This week, as we have the sun back but not the warmth, the snow is clearly visible not just on the peaks of the Pyrenees but gliding down the slopes too. It may well melt as the cold spell passes, we hope, but it is still a signal of an early cool-down that has taken many plants by surprise- with signs of semi-frost activity on tender plants in exposed places. Today is glorious, warming slowly to maybe 22C with a bright, blue clear sky. Quite different from how it has been.
And as if by magic, literally visible only in the last 10 days, the Eryngium eburneum has not only scattered seed, but that seed has germinated into a fine clutch of baby eryngiums that all look as fit as a fiddle. They were a little hidden as the cherry tree is shedding leaves already, and so I had missed them until yesterday. This has only happened maybe once before during and after a hot August in the 13 years we have been living here, so I look on them as a gift from a harsh summer.
Eryngium eburneum is a fabulous plant. It likes hot, dry, poor soil, free-draining and stony is ideal. It grows to a very stately clump of fine, saw-toothed leaves, creating a grand presence. And then, in May or June, up shoot the flower spikes, on thin, slender, but tough stems, each carrying a bunch of pale-green fuzzily dimpled acorn-shaped flowerbuds. These last for a very long time, usually right through to the autumn, but this year, as you can see below, they have been brown and shrivelled- though still standing- for weeks.
For sure, it is not the most colourful plant in the garden, but I really prize it for the statuesque elegance it brings, and the fact that, with me, it does remain mostly green throughout the winter, if looking a little faded by Spring. So it is an incredibly tough, undemanding plant with it’s own pale charm- and lots of presence. It was also one of my first plants that I grew from seed back in the day- and knowing what I know now about how rarely the seed germinates, I was one lucky novice gardener back then. Beth Chatto adores this plant, and she is a great hero, so that is another tick in the box for me. Last week, her nursery was named as one of the top 10 online nurseries in the UK. Follow the link to see why.