A Botanical Hedgehog In My GardenMonday, July 31, 2006
It seems I cannot get away from thinking of spiny things. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I have recently re-read one of my favourite novels, Yevgeny Yevtushenko's Don't Die Before You're Dead. One of the protagonists, Chunya, is a hedgehog. And is just so happens that the botanical name of our globe thistles, Echinops means "like a hedgehog" in Greek, refering to the spiny flower bracts. No matter how hard I try, my wife Rosemary is always ahead in locating interesting plants. Some years back I could not understand her interest in hardy geraniums and I absolutely loathed the smell of her Astrantia major 'Shaggy'reminiscent of sweaty armpits in a Mexican second class bus in summer. I now, of course, love these plants and admire Rosemary's ability to appreciate plants that are subtle. It was about 8 years ago that she showed interest in the globe thistle and brought home some blue ones called Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue' I did not understand what she saw in these plants that were reminded me of the cardos or thistles of the Argentine pampa. Then I saw how bees were attracted to the flower and how tall these plants grew in the back of the border. So I liked them, too. Four or five years ago I picked up something called Echinops sphaerocephalus 'Artic Glow'. I told Rosemary they were supposed to be white. She showed no interest. I forgot the plants. Then this year I spotted these incredible spiky white balls in the back of our sunny perennial border. Yes! Just this time, I may have discovered a good plant before Rosemary. I have a good teacher.