Daily Flower Candy: Echium wildpretii

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Native to the Canary Islands, echiums are sky-rocketing giants of the plant world. But, like an unfortunate child star, they reach their peak early before burning themselves out. Many of the them are monocarpic, flowering only once before dying. But what flowers! The good news is that echiums set seed freely so that the following year you are blessed with hundreds of newly germinated plants. 

  

In our coastal garden we grow Echium pininana, commonly known as tower of jewels, as well as well as Echium tuberculatum from Portugal. Having developed quite an affection for echiums, I have been nurturing a single plant of Echium wildpretii for the last three years and finally it is flowering. Echium wildpretii has a great deal more finesse than both of the old timers, forming an elegant rosette of felted, silver-grey leaves before sending up a stocky spike of raspberry red flowers in its third year. Where it’s planted it combines nicely with the reddish bark of Lyonothamnus floribundus aspleniifolius and the emerging flower stalk of Beschorneria yuccoides.

  

With the prospect of a small conservatory close to becoming reality, I am thinking of starting a collection of echiums which might include some of the shruby species such as E. candicans, E. bethencourtianum and E. hypertropicum. For now I am growing from seed more E. wildpretii and a hybrid between this and E. pininana called E. ‘Pink Fountain’. Surprise, surprise, it has pink flowers.

  

If you are searching for a plant that has the wow factor and can offer conditions which are not too cold or damp then Echium wilpretii is just the thing. It’s not too tall (4-5ft), wind tolerant and bees love it. It will keep flowering until November before fading away. As Billy Joel sang – only the good die young.

  

Categories: Beautiful Strangers, Flowers, Foliage, Plants, Uncategorized

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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12 comments On "Daily Flower Candy: Echium wildpretii"

  1. This is an absolute stunner.
    I was taking photos earlier today of my (single) Echium pininana for End of Month View, but the idea of a whole Echium collection, wow, I’d love to see that!

    1. Well, Echium pininana is a winner, and pretty tough too. I have 2 flowering this year, and four waiting in the wings. There is a garden locally that has upwards of 20, but in big groups they can look oddly dreary. I think they look more impressive as singles, or in groups of three.

    1. Yes, you should Helen. I bought seeds from Jungle Seeds – only 3 of the 10 germinated but that’s all I needed really. Mine is planted in quite a sheltered spot so doesn’t get rained on very much. Where I have seen them at Chelsea Physic Garden they are covered by sheets of corrugated plastic in winter.

  2. Fantastic. Is it covered in bees? We visited Madingley Hall garden today (NGS) and they had 4 or 5 Echium wilpretii strategically placed around their walled garden. They were veritable bee magnets.

  3. It certainly has the wow factor! One might just about survive on my patio, considering that is kept warmer than the surrounding air by the boiler flue pumping out whatever it does.

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