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:
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!