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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
MISS WILLMOTT'S GHOST, GIANT SEA HOLLY, ERYNGO
Pronounced: e-RING-gee-um gi-GAN-tee-um
Sunset zones: 2-24.
USDA zones: 6-9.
Height: 5 feet (1.5 m).
Width:32 inches (80 cm).
Silvery to blue, with hints of mauve cylindrical umbels, surrounded by large, prickly, silvery bracts.
Heart-shaped, sharp toothed, green leaves.
Moist, well-drained, fertile soil.
Side dress with compost and fertilize with a complete organic fertilizer in spring.
Sow seed in containers and keep at 59-64°F (15-18°C) for 2 weeks, then chill in refrigerator for 3-6 weeks. Return pots to 64-68°F (18-20°C). If germination has not occur in 6-10 weeks, return it to the refrigerator again for another 3-6 weeks.
Rainy Side Notes
Eryngium comes from the Greek word, eyringion, a name used for the species Eryngium campestre by Theophrastus. He was an important and influential botanist of antiquity and a student of Aristotle. Giganteum means very large.
Its common name comes out of the story of a gardener, Miss Willmott, secretly scattering Eryngium giganteum seeds around in gardens she visited. The plants would show up as if from nowhere with their ghostly flowers, thus the name Miss Willmott's ghost.
Short-lived perennials, sometimes considered biennials, the plants will politely reseed themselves in the garden. This is a plus, especially when some plants give up the ghost early in life. Plant these in a moon garden for a ghostly appearance under a full moon, or plant out as forage plants for the bees and butterflies. Leaving flower heads on the plant gives interest to the winter garden.
Another use is in the cutting garden for stunning flowers for bouquets. Eryngium giganteum are excellent as cut flowers, lasting 10-12 days after harvest. Storing flowers in a refrigerator at 40°F after harvesting intensifies the color.
In 1993, the Royal Horticultural Society gave an Award of Garden Merit to Eryngium giganteum.
Photographed in author's garden.