Eryngium for butterflies and bees

21 July 2013

Apologies again – another four-day instead of two-day gap in posts. I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, which also means I’m not getting out in the garden to see things to talk about – and it’s VERY hot out there at the moment, too!

I’m a plantaholic. I firmly believe in the mantra that you should find out what grows in your garden and grow lots of it, but it’s an endless journey finding out what will grow here, and there are always more plants to try, which is wonderful. Occasionally, I see a plant somewhere and get that “must have” feeling, and one such plant was Eryngium ‘Oliveranium’.

Eryngium 'Oliveranium' with bee

Eryngium ‘Oliveranium’ with bee

I can’t actually now remember whether I saw it in the flesh (if plants can be described that way) or in a catalogue, but I was really taken by it. It is one of the bluest of the erynguims (also called Sea Hollies) and not only has blue flowers, but the stems go blue as they age, too. The flowers are actually multiple ones in the lump in the middle – the outside bits are bracts, and jolly nice they are too, if a bit prickly.

 I’ve had three goes at growing it, undeterred by two failures partly because the plant should suit my soil and partly because the problem was probably largely down to me not keeping other stuff from smothering it and possibly to not giving it good enough drainage. Third time, with a very robust plant from Elizabeth MacGregor nurseries, was lucky, and I’ve now added two more plants to get a good show. It is said to be one of the easier ones to keep going over winter, the key, as with so many plants, being very good drainage – it can take the cold, but not having wet roots.

I knew these sea hollies were good for bees, but I am delighted to see that they are also attracting butterflies: I wandered out with the camera today and caught both a Meadow Brown and a Small Tortoiseshell on them.

Eryngium 'Oliveranium' with Meadow Brown (left) and Small Tortoiseshell (right)

Eryngium ‘Oliveranium’ with Meadow Brown (left) and Small Tortoiseshell (right)

So it seems you can have your Eryngium and your wildlife too – give it a go.

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2 Comments to “Eryngium for butterflies and bees”

  1. aah, I knew it was good for butterflies but wasn’t sure if it was good for bees but then I saw a bee on our one so I hoped that it might be. I don’t know what kind we’ve got. Again I bought it from a supermarket and it was just labelled eryngium and was only £1.99, so bought it with high expectations but it came to nothing last year but this year…wow it’s massive!! No idea what kind it is but I’m very pleased with it. To think it was another plant I was going to give up on as it wasn’t doing anything. It just goes to show that patience is so important in gardening!

    • Hi Mandy. I, like you, found it didn’t do much the first year – needs to get its roots down, I guess. Plus there’s something about this year – maybe the warmth following the rain last year, which is making everything flower very impressively.

      Best wishes, Lyn

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