ECHINOPS Globe Thistle

A fine erect-growing plant for the back of the border – stout stems bearing grey-green deeply lobed leaves, long and thistle-like, with globular flower-heads in summer. These blue heads are 2 to 3 in. across and if the stems are cut before the blooms are fully open they can be dried for winter decoration. It is an undemanding plant, thriving in dry as well as chalky soils, but it is unhappy in shade or shallow soil. Wear gloves when handling the stems and leaves – some people develop a rash when pricked by the spines which occur in some varieties.

VARIETIES: The most popular species is E. ritro – height 3-4 ft. Spacing 2 ft.

Flowering period: July-September. The flowers are steely blue and the leaves are downy underneath. E. humilis (5 ft) is a taller plant with smaller flowers – the recognition feature is the cobwebby cover on the foliage. The named varieties offer a range of heights – the short one is E. ‘Veitch’s Blue’ (3 ft. dark blue); a tall Echinops is E. ‘Taplow Blue’ (5 ft. light blue).

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives best in full sun.

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in autumn or spring.

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