Umbels: The Secret Ingredient to Your Wildflower or Cottage Garden

From envy-inspiring Instagram accounts to swoon-worthy pictures on Pinterest, it seems like wildflower and cottage gardens are on everyones mind. While these gardens can take on a myriad form of colorways and combinations, the best ones (in my opinion) – the ones that feel balanced and connected in form, color and texture – are the ones that include a particularly type of flower: the umbel.

um·bel| ˈəmbəl | noun Botany

A flower cluster in which stalks of nearly equal length spring from a common center and form a flat or curved surface, characteristic of the parsley family.

Lacy and often delicate-looking, these blooms lend a more relaxed, naturalistic and airy feeling to a garden. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite umbels to add a bit of frothiness to your garden bed this season.


Daucus carota "Dara" (Wild Carrot or Queen Anne's Lace)

Daucus carota "Dara"
Image courtesy Gardener's World.

You're likely familiar with this biennials white-flowering and road-side growing cousin, Queen Anne's Lace, but the cultivar "Dara" features blooms in shades of dusky pink, purple and maroon. This easy-keeper prefers full sun to light shade and can reach 4' tall. These are great for mixing into the mid-to-back of a border and also make a wonderful cutting flower (as I'm growing them this year).


Angelica sylvestris "Purpurea" (common Angelica)

Image courtesy Dave's Garden.

Featuring large, soft-ball sized clusters of purple flowers on top of sturdy, deep-red stems this variety of angelica adds a lovely bit of architecture to any garden bed. Its darker coloring helps it stand out against other plantings and the pollinators flock to it. This perennial typically reaches at least 4' tall.


Orlaya grandifolia (White laceflower)

orlaya grandiflora flowers
Image by Igaguri_1 courtesy iStock.

For a smaller and more delicate umbellifer, try orlaya. Papery white flowers and a max height of around 2' high make it well-suited to the front of a border or within a container mix. Small central florets are surrounded by larger ones giving it an appearance similar to a miniature hydrangea. This long-blooming annual often reseeds itself but may need to be replanted each spring to ensure enough coverage.


Anethum graveolens (Dill)

Dill in flower.
Image by undefined_undefined courtesy iStock.

A delicious cooking herb, an important food source for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and lovely garden flower, dill is quite the all-star for the home garden. Bright yellow flower clusters float above fragrant, feathery foliage lending a breeziness to grass and perennial borders.


Foeniculum vulgare "Purpureum" (Bronze Fennel)

Image courtesy Advice from the Herb Lady.

Though its flowers are similar in appearance (and ecological value) to dill, bronze fennel stands out from the crowd with it's smoky purple-green foliage that contributes a feathery texture to the planting bed. I love this mixed with ornamental grasses and boxwood shrubs.