29 May 2010

Echium enthusiasm

It started, as these things so often do, with the Chiltern Seeds catalog. Their thick catalog of lust-inducing descriptions (and no pictures) arrives every winter, and I discover some new group of plants I just HAVE to try.

How could I pass up this description of Echium lusitanicum ssp. polycaulon?
"From Portugal comes this delightful and little known plant for the border. Forming three foot rosettes of large, bristly leaves, it produces over a long period in late spring and early summer many softly hairy stems bearing 18 inch spikes of lovely, vibrant pale blue flowers with violet veins and gracefully protruding stamens. Recommended as a quality cut flower. 3 ft"

Or this, of Echium russicum?
"From Eastern Europe comes this superb species producing bushy specimens with attractive, slender, pointed, white-hairy leaves, and bearing rather splendid, twelve inch spikes of bright dark red or crimson flowers charmingly garnished with long-protruding red filaments. Definitely something different for the front of your borders and, although often thought of as a biennial, it will often become a short-lived perennial if it gets to like you. 2-3 ft."

So last year, I ordered the seeds (along with some E. vulgare 'Blue Bedder' and E. fastuosum). Last summer they just made little rosettes, but they over wintered, and now are showing their stuff.

E. russicum is in full bloom right now, and I'm in love with the delicious raspberry crush color:
The plant as a whole is a little loose, but would look great in a densely planted boarder, and I'm excited to try them as cut flowers.

According to what I could find on-line, E. lusitanicum is only hardy to zone 7 -- but they overwintered just fine for me (though last winter was a mild one) and are just starting to send up their flower spikes. I can't wait to see them in bloom.

E. fastuosum isn't hardy, the ones I left outside died, but I overwintered one in a big pot inside. It is looking pretty lopsided from the long, dark, Michigan winter

But the foliage is still amazing, and I'm hoping for flowers this year.

Anyone else growing Echium? I think this is an obsession that is just beginning... Chiltern offers another variety, a hybrid called 'Snow Tower' which they describe as being "almost unbelievable – an enormous plant producing an enormous avalanche of snow-white flowers. Up to 15 ft" Can you imagine? 15 FEET of echium goodness! I'm sure it will be next to impossible to over winter... I'm also sure that won't stop me from trying!


antigonum cajan said...

The great thing about visiting blogs,
gardening ones from every country in the world, is the issue of aesthetics.

It is impressive how some people believe that this or that is beautiful
for this or that reason.

However, when any gardener has some
depth in the plant collection, thinks about composition, not common places
planta collection, one leaves happy and
comes back.

Good luck in your projects! I am also a product of education: New York
Botanical Garden. Certificate in Commercial Horticulture Landscape Management.

30 years of planting, collecting, propagating. Five of writing a critical horticulture blog:
endemismotrasnochado.....That is that.

danger garden said...

I share your enthusiasm! I can't remember how I came to know of them, but when I found my first plant (at a garden show in Seattle) I had to have it. They are slowly becoming more available here in Portland, but I also ordered a few online, from Annies Annuals. There are several blooming in a garden near my house which I have been invited to gather seeds from, so I will be trying to propagate them too. I've been working on a post about my (growing) collection...hope to have that up soon.

Have you grown Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans? It won't be hardy for you (mine have died each winter here in z8) but they are an amazing plant...getting sizable in just one growing season!

Joseph said...

Danger Garden,
I've found them super easy from seed. Wikipedia tells me that candicans is the same as fastuosum, which I have -- I hope it flowers for me this year!

Anonymous said...

hey there. i live in oradea, romania. found some cool echium pics while searching for new plants, seeds etc.
anyway, i got lots of seeds from someone in the us. they germinated rather slow, only one or two for a looong time and then when spring came, all the seeds boosted in the potting mix.
i have lots of echiums (fastuosum, i'd say... he sent me pics of cool blue echiums).
I planted some right in the garden (and you are saying they are gonna die... well, we'll see). I also have a few in pots. if all goes well this winter, i am hoping to see some blooms next summer!
good luck 2 u!

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