Eryngium giganteum - Phormium "Black Velvet"

Eryngium giganteum, Phormium "Black Velvet"

75 x 45 cm/ 2.5’ x 18”

This eryngium is also known as “Miss Willmott’s Ghost” after the redoubtable Ellen Willmott who was reputed to sprinkle its seeds in the gardens she visited.

What those garden owners (or, more likely, their gardeners), thought of this dubious largesse is unknown, but it is certainly a most handsome plant.  With its shining jagged collars surrounding candelabras of silvery buds and stout upright habit, it is one of the most photogenic plants I know, and makes a stunning foil for any plant near it. 

It is a biennial, germinating and forming a low rosette of foliage in the first year and sending up its flowering stems in the second.  (The earlier in the season the seed germinates, the bigger the second year plant will become) 

Like all eryngiums it starts out palest green before, in this case, starting to turn grey and then beautifully silver.  Once the tiny bead-like flowers are pollinated they start to turn a delicate brown, eventually dropping their thin black seeds and dying.

Eryngiums are tap-rooted and, as such, can only be transplanted when they are tiny, tiny.  Any damage to the tip of the tap root will result in eventual rotting.  (they are, however,  available by mail-order as second year plants; I have had mixed results..)

They prefer full sun and good drainage, but once germinated will make do with less than perfect conditions.

Highly recommended.