used by florists as a filler in arrangements, the flat-topped, ivory flower clusters resemble small doilies.

"Queen Anne's lace looks good in any garden situation, but it is especially suited for cottage-style gardens planted near other tall flowers like delphiniums, foxglove, snapdragons and stock," says Norm Yoder of Friday House Gardens, a nursery in Country Roads Antiques in Orange.

Though Queen Anne's lace is regularly used by florists because it makes a great cut and dried flower, it isn't easy to find in nurseries, says Yoder, who co-owns the nursery with his wife, Jeannie.

But Queen Anne's lace is becoming more popular, Yoder says, and some specialty nurseries carry it occasionally.

Now is a good time to plant the flower, which does well here throughout most of the year.

A member of the carrot family, Queen Anne's lace has lacy foliage like carrots and dill. There are two main types.

Most nurseries carry the florist variety, Ammi majus. This is a little larger than Daucus carota, considered the true Queen Anne's lace. The flower got its name from the second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, who was executed. The flowers resemble a lacy collar that women of that time wore, and the Daucus carota variety has a dark purple dot, which legend says is a drop of her blood.

To grow Queen Anne's lace:

* Plant in a sunny or partly sunny location in an area that has good drainage.

* If the planting site has heavy clay soil, amend with 50% bagged or homemade compost.

* Fertilize at planting time with an all-purpose granular fertilizer and again just before bloom with a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

* Keep the plant well-watered and moist but never waterlogged.

* If you will be planting in a container, use a pot that is at least 14 inches wide and deep, because the flower has a long taproot. Amend the potting soil with a small amount of bagged or homemade compost. Fertilize when planting with an all-purpose granular fertilizer and twice during the growing season with a liquid fertilizer high in phosphorus.

* Encourage new blossoms and prevent the plant from going to seed by dead-heading regularly.

* Cut for indoor bouquets. Queen Anne's lace lasts up to two weeks in water. Cut flowers when they peak.

* Preserve flowers by drying. Queen Anne's lace dries easily. Simply hang upside down in a cool, dark area of the house until the flower head and stem are dry.

* Save your seed. Because the plants are difficult to find, let a few flower heads go to seed. Either let the seeds drop where the plant is growing and let new plants come up, or, once the flower heads are dry, cut them off, put them in a bag, shake the seeds loose and replant where you like.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Seed Sources

* Ledgerwood Seeds in Carlsbad carries Ammi majus seeds. (619) 729-3282.

* Heirloom Garden Seed Co. in Guerneville, Calif., carries Daucus carota seeds. (707) 887-9129.

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