70719This one is no fun to handle. It is just as prickly as it looks. Yet, it is the spiny foliage and blooms that make ‘Big Blue’ sea holly, Eryngium X zabelii ‘Big Blue’, so appealing. The knobby blue thistle flowers are centered on prominently flaring grayish blue bracts that look like metallic snowflakes. The intricately lobed grayish foliage contrasts splendidly with just about any darker green foliage.

Bloom begins with summer and continues almost to autumn. The first flowers are solitary on strong stems. As they fade, sideshoots from these original stems continue to bloom with smaller but more abundant flowers. They are excellent cut flowers, fresh or dried. However, cutting the first solitary flowers with long stems removes some of the sideshoots that would otherwise bloom later.

Mature plants can get three feet tall and half as wide. Shade, even part shade, causes irregular growth that can be quite weedy. Although perennial, ‘Big Blue’ sea holly might live only a few years.

Contrary to the appearance of the bristly thistle like foliage and flowers, sea holly is in the Umbelliferae family, which means that it is more closely related to celery and carrot than it is to artichoke!

23 thoughts on “‘Big Blue’ Sea Holly

      1. The eryngo at the wildlife refuge I mentioned to automatic gardener spent quite some time under the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey, and in the soggy soil after, and it came back stronger than I’ve ever seen it. So, there’s that.

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    1. To the contrary! Erygium hookeri is blooming in lots of places right now. There’s a whole field of it at the Brazoria wildlife refuge, and it’s on Nash prairie. A friend who lives near Dickinson has it in her horse pasture, and the pasture tends to be a little soggy. The hill country version (Eryngium leavenworthii) is my favorite, just because it tends to develop a really deep purple. It’s shown as native in Harris County, though not at the coast, where E. hookeri seems to predominate.

      The flowers were just developing a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to make a run down to the refuge tomorrow (at the crack of dawn, to beat the heat) and see if they’ve developed their color.

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      1. Yikes! I pressed trash and then it asked if I wanted to cancel and couldn’t get to the button in time. So, I am trying to reply to today’s comment. I don’t know what kind of Cone Flower I have, as over the years I will buy new ones, ever hopeful they will grow. Cleomes are pretty and mine grow really tall. Sometimes they reseed and sometimes I can’t get them to grow at all. They smell bad like a skunk, but they were one of my Dad’s favorites.

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  1. I think this is the type I have in my garden. I had no idea they were umbellifers! (I only learned that word umbellifer recently when studying parsley family species around here.) The bees that are mostly drinking from the teucrium hedge nearby spent a day visiting the sea holly, too, and made for beautiful photos 🙂

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