Sandy’s Garden ... Parsley

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson
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This Saturday, the first day of April, is not only April Fool’s Day;

And we start to take parsley seriously the moment we sow the seed. First, many people hold that parsley grows best for households where a woman is the dominant figure; so it’s wise to regard sowing parsley seed as woman’s work. Indeed, Somerset folklore goes further by insisting that parsley will only grow well if it is sown by a witch, a belief that may be associated with the much more widespread view that parsley is linked with the devil. Throughout much of England, from Devon to Yorkshire, country people still speak of parsley seed going to the devil before it will germinate and produce roots, which explains the equally widespread belief that parsley must be sown on a holy day if it is not to become the property of the forces of darkness. And the holy day most commonly specified as being the best for sowing parsley is Good Friday, as Roy Vickery explains in his fascinating book The Oxford Dictionary of Plant Lore, quoting a letter printed in the Daily Mirror some years ago; “Parsley will grow best if sown by the lady of the house before twelve noon on Good Friday. I do … and it works!”

But even before the seed is planted, parsley is a demanding plant. It is held to be very unlucky to transplant parsley, so it’s best to give careful thought to where the plant is to grow before the seed are sown. For convenience, and bearing in mind the many uses of parsley in the kitchen, a parsley pot has a lot to commend it, a tall terracotta pot with sides which slope slightly inward as they rise and which have numerous planting holes set in them. Fill the pot with good quality compost and plant the seed in that … or in a strawberry pot if, like me, you cannot find a true parsley pot. This way, the parsley can be kept fine and handy beside the back door when it is grown, ready to be used in the kitchen as a garnish to so many dishes.

Alternatively, you might want to sow the parsley as a border in a flower garden where its bright green, curly leaves will act as an attractive foil to the reds, yellows and whites of summer flowers. And some gardeners believe that parsley grown among roses will inhibit black spot, that fungal disease that so readily mars the rosebed and which has become so much more prevalent in recent years since the many measures taken to clean so many pollutants out of the air has dramatically reduced sulphur pollution … which has been good for us and good for black spot, but not such good news for roses.

And there’s one further belief to be taken into account in deciding where the parsley is to be sown. An older version of the story that babies are found under gooseberry bushes is that boys are found there but girls are found in parsley beds. Oh, and do remember, after your parsley has been sown by the lady of the house before noon on Good Friday and has grown into a parsley bed to be proud of, you must never give any of it away for fear of handing bad luck to your friends. In 1991, a Dorset woman reported that her husband died soon after she ignored a neighbour’s warning of this superstition and planted gifted parsley. Beware!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society