THERE are some things you grow to appreciate more as you age.
For starters, I can think of wider fitting clothes, early nights, and softer music.
Advancing years also mark a time when it is not such an admission of failure to change one’s mind.
In gardening, as in life itself, I have changed my mind many, many times.
Decades ago, I thought tulips intolerable for they appeared overly bright, glaring, even harsh, but now these are the attributes I admire most in them.
I have even come to admire them on roundabouts.
Irrespective of their colour or regimental numbers, the lily-flowered forms now match my expectations, appearing elegant and fetching in poise and posture.
I have just taken delivery of a bulk order of T. Ballerina, an orange, lily-flowered variety which is blessed with a perfume and the ability to withstand all but the fiercest spring gale.
But for quite other reasons I have come to admire Eryngiums, a type of Mediterranean Sea Holly.
Arguably the most beautiful of all is Eryngium alpinum ‘Blue Star’.
This lovely variety produces exceptionally large, rayed, silvery, metallic blue, thistle-like flowers with cone centres surrounded by spiky bracts throughout the season.
At Villa Marie, it exceeded all expectations this past summer.
The plant is a hardy perennial, and it grows to a metre in stature needing only limited assistance in open, high altitude plots.
With an abundance of highly attractive flowers, the plants appeal in the main to bees and butterflies.
Other flying insects can also be found on these especially, hover flies, lacewings, and many bumblebees.
An added advantage when growing this and other varieties of Eryngium is they can be used as a dried flower for indoor winter decoration.
Simply cut the stems just as the first blooms in each umbel are almost fully opened, and hang them upside down in a dark, warm place to dry.
‘Blue Star’ is available in seed form also. After purchase be advised that they need several months (sometimes a year) before they will germinate.
Do not put them in the fridge but outdoors in cold, damp compost. Do not discard even after many months have passed.
Fresh seeds can be extremely slow to germinate but do not use artificial heat in attempting to speed up the process.
It could in fact disrupt their germination mechanism, causing them to enter even deeper dormancy.