Eryngium variifolium

'Miss Marble'

MOROCCAN SEA HOLLY

Eryngium variifolium ‘Miss Marble’
MOROCCAN SEA HOLLY

I never thought I would love something that has prickles and could be mistaken for a thistle.
But Eryngium variifolium ‘Miss Marble’ breaks all the rules, and anyway no dry garden is complete without as many Eryngiums as possible.

Silver blue cones and handsome marbled foliage

Because every part of Eryngium variifolium ‘Miss Marble’ is striking.
From the haze of silver-steel-blue-grey cones, to the rosette of leaves marbled with silver – it is all handsome and architectural.
(Scroll down to “Growing” section for plant details, how / where to grow) 

Tough as old boots in the dry garden

Eryngiums revel in the hottest, driest, most exposed, sunniest position you have.
And Eryngium variifolium does come from Morocco after all.

Eryngiums invented “Drought Hardy”

Plus Eryngiums invented the meaning of “Drought Hardy” and have very low water needs.
So they accept dry conditions as normal, and are very drought resistant.
And in fact, if you give them too much water, they will probably turn up their toes.
Placing them right up there with Sedums, as being highly recommended for water conscious gardeners.

Superb cut flowers both fresh and dried

Eryngiums can be compared to Everlastings in texture, as they are firm to the touch.
So they make extremely long lasting vase flowers when they are cut fresh.
And for dried arrangements you just hang them upside down until fully dry, and they retain their marvellous steely-blue colours.

SEED SOWING ADVICE: QUICK & EASY

Sow seeds at any time of year in punnets indoors / or scatter directly in the garden during winter-early spring. Seeds need a period of cold for best germination.

INDOORS: Sow the seeds in punnets on the surface of good quality seed raising mix.
Then press the seeds gently into the surface of the mix to ensure good contact.
Now barely cover the seeds with mix / grit / washed sand.

Now place the sown, moist punnet in a warm, well-lit spot.
Temperatures of 18-22°C are ideal for rapid and optimum germination.
So you can use a temperature-controlled heat mat if you have one to encourage rapid germination, but it is not essential. A window-sill or well-lit corner is also fine.

Seeds germinate in approx. 5-30 days.

However if the seeds are shy to germinate after 4 weeks. Then cling wrap the moist, sown punnet and place in fridge (not freezer) for 4-6 weeks.

Then remove, unwrap, re-moisten, and return the sown punnet to well-lit warm place.

Prick out as seedlings as soon as possible after germination, and move into deeper pots, as the young plants quickly form long tap roots (which of course helps them to forage for water in a dry climate).

GROWING: Eryngium variifolium ‘Miss Marble’

Height with flowers: Big, airy summer flower heads come up in clouds to 40cm approx..
Width: Evergreen clump of handsome foliage to a diameter of approx. 30cm.
Position: Eryngiums revel in the hottest, driest, most exposed, windiest and sunniest position you have. Eryngium variifolium does come from Morocco after all.
It will tolerate just a little shade, as long as it is well aired. But under no circumstances should it be damp shade.
Eryngium are ideal for coastal and seaside gardens, where they tolerate salt spray well.

Eryngiums invented “Drought Hardy”

Soil: Eryngiums adore anything that drains perfectly.
So sandy, rocky, gravel soils are just their thing.
They will certainly also thrive in average garden loam, as long as they are not overwatered. But kiss them goodbye in heavy, wet, or clay soils.
They are not a bit fussy about soil pH, and so will live happily in soils on either the acid or the alkaline (lime) side of neutral.
And it is a mistake to over fertilize them, as they grow and flower best when kept on lean rations.

Bliss for water challenged gardeners

Water-wise: Eryngiums have very low water needs. They accept dry conditions as normal, and are very drought resistant. In fact if you give them too much water they will probably turn up their toes.
Frost: Eryngiums are bomb proof in frost, and can blissfully ignore severe frost down to well below -20C.

Handsome & architectural

Growth: Evergreen perennial that remains all year as a ground hugging rosette of marbled silver and olive leaves.
Then in the summer it erupts up with clouds of silver-grey-blue cones, on large branching heads. Magic.
Fragrance: None, but Eryngiums have so many other highly desirable qualities we can forgive one little oversight.

Bees love them & rabbits hate

Beneficial for wildlife: Bees and other useful pollinators work them very happily for abundant pollen and nectar, oblivious to any prickles.
Low Care: Eryngiums are very low maintenance, with the only work being to cut the finished flower branches down at the end of autumn, though many like to leave the dried seed heads for finches and other small seed eating birds over winter. The dried branches of seed heads certainly look very attractive rimmed with frost.
Deer & Rabbit resistant: I dare the pests to take a bite and get a mouthful of prickles. But they are too smart, and don’t touch them
Origin: Hot, dry and desert places in northern Africa, particularly in Morocco.