No plant is better suited to the modern garden than the jagged, steely Eryngium. It is the greatest of architectural plants. Eryngium variifolium ‘Miss Marble’ is a spectacular evergreen perennial that was introduced in 1997.
The plant forms a neat mound of rounded dark green basal leaves, each attractively marbled with silver veining. In summer upright, branched, leafy stems bear silvery-blue flowers with conspicuous, white spiny collars. Each thimble is surrounded by long, slender bracts which splay outwards, adding to the prickly appearance.
These jagged plants need their own space to shine. They make a statement in a warm gravel garden planted among sun-lovers or contrasted with softer perennials in at the front of a sunny border. Their jagged presence makes them a sculptural addition and the fading seed head often endures as it browns and bleaches, catching the autumn light.
Growing to a height of 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) and a spread of 24cm (10in) it is smaller than other Eryngiums, Eryngium variifolium is well suited for an up-front position in the garden. It is in flower throughout July and August and where winter presence is desired, the white-veined, rounded leaves of Eryngium variifolium will look stunning against bare soil.
Each individual floret is rich in nectar so the prickly flowers are popular with bees and the seeds are also loved by birds. In winter the dried seed heads look equally attractive in the garden so leave the dried seed heads on the plant over winter for continued interest.
Sowing: Sow October to February or March to September
The seeds may need a period of cold to enable them to germinate.
Sea holly has very long roots that penetrate deeply in the soil and are often several feet long. The plant should be placed in its final position whilst small since it resents root disturbance.
Sowing October to February.
Sow in John Innes seed compost or something similar, cover with a thin layer of compost. After watering place the seed container in an unheated greenhouse or coldframe.
Germination is irregular, between 5 and 90 days. As each seed germinates transplant into its own pot containing gritty compost to grow on, until large and strong enough to be planted outdoors into its final position in the garden.
Sowing March to September.
During the warmer months, you can “imitate the winter” by using the following method of stratification:
Sow in John Innes seed compost or something similar, place each container in a polythene bag and put into the refrigerator (not the freezer compartment) for 2 to 3 weeks. (Fridges are the deal temperature at around 4°C (39°F)
After this time place the containers outside in a cold frame or plunge them up to the rims in a shady part of the garden border and cover with glass or clear plastic. As each seed germinates transplant into its own pot containing gritty compost to grow on, until large and strong enough to be planted outdoors into its final position in the garden.
Eryngiums key requirement is that gardening oxymoron - moisture-retentive soil and good drainage. This equates to rich alluvial or humus-rich soil that holds moisture without getting waterlogged in winter.
Divide mature plant in early spring or autumn, take care since the plant resents root disturbance.
Although you can cut back flower stems after flowering, the seedheads are a very attractive feature so are usually left over winter. Tidy dead and decaying foliage in early spring to discourage rot.
Costal or Gravel Gardens. Cottage/Informal Gardens, Flower Arranging, Borders and Beds, Wildlife Gardens Attractive to Bees and Butterflies. Beloved of flower arrangers for their striking foliage and flower heads.
To use the blooms for dried flower arrangements, cut the flowers before they are fully open. Simply cut with a knife or secateurs. The difficulty is deciding when the stem is ready for cutting. In general, the flowers on the stem should be turning an appropriate blue colour. This process can take up to 10 days from the time it is first noticed. Avoid the temptation to cut back all the flower-heads in autumn as they provide interest in the winter garden.
Eryngium is a genus in the family Apiaceae of about 230 species of annuals and perennials with hairless and usually spiny leaves, and dome-shaped umbels of flowers resembling those of thistles.
The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution, with the centre of diversity in South America. Some species are native to rocky and coastal areas, but the majority are grassland plants, their prickly leaves are a defence to deter grazing animals.
Eryngium variifolium is native to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains and was first described by the French botanist Ernest Saint-Charles Cosson in 1875.
Sadly, in its native habitat, Eryngium variifolium populations have reduced to the extent that The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) consider the species as 'Vulnerable'. This classification means that it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild, it could face a potential threat of extinction of 10% within one hundred years.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognised as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.
Eryngium is derived from the Greek word hruggion, a name given by Theophrastus for 'a spiny leaved plant'.
The species name variifolium means having varying or variegated foliage.
This species is commonly known as the Variable Leaved Sea Holly or Moroccan Sea Holly
Common names of the genus include Sea Holly and Eryngo, the former typically being applied to coastal species, and the latter to grassland species.
Commonly known as a Sea Holly, despite its name and appearance, this is unrelated to the more familiar holly and is in fact an umbellifer: one of that large and confusing family which includes the parsleys, carrots and parsnips.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 30 Seeds Family Apiaceae Genus Eryngium Species variifolium Cultivar Miss Marble Common Name Variable-Leaved Sea Holly, Moroccan Sea Holly Other Common Names Blue Sea Holly, Eryngo Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Steel Blue Natural Flower Time July to September Foliage Evergreen, marbled with silver veining Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Spread 24cm (10in) Position Full Sun Aspect All aspects, exposed or sheltered Soil Well-drained/light, Moist, Sandy