Quiet Achiever: Florence Fennel

I sowed some Florence Fennel seed in autumn. It was pretty late – already getting cold. I thought I had read somewhere you could sow it in autumn. I see now in a cool climate, Sep – Feb is the recommended sowing period. But it germinated eventually, and the frosts didn’t kill it. This is it now:

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It’s been growing slowly and steadily without much care, except for watering during this warm spring weather. I didn’t thin it out as I wasn’t expecting it to thrive, but I have about six or seven bulbs growing, so I would probably have had a few good bulbs to harvest very soon. Nevermind, there’s definitely one plump bulb there and I’m very excited to eat it (and maybe the smaller bulbs won’t taste awful?).

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But equally exciting is the realisation that it’s a worker plant in the edible garden. I think it would be a great plant repeated throughout to add structure and contrast. It looks strong and upright thanks to the bulb and the vertical habit of the long shoots. But then it has a delicate and dense feathery foliage which is a deep grass green. I like the way the green contrasts with the grey-green pea foliage next to it.

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You can see in the shot below that I have it planted near a stepover apple. Which would be fortuitous if the apple were old enough to fruit (it was only just planted, although it did flower…) because I just read that Florence Fennel is thought to deter the coddling moth which eats into apples. Well, according to several sources, nothing likes to be near Florence Fennel but my peas don’t seem bothered. Anyway, maybe the bugs don’t like it because there is nothing bothering these.

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I like this plant. A pest-free pest-repellent, a beautiful structural plant, deeply coloured foliage and you can plant it for  six months of the year. Or accidentally grow it over winter like me, even in a cool climate. It’s a good reminder to get sowing so I have lots of lovely bulbs in summer and autumn.

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