My prickly eryngiums are finally blooming, and to be honest I was a little disappointed by how underwhelming they were. They gave me the longest wait ever, recently started to color up, and are finally looking cool. Pollinators of all kinds love them, and these black and white wasps in particular swarm the plants from sunup to sundown.
They’re not as poky as you might think (although falling into a bed of lettuce would be the wiser choice), the more painful thing these plants offer is a nice wasp bite. Most of the seedlings are a pale silvery color, but a few patches are showing an attractive blue tint.
Being a lover of all plants which walk the border between spiny farmyard weed and interesting garden plant, I of course love these, but my disappointment comes from the expectation that these would be the famous “Miss Willmott’s Ghost”. Miss Ellen Willmott was a fascinating gardener, and the strain of eryngium that bears her name should be a stouter plant with wider silvery bracts. Mine are thinner and tall enough to risk flopping.
While I was struggling to get a decent picture I came to the conclusion this is a real photographer’s plant, with it’s airy blooms, subtle coloring, and busy bug guests. A real photographer could do wonders with it!
I’m sure I’ll get the real ghost someday, but in the meantime there’s no shortage of spiny, dangerous plants in the flowerbeds. Ptilostemon diacantha is another biennial thistle which I’m totally in love with. This one’s a real killer though with sharp spines that don’t give up tennis balls easily.
Sure the spines keep you on your toes, but there are plenty of other thorns out there in the garden. Can you say rosebush? Find me a rose grower who never sat down with a box of bandages after wrestling with a wayward climber and I’ll show you a gardener who has a checkbook healthy enough to hire out all the crappy jobs 😉
Here’s my newest little baby. I finally had success with the cirsium japonicum “white frosted” seeds which I’ve been trying each winter. They’re everything I love in a plant, variegated foliage, mild spine-age, bold colored thistle blooms (I hope)….. it’s even a perennial (hopefully not an invasive one). There will surely be plenty of gushingly over the top praise put onto this little plant in the future!
The wild bull thistles are blooming around the fringes of the garden and I’ll spare you from those photos. Weeding will be a gloved affair, but can I just say the pollinators love them and the goldfinches will be thrilled? Have a great end of the week 🙂
You have quite a few spiny plants as well, but it seems they are well-loved in your garden at least! When I saw your photo of the eryngium I thought it must be what I have. Looks very similar, but my whatever-it-is has been coming up every year for about 6years now and has never set seeds. I must look it up. Hope your gloves are nice and thick Frank – take care with all those prickles!
I would be interested to see if what I have comes back next year. I surely wouldn’t mind if it became a respectable, long term border addition.
I just treated myself to a new pair of gloves last week. I feel absolutely rich!
Your ptilostemon looks like a skinny Silybum marianum. Do you know it? If you like spiny, thistly plants then Silybum is the plant for you. It has wonderful foliage . It’s a great name too.
Silybum. heh heh, I love it too 🙂
I have to grow it as an annual here so it doesn’t always happen, but a few years ago one went to seed and every now and then I get a seedling come up around mid summer. I think it wants to be a biennial but the winters always get it.
I love the foliage while it lasts though.
Hmmm you’ve reminded me I need to sow a few scotch thistle seeds for next year. now that’s a cute little plant 🙂
They really do flop over. Not the way the catalogs show it. I know what you mean about the roses. I was sent in bleeding pulling weeds near my red low grower yesterday. I curse it every time. Stinging nettle got me today. Ouch.
I’m not a big fan of the groundcover roses because of the thorns…. but they can be so nice!
Stinging nettle always confuses me. I feel like someone has just stung or bitten me, but there’s no culprit visible…. until I figure out it’s the plant!
You have so many prickles, do you wear armour when you weed!? When I’ve seen Miss Willmotts Ghost in other people’s gardens, she doesn’t seem to die very elegantly, she goes very brown, I prefer the one you have!
I should wear armor. Instead I constantly assume I can grab a non prickly part of a stem, or slide my hand in just right and avoid being poked… it never works out, and I just don’t learn from my foolishness. hmmmmm
I agree with Cathy, I hope you have some nice thick gardening gloves, at least it isn’t too hard to keep gloves on while you prune.
Yes I really need to keep the gloves on, especially around the real spiny stuff. I don’t know how cactus growers do it!
Entertaining post. I didn’t know Eryngium were biennials. I can admire them but in my own garden I avoid pointy plants (roses are the exception).
I’m sure that just like my other plant fads this one will pass too, but right now I can’t get enough prickles and thorns….
Actually it’s mostly just thistles, I hate the blackberries out back with a passion.