Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eryngium Giganteum, Miss Willmott's Ghost

The name of this plant sounds like something from a horror movie and it does have a slightly ferocious look about it. Actually the common name comes out of the story of a gardener, Miss Willmott, secretly scattering Eryngium giganteum seeds around in gardens she visited. The plants would show up as if from nowhere with their ghostly flowers, thus the name Miss Willmott’s ghost. I first saw it in White Flower Farm's nursery catalogue many years ago and knew I had to have it. The cost was high for my budget but I was seduced by the photo. It was shown blooming with white liatris(gayfeather) and Stargazer lilies. What a combo! Grabbing my credit card I ordered one plant.

When it came it wasn't much to look at but I promptly planted it in my moon garden where I thought it would serve as a feature plant when it matured. There it languished for two years, doing nothing. I thought it had died. The third summer I was ill and couldn't get out to the garden to water as much as usual. All my flower beds looked pretty sad that year, dried out or drooping in the summer heat. And then it happened. Miss Willmott must have liked those conditions because she took off like a rocket, grew to about 3 feet tall and bloomed her head off. I managed to snap a photo of her with my old 35mm camera and I'm glad I did because after blooming she died but the old girl had put on quite a show before her demise.

A few years later I noticed these tiny little plants popping up all through the moongarden. I thought they were weeds but when I tried to pull them I found they had an extremely mean taproot that was almost impossible to dig up. I finally gave up and let them have the run of the place. I mentioned these strange plants on a garden forum and someone told me they sounded like little Miss Willmotts. I isolated a few to a holding bed and to my delight that's what they were! Last summer one made it far enough to maturity to actually produce a few blooms. Apparently Miss Willmott had left me a present.

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