Eryngium Maritimum: The Sea Holly

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The sea holly, Eryngium maritimum, dresses the garden with deeper purple/blue flowers set off by colored bracts. It is a really striking plant for the foreground, if not particularly comfortable to work near.

Sometimes called blue thistle, a colorful member of the carrot family. The plants are usually branched, and each stem is tipped with oblong flower heads in varying shades of violet, purple and blue. Green, leaf-like, spiny bracts emerge from the center top of each flower head, giving it a striking appearance.

As with most wild flower seeds, seeds should be lightly covered and sown in late summer or early spring. Seeds germinate unevenly and lie about eight to ten weeks before sprouting. This plant is not at all particular as to soil requirements, but shows a preference for full sunlight. If given a little water from time to time, plants reach a height of two to four feet.

This spectacular plant is used extensively in winter bouquets. If flower heads on long stems are dried in the shade, the vivid colors remain for an entire season or longer. Or if the sun has faded the colors, the flower heads are very attractive when sprayed with gold or silver paint. The deeply cut foliage, a bright green, also retains its color when dried in the shade.

Image: amaranthurbanfarm.com