Isn’t she sweet? Actually she’s one of three – triplets, you might say – and I’ve had them all tucked up in pots over winter on my herb shelf, which is up against the house wall outside so quite a sheltered little spot.
The reason I’m so chuffed with my babies making it through winter is that they’re Erygium agavifolium, a plant I have admired in other people’s gardens for many years. It’s a very spectacular and somewhat exotic-looking eryngium, sometimes known as the button eryngium; like most sea-hollies it has bracted rather thistle-like flowerheads, but in this case they’re 6ft tall and come in huge ghost-white clusters. The plant is also evergreen with imposing and I hope you’ll agree rather attractive rosettes of glossy mid-green toothed leaves. It’s borderline hardy – which is why I put the littlies up by the house.
More to the point, these particular ones were free. I spotted a forlorn single remaining specimen while I was at West Dean Gardens near Chichester last year and pounced on it (slightly manically but I don’t think anyone noticed). Imagine my glee when I realised that nestled under the main crown were three little babies. Not a word did I utter to the nice lady at the checkout: I paid for one plant and got four. Of such stuff are gardeners’ dreams made.
Once home I split the whole lot up, potted up the babies and popped mum in the border by the pond, where she’s looking a little battered after this awful winter but still healthy (rather giving the lie to the minus-five minimum temperature usually given for these plants: as usual I think it’s the wet rather than the cold that you’ve got to watch out for). Now I’m looking forward to a fourfold display of spectacular ghostly fireworks this summer. There will be photographs.