Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!
I'm very lucky to have a friend who is a better gardener than I am, and living in the neighborhood. My friend F. lives with his wife in a small cottage off a rural road here in the canyon, and he's built a beautiful garden on a rocky south facing hillside.
If anyone harbors illusions that flower gardening is a delicate and feminine hobby, you're in for a big surprise.
This is a flower for a man's garden!
Echium wildpretii - "Tower of Jewels" - is native to the Island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. It's a biennial - which means it takes two years to complete its life and reproductive cycle. Biennial plants - Sweet William, Canterbury bells and foxglove among them - can be frustrating for a gardener if you don't know about this habit. The first year it sprouts from seed, the plant just grows leaves. The second year, it flowers, sets seed, and dies. You keep it in your garden by letting it set seed again, and trying to keep both generations in your garden to have regular bloom.
My friend F. said he wasn't sure where the first plant came from, but one year he noticed these rosettes of spiky grey leaves, and though quite pretty, they were unremarkable. But the next year! the soft, well-mannered plant roused itself and put up a central stem that grew, and grew and grew!
In their second year, "Tower of Jewels" grow up to 10 feet tall, their thick powerful stem surrounded by leaves that have coarsened and elongated - they're wiry and harsh, coiled at the tips. The flowers appear in bunches, a clear bright pink fading to violet as they age - or is it the other way around?
Bees love the flowers - the plant is beloved by beekeepers. F.'s plant was teeming with honeybees, gathering the sweet nectar and pollinating for the next generation.
"Tower of Jewels" likes dry, well draining soil. They are difficult to establish, picky about their habitat. F. says they seem happy on the upper parts of his southwest facing hillside. Topanga soil must be similar to the rocky and volcanic soil of Tenerife. Although this year only one plant was in bloom in F.'s garden, there were dozens of first year plants on the hillside. Starting them from seed seems to be the best way to propagate them - F. has tried giving seedlings to friends, but they don't establish themselves. He's promised me some seed this year - I'm hoping to find a good place for them on my dry west-facing hill.
Echium "Tower of Jewels" is a cousin of the more familiar Echium canadensis, "Pride of Madiera" that you see around Southern California a lot. "Pride of Madiera" is a perennial, similarly shaped though far more demure, with blue flowers.
There now. I wrote an entire post about a huge erect Tower of Pink Power without resorting to a single suggestive word.