The ultimate guide to eryngium.
As the days get shorter and the jumpers get thicker we start seeing more and more of one of my favourite floral foliage, eryngium. Beautifully mimicking the shape that the morning frost leaves on your car’s windshield, these wonderful deep ice-blue spikey thistles really do bring a sense of excitement to the bunch. Aren’t they just the perfect autumnal and wintery flower? well, A thistle to be precise.
From the Umbelliferae family, the name eryngium derives from the Greek word for thistle. Eryngiums can have blue or white flowers depending on the variety, together with a ruff of spikey bracts on branching stems.
Spikey by look, spikey by nature.
Native to rocky and coastal areas, they have adapted to cope with the tough conditions on the seashore. Being battered by strong winds and baked in the suns scorching heat. This is one tough thistle and brings a strong look to any bunch.
Just bee’ing wonderful.
Although they are unscented, eryngium seriously attracts the bees and other lovely pollinated insects. They are one of the biggest pollinated flowers around and the bees just can’t get enough. Plants rely on bees and other insects to reproduce and so they have adapted, over time, to become more attractive to them. And who could resist an eryngium?
Not just for decoration
Eryngium’s roots were used as a medicine for many things but one of its main usages was to boost the libido of an ageing man. So there you go. Good to know. It was also crushed up as a herbal remedy and drunk for coughing and whooping cough. What can’t you use this spikey fleur for?!
Not just for autumn.
With Christmas just around the corner, these little blue beauties are perfect for drying and using them around the house as the perfect Xmas decoration. You can use them for the tree by tying a bit of thread or string around the stem. They will look like little blue stars of Bethlehem. Or you can add them to other arrangements or wreaths or garlands.
The best way to dry your eryngium.
Find a dark, dry area with good circulation, such as an attic or unused closet. With unflavoured dental floss (or string will do), secure the bottom of the flowers’ stems to a hanger so that they hang upside down to dry. Leave the flowers for two to three weeks until completely dry and hey-presto! Your Christmas dried flowers are ready to go.
The Queen of Eryngium – Ellen Willmott
I can’t write a blog about eryngium and not mention Ellen Willmott. If you haven’t heard of Ellen then luckily I am about to tell you all about her. Why? Because she is an absolute gardening legend. Born in 1858 she was a key member of the Royal Horticultural Society and even received the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897 for her dedication to plants. She was said to have cultivated more than 100,000 species and cultivars of plants, and sponsored expeditions to discover new species
Her particular fancy was for Eryngium and wherever she went, she made sure she had a handful of seeds in the pocket of her voluminous skirts of black bombazine. Surreptitiously she would scatter a handful in every garden she visited, knowing that a year or so later – the plant is a biennial, growing one year and flowering the next – the eryngiums would flower their socks off and the garden’s owner would wonder where they had come from.
Alas, Ellen is no longer with us, but you can have her ghost in your garden if you get hold of your own handful of eryngium seeds, scatter them on to any patch of well-drained soil and rake them in. Or with slightly less effort get this weeks arrangement!
Too good to miss.
This lovely spikey blue thistle really is a favourite of mine. It just gives any arrangement a wonderful effortlessly aristocratic feel. So don’t miss out on their beauty and give my boxes a go and make your flowers be the talk of the street!