One element of my displays that the public rarely take much notice of but is a very important part of the whole display is parsley. They may be sub consciously aware of something green in the background of the dishes but it really is vitally important to create an effect that makes the cultivars within the dishes stand out. The parsley is used to complement the dish of carrots or potatoes or whatever else its used to garnish, however it must never take over the dish to the detriment of the vegetable that it’s supposed to enhance.
Garnishing the dishes has been something that I have doing ever since I started staging collections and later on displays. Garnishing some of the larger dishes can take a fair bit of time and the garnishing of the cones of tomatoes can take as long as an hour to fill up every void by pushing tiny pieces of parsley between every tomato using a small thin stick. To make a good job and to have the desired effect, particularly on the judges, the parsley has to be fresh and every sprig has to be turgid as, for effect, it has to last throughout the show. Granted on a long show such as Chelsea that extends to five days, it will look a little tired towards the end but the green background behind the tomatoes will still be striking.
We take at least a hundred pots of parsley with us and the plants are usually in 4 inch pots that are packed tight together in a bakers type tray and carried on a Dutch trolley to avoid any damage in transit. I also pot up what I call specimen plants, these are plants that I select from the batch at home for their rally tight fronds and balanced appearance. These will be potted up into larger black plastic pots around 7 inches in diameter using Levington M3 compost with my sieved top soil from my celery bed.
I have found over the years that parsley really does grow better with a more vivid green colour when its roots gets into the elements within the soil. I do also add some Nutrimate powder in to the mix at 6 ounces to every 30 litres of mixture with the balance being half M3 and half soil. I usually pot up around 20 of these that are initially kept on the bench in my polytunnel to establish themselves and thereafter they are taken outside to completed their growing on a bench. (picture attached) Parsley is part of the Umbelliferae family, the same as carrots, parsnips and celery and therefore can be vulnerable to attacks from the carrot fly. You will know soon enough if they have been attacked by the grub when the lush green foliage takes on a yellowy reddish hue.
We use a couple of the specimen plants as Dot plants on the display and the remainder, because they are much larger plants, will offer me much bigger fronds that I can use to decorate or cover larger areas such as between cauliflowers etc. The variety that I use, and is undoubtedly the best for this kind of work is Faulds, a very old heritage Scottish variety that I have now used for many years. If you have a warm greenhouse and you want to show your parsley during July and August shows then you need to sow a small batch now.
There are some show schedules, particularly in Scotland, where they do have a class specifically for a pot of parsley. In fact as many show organizers may well be potting together their schedule for this year’s shows I would suggest that a class for a pot of parsley would be one that many ordinary gardeners could have a go at. When Faulds parsley is well grown it really does look striking with its velvet green colour and tight fronds that even close up resemble ordinary moss. It would therefore do very well in a class for any other vegetable even though it’s only awarded 10 point in the RHS show Handbook, it can easily score highly in the eye of the judges.
The seed are quite large and can, with a little patience, be sown individually and given due spacing on top of some seed compost they can be pricked out whilst quite small and grown on in a multi cell tray. I now use Levington F1S for most of my seed sowing as it has the exact amount of silver sand incorporated. Cover the seed very lightly with some superfine Vermiculite as some diffused light is helpful to aid germination which can be erratic. That’s why in folklore they say that the seed goes to the devil first before it germinates.