I always enjoy Alys Fowler’s gardening column in ‘The Guardian’, though I am sure that she writes less frequently than before, and all of the articles are refreshed much less often than a few years back. I am by no means such a veggie as she is, but I keep vowing to try harder. But this week, her column concerned the ‘Euphorbia’- which was just a tiny bit spooky as I had already taken the photographs for this blog a couple of days before.
I have loved- and hated the Euphorbia over the years. In fact, I am back in a loving moment with them right now. This is really their best season, when the lime-green bracts sing out against bare ground and a few, brave bulbs. The Big Daddy of them all is Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii– which was a huge delight to me when we moved from Scotland. Willing to put itself almost anywhere in our stony, dry areas, growing like a rocket, self-seeding and being generally gorgeous in early Spring, for all these reasons I loved it. But these were also the reasons that I came to hate it, pulling handfuls of babies out when critical mass had long been surpassed.
But, what I have come to understand is, that it does what it does and I have to maintain the population balance that I want. It won’t do it for me, and no amount of me cursing is worth the time and effort. I just have to roll with the punches and keep a beady eye on it. One of the reasons that I am back in love with it, is that it will literally put itself anywhere.
And here it has self-seeded right on a tricky, rocky corner of the New Garden, and leaning out from the wall, it catches the sunlight and is brilliantly luminous. I would never have put it there, but it looks great. Across from it, in the dry, hot New Garden, it is verging on a takeover, but right now, makes a great repeating pattern of lime-green and yellow, when everything else is only just waking up. I will yank some out in a few weeks before the seeds start exploding round the garden, but now they have my blessing.
At the top of the article is a small, but dogged Euphorbia, Euphorbia myrsinites, which creeps along the ground, in the hottest, driest spots, holding up its rosette-shaped heads just a little above the ground. I adore it. It is so cheerful. It needs the sun and sharply drained poor soil, but then it is as happy as Larry. This one does not spread itself about prolifically. I wish it did. So you need to be careful where you step, as once broken, it takes a long time to repair itself.
Euphorbia seguieriana is a modest player. With an almost fern-like foliage, and pinky new growth, it flowers later than the big beast, wulfenii, but it slowly bulks up to about 0.60 x 0.60m. It will take the driest, sunniest spot you can give it. I got this one very small from Beth Chatto’s nursery three years ago, and it only limped along for the first two years. So, give it time.
And my last entrant in the ‘Lovable Euphorbia’ competition would be the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. In my semi-shaded damper part of the garden, it is sprinkling itself around with modest abandon at this time of year, just creeping about under the tree peonies and hydrangea. The gorgeous copper-coloured new growth catches the sun and makes a stunning statement, while later in the year, it just blends in with whatever else is happening. This is it’s time.