20150523_Echium Pininana (Tree Echium)

20150523_Echium Pininana (Tree Echium)
When : Spring 2015
Where : My Front Garden, Rugby, Warwickshire.

When you click on a photo’ it should open larger on my photostream on flickr.

20150523-05_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower SpikesI have two main interests, which, if you’ve peeked at any of my previous posts you’ll know more or less what I’m about to write …. But if you’re new to my blog, I’ll reiterate again just especially for you.

My first interest is : Country Walking, Hill Walking, Hiking, Rambling, Fell Walking or what-ever other term you’d like to call it.

My second interest is : Photography …. Unlike above, it’s kind of hard to find another descriptive term, except to say, I like taking pictures with a camera.

 

Now, over the last few years I’ve published a series of blog posts describing my country walks 20150523-11_Echium Pininana Plants - Bumble Bee Magnetand enhanced/illustrated them with my photo’s. Most of the time I would describe myself as a walker who takes photo’s. However, I think that’s starting to change, as my knees are becoming worse for wear as I get older, so much so that at times that I feel more like a photographer who can walk a bit. Whichever way I look at it, both interests interlock and complement each other just fine for my blog.

20150523-11_Echium Pininana - Bumble Bee - Heavy CropHowever, as a third interest, I also enjoy a touch of gardening. But I don’t blog much about this, as it hasn’t got that much in common with my walking stuff.

HOWEVER, this post is an attempt to bridge that gap, albeit with a very tenuous link, but hey, I want to show off a bit.

 

20150523-03_Me with Echium Pininana Plants in FlowerLet’s start by going back to a family holiday [2008/2009 ish it must have been], to the Torbay area of south Devon with a combination of walking/sightseeing/normal touristy stuff. On one walk (tenuous link) around some hilly gardens on the outskirts of Torquay, we came across a tall exotic looking flower spike many feet taller than me (I’m just over 6-feet 4” tall) and my lovely wife said “Can you grow me one of those please ? I’d like one very much”, or words to that effect.

I’d never seen one of these plants before, but, luckily there was a big clue as to what the plant was, as there was a label stuck in the ground near where it’s single thick stem anchored it onto the hillside. So I learnt that it was an ECHIUM PININANA and I took a photo just to remind me later (did you notice the tenuous link to my photography 20150523-07_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower Spikesinterest there). Little did I know that this chance finding would lead to this blog post some seven or eight years later.

We found a couple of garden centres in the area but no one seemed to know anything about these Echiums, they certainly didn’t stock any plants and didn’t have any seeds either. So, upon reaching home, some research on the internet and a trawl through different potential suppliers, led us to a nursery/garden centre in Cumbria who sold seeds and we ended up with a packet being sent through the post. Of the seedlings I managed to germinate, I got one to flower (a neighbour helped over-winter it in a pot in his greenhouse for me), the others succumbed to the winter cold and died. However, the one flower spike seeded which has eventually resulted in what I can now call a successful growing, with 20150523-04_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower Spikesnine plants now in flower, the smallest just under 6-feet tall, the tallest well over 13-feet tall I reckon. They are certainly the hardest plant I’ve ever tried to grow.

Why are they hard to grow ? Because Echium Pininana plants are Non-Hardy plants native to The Canary Islands … They can grow on the south coast of England without protection (like we saw whilst on holiday).

But I’ve grown these in Rugby in the English Midlands nowhere near a maritime climate and where we can get some quite hard and persistent frosts.

I’ve managed to cajole my current crop to flower by :-

• The luck of two relatively mild winters,
• Planting near a south facing wall,
• Protected by other shrubs against the wind, and
• The use of copious swathes of horticultural fleece.

Apparently, sometimes these plants are biennials but I’ve had to nurture them through two winters as triennials ….. they are now in their third year and flowering !

• Self seeded 2012 (from the previous flower spike).
• Seedlings came up 2013.
• Over-wintered 2013/2014.
• Carried on growing 2014 (reached about 5-feet tall).
• Over-wintered 2014/2015.
• Started really growing on Spring 2015.
• AND they have really taken off, late spring 2015 and in flower.

 20150523-10_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower Clusters

20150523-09_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower Clusters

20150523-06_Echium Pininana Plants - Flower SpikesOne spike in particular is heading skywards, I think it’s easily 13 feet tall and maybe even more …. They are now coming into flower and the spikes are becoming a head turner in the street ….

Interestingly, the flowers spikes have come out in different shades of colour. One is almost white, there are pinks on view, and one is has a purpley-blue tint.

From a distance the spikes themselves are quite impressive, but up close, the flower clusters are pretty as well and worth a closer look.

 

And a final word … Once they’ve seeded they will, sadly, die.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

T.T.F.N. Gary.

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