Lace has a long history in fashion and furnishings. Belgium, France, and Italy were prominent lacemaking centers. Lace was worn from head to toe on collars, cuffs, caps, handkerchiefs, aprons, petticoats, wedding veils, and gowns. Colonists brought lacemaking to America. Homes displayed lace tablecloths, napkins, doilies, and curtains.
Martha Washington’s lace accessories are archived at Mt. Vernon. The Smithsonian Museum of American History holds an extensive lace collection. Liturgical lace for the altar and vestments remain present in Anglican and Catholic church protocol today. Lace fabric was sown from silk— an animal fiber and two plant fibers—flax and cotton.
Lace gardens and borders bring luxury and classic beauty to contemporary life. Each spring plants with lace-like flowers and foliage surround us.
American elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, presents large flat fragrant clusters of tiny white flowers (10” wide cymes) appearing like fancy doilies atop 5-12’ tall stems bearing 1’ long pinnately compound leaves. The plant grows in colonies along roadsides, moist forest clearings, field edges, and ditches.
By June the frilly flat-topped white flower clusters of Queen Anne’s lace, Daucas carota, aka wild carrot, graces fields and meadows. The plant, named for the English monarch who liked sowing lace, has one red floret in each flower’s center, said to represent a drop of blood when pricking her finger.
Old-fashioned annual white bishop’s lace, Ammi malus, produces an abundance of 4-6” wide flower heads comprised of snow-white florets resembling Queen Anne’s lace. Flowers are treasured for their long lasting beauty in fresh and dried bouquets.
White yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a graceful perennial producing a profusion of 5” wide flat-topped corymbs with 20-25 creamy-white flowers on 3’ stems. The drought tolerant plant stars in rain, butterfly, and cutting gardens.
The romantic name, ethereal flowers, and lacelike foliage of Love-in-amist, Nigella damascena, captivate the senses. The hardy cool-season annual’s delicate, jewel-like flowers nest among finely divided thread-like bracts creating a misty aura of flowerheads in cottage, meadow, and cutting gardens.
Lacy phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia, is a native annual wildflower that entices a large number of pollinators and beneficial insects. The lavender-blue, bell-shaped whiskery flowers occur in fiddlehead clusters at the tops of 2’ tall stems. Long stamens and styles extend well beyond the flowers giving a fragile and delicate appearance. It is listed in the top 20 pollinator plants for honeybees but also appeals to bumblebees and hoverflies.
The lacecap hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla normalis, is a Japanese shade-loving shrub with a round flat disk of central fertile flowers encircled with a lacelike border of showier bracts. Flower color is affected by soil pH. Acidic soil yields blue flowers and alkaline soil pink flowers.
The Mediterranean native hardy annual, white lace flower, Orlaya grandiflora, has 4-5” wide pure white lace-cap flowerheads atop fern-like emerald-green foliage. The flat flowerheads are favored landing platforms for butterflies. White lace flower is sowed in cottage, wildflower, and cutting gardens.
Sowing a lace garden curates the past while rooting a luxuriant landscape.