The Acanthus leaf is the motif found on the columns in Ancient Greece – deeply-divided arching foliage around the tall spires of tubular purple and white flowers which appear in midsummer. This perennial needs plenty of space and dislikes disturbance – grow it as a specimen plant. The handsome leaves should be cut back to near ground level once the flowering season is over. A long-lived plant, but not if your soil is heavy and poorly drained.

VARIETIES: A. spinosus is the one which is usually selected. The purple hooded flowers have white lips and both the leaves and bracts bear spines. No staking is necessary and the flower-heads can be used indoors, both fresh and dried. Height 4 ft.

Spacing: 2.5 ft.

Flowering period: July-September. A. mollis latifolius is quite similar, but its leaves and bracts are spineless.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – light land is preferred. Thrives in sun or light shade.

PROPAGATION: Sow seeds under glass in spring. When the plants are large and overcrowded, divide the clumps in early autumn.

A. spinosus

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