The last post was about thistles, since I had been hard at work in the garden getting rid of as many as I possibly could manage, but there are lovely garden flowers that have thistle characteristics without their tendency to elbow everything else out.
Long ago, when planting my first garden on Glen Echo (isn’t that a lovely name for a street? Too bad it was located right next to a raucous, busy thoroughfare), I helped an elderly lady do some yard work. She grew a pretty perennial border and the globe thistle stood in a healthy stand within it. She called it “Goat’s thistle” as I recall, but its official name is Echinops. I think “goat’s” thistle is more of a noxious kind, and as a matter of fact, grazing goats are one means of getting rid of your thistle weed problems. Anyway, once I started my rural garden I decided that I had room for this plant with the steely blue flowers, and for another lovely thistly looking bloom, Eryngium.
Those were both planted in a part of the garden I sadly had to relinquish back to nature’s grasses, and the Eryngium succumbed to constant mowing, but the Globe thistle still survives. Surprisingly it never did spread into a large patch like I envisioned, but I like its odd flowers; they are reminiscent of a stiff Allium that comes along in midsummer.
I’m thinking of those flowers, now, since I would like to renew their acquaintance, and find a place to start them in my present flower gardens. They normally are quite persistent and tolerant of drought. Their subtle colors blend well into the garden and I think they would match up well with Russian sage and red Monardas. They might look pretty near the dusky ‘Diablo’ ninebarks (Physocarpus), if I have a space to tuck them in. I think I do! So that is an idea to jot down in my notebook.
It was E. maritinum that I grew, and while I might try Miss Willmott’s Ghost ( E. giganteum) the smaller “Sea Holly” has a cultivar called ‘Sapphire Blue’ that I’d like to look for at the end of summer.
Although Canadian thistle, Globe Thistle, and Eryngium all have a bristly appearance, only the two thistles are related inside the Asteracae family. The Sea Holly” is a different clan, completely: the Apiaceae. Yet, they have a similar appearance in the garden and their assets are much the same as well. Blue ( gray blue, actually) in flower, architectural in presence, of medium heights, and tough plants.
Plants For A Xeriscape
Both these plants like sunny spot, even sun baked. They handle drought and are beneficial plants for bees and butterflies, but not native to the USA. You can also dry the flower heads for arrangements.