Queen of the Road

Known for growing along side the road, just think how it'll thrive in your garden.

Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) is one of the most recognized Southern flowers, but we are more likely to see it while taking a leisurely Sunday drive, not strolling through gardens. This annual or biennial is an ancestor of cultivated carrots. It produces small, yellow, carrotlike roots that are edible. Some refer to this plant as "wild carrot."

But don't grow Queen Anne's lace to eat; grow it to grace your garden with lacy blooms. Few companies still sell the seeds because they're so easy to collect from wild patches. If you know someone who grows this prolific plant, ask if you can have a handful of seeds.

You can collect the seeds in late summer or fall, as soon as they have dried completely. Spent flowers curl up and form a dry, gobletlike ball. Inside the goblet are hundreds of tiny seeds that resemble little spiders.

Seeds may be sown in the early spring or in the fall. You can seed them directly in the garden in any sunny spot. The white blooms look at home scattered along a fencerow or in meadowlike settings. You can also start them in flats and later transplant them into your flower border.

These plants are tough and will survive in poor soil, but they prosper where the earth is loose, fertile, and well drained. Under ideal conditions, they can grow 4 feet tall. Plants that struggle due to droughts or poor soil may not do so well, reaching only 2 feet in height.

When seedlings first appear, they look like small sprigs of parsley. Plants usually flower their second year, but some act as annuals and bloom the first. The species D. pusillus is an annual that is most often found around the Lower and Coastal South. It is a smaller version of Queen Anne's lace and the blooms aren't quite as showy.

Many consider Queen Anne's lace a weed, but it can be controlled in your garden by cutting off the seedpods before they dry and drop seeds. You'll enjoy these long-stemmed, lacy blooms in your yard. They also make nice cut flowers and can be brought into your home for a summery arrangement. Their white blooms mix well with almost any flower.

This queen isn't fussy and doesn't need a formal setting. Just give her a sunny spot, and watch her majesty add a little royalty to your garden.